I love you. I really do. But truth be told, right now I resent you. It is because of you that I am eating a chocolate cupcake with my second cup of coffee at 11 o’clock in the morning. Poor coping choice, I know. But today I am weak.
We’ve had (another) bad morning. A request from me turns into a pitched battle of wills that ends badly. You think I’m demanding. I think you are selfish. We are both probably right. All I know is that this is not how I want to spend our last summer together before you head off to college.
Believe it or not, I do not enjoy arguing with you. I prefer conversations to ultimatums, and hugs to outbursts. We have had enough losses of late to know that life can throw you curve balls, and regrets are not a legacy worth leaving. But I also take this job of parenting very seriously. It is a sacred contact.
So I want you to know this: When I challenge you to do better, it’s because I know you can. My goal is not to torture you. When I ask you to help around the house, it is because you are part of this family. My point is not to burden you. When I insist you tell the truth, it is because lying is a betrayal of our relationship. My purpose is not to entrap you.
In your eyes, I am unreasonable and don’t understand you. I see things differently, though. My job is to prepare you for the world outside your immediate sphere. You have so much talent and intelligence and heart. But you are young still. You speak before you think. You think of yourself rather than others. You act first and apologize later. You avoid the truth because it’s easier. You do not take criticism well. These are not qualities that will serve you well as an adult. But when I call you on your behavior, you act the victim. Then I get angrier. And it goes downhill fast. So much resistance, anger and resentment flavor our days lately. And it is crowding out the love and caring that flow through our hearts. We need to find a better balance.
Today, right after we fought, I drove to the cemetery where your grandmother is buried. Being around her comforts me, even now. I can practically feel the hug she would give and hear her words. First thing she’d do is tell me to stop the stress eating and lay off the caffeine. Then she’d get down to business. “It’s hard to be a teenager,” she would say. “Just stay strong, love him through it and tomorrow will be better.” Do you know what she’d say to you? “Your mom loves you and is doing her best. While you live under her roof, you should respect her rules and do your best, too.” Wise lady, your Nana. Don’t you think we should listen to her?
Maureen O’Brien, PhD is a Shine Parenting Guru. She is also a developmental psychologist, parenting coach and mother of twins.