Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Sometimes progress with our children can quickly reverse.

Sonia Billadeau April 14, 2014
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stepsIt was bound to happen. My fourteen-year-old daughter, who has never had much success, had a boatload of it between end of summer and Thanksgiving. We were all flying high, enjoying each other, having fun family times together and feeling pretty darn good. Whether it was the holidays or just the strain of doing well for so long, Kaylyn started to tank right after Thanksgiving.

For the last four weeks, her attitude has gotten yuckier and yuckier, she half-steps her chores because she says they’re stupid, and the back-talk has become a mighty roar. She’s lost her phone, has been grounded, and eaten a lot of peanut butter sandwiches instead of yummy meals, and STILL she is so yucky. I think that’s called “stuck.”

We talked tonight (in between back-talking, disrespect, sneaking, and lying) and Kaylyn says she’s having negative thoughts. She’s telling herself she might mess up in school and she claims she had been telling herself she was going to mess up being “good” and lose her phone. The piece de resistance of her dishonest yuckiness was creating yet another fake Facebook identity after she had gotten in so much trouble the first time. This time she even had accepted a friend request from someone whose first name was the F-word. So today is the first day of Christmas break and she’s grounded with no phone. She could not be yuckier if she tried.

I know she needs hope that she can do better. I’m not sure how to give it to her. She’s stuck and it triggers me so I’m stuck. We are like emotional gladiators feinting and darting. I understand how she feels. Stuck is really stuck.

I’m looking for the silver lining in all of this. Here’s what I think it is: this can only be a setback if we’d made real progress and we had. As miserable as this is, it motivates both of us to get out of it as quickly as possible and get back to the fun times, even if they will be only temporary the next time. Success, someone once told me, is not the absence of failure but longer and longer gaps between failure. And the hardest part to admit, but the real reason I am triggered/stuck is that Kaylyn hurt me when she went back to being yucky, dishonest, disrespectful, etc. It hurt our relationship. That has to mean that I had let her in enough to hurt me. That has to mean that the relationship was good enough to hurt.

It reminds me of how we are taught to handle death in this life. If we believe there is an afterlife and that we will see our loved ones again, it doesn’t prevent us from mourning their loss in this life. We love people so much that it hurts when we lose them. Kaylyn and I had been doing so well that it hurts when we lost it. That has to be a good sign. I’ll try to give her that ray of hope. Tomorrow.

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Sonia Billadeau

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