Friday, December 9, 2011

Parenting Will Cost You A Good Night's Sleep, Here and There

I have a difficult time with disrespect. My blood pressure rises when a lack of respect is shown toward me. When it comes from my children, I cannot move beyond that moment in time when I hear that barrel full of words of disregard for me as a human, aimed right at my head. 

I feel we are to respect everyone we share space with. If we share a home and live with them, it goes double. If that person you interact with is the one who bore you, it rises to the millionth degree. I idealistically believe that if we show respect to our children, that they will mirror that back to us. So far, so good...until the piece of your heart that goes walking around outside of your body begins making testosterone by the gallonfuls.

I always knew I'd have exactly the tricks up my sleeve that I needed for being the mother of teens. I had such fresh memories of how I was raised during this part of my life, that I knew a whole lot about what NOT to do. That's all you need to know, right, what NOT to do? I never thought I'd need to have the ace in my pocket of what TO do.

Why am I awake right now, at 1:30 a.m., sitting on the sofa eating chocolate chips thinking of what happened in our home tonight, instead of sleeping the sleep I need so much? Because I love my children and when miscommunication between us escalates to a level where you start thinking how much you'd love to have them get their own bodies back and forth to where they need to go, make their own dinners, keep track of their own schedules and Dr. appointments -- well, that's not a healing, productive train of thought for anybody. No matter how good it feels. I am awake, buzzing with thoughts of what I should have done with my teen tonight; asking myself how I could have parented better. These thoughts of pro action are being interrupted by whizzing personal reprimands of all the triggers that flew from my side and right onto him.

I know what I could have done differently now, eight hours later, and it would've been the right thing to do. The mature, zen seeking mother I want to be Plan of Action. I have it. Right here, in three simple steps, how to put out that adolescent fire.

Taming a Teen in Three Simple Steps:

Step 1: So easy, just shuttup. Pretend you don't feel the sting of their words that feel so personal. Let them wail, vent, curse, explode at the crappy day they had. Don't interject, don't advise, don't smirk at the perceived miniscule events they're ranting on. Now is not the time. Listen, and drive: your two jobs.

Step 2: Go to your happy place when they tell you it's your fault they missed that important meeting/assignment/deadline. Later, you can bring up their own scheduling capabilities. The flame is high, don't throw the corn oil on it--avoid that after school explosion. If you need to, keep driving and take the long way home. When it all simmers down, show them how to keep track of school, sports, work, assignments, meetings, on their own calendars.

Step 3: This should have been Step 1, really. Pick them up with a snack in the car. Low blood sugar, a disappointing day, a minor break out on the cheek, and it's every man for himself. Have a bagel, have a travel pak of Pringles, have something. Let them crunch and munch and carb load while they unload. It won't hurt.

Warning: Be open to accepting a heartfelt apology from them when they give it, not when you're ready to receive it. As much as the non parent ego person that still lives inside you from years ago wants to shout, Fresh Wound! Damn straight you should be apologizing ...did you hear what you said to me? Don't do it. With a generous and unconditionally loving spirit, accept and thank them for their apology. They don't like being little sh*ts, either. And they know when they've been one. Just like we do.

UNDER no circumstance ever say, even under your breath, I can't wait till you're away for college. Never sink that low. We are the adult, they're not. Instead, think things like, Wow. You're sure ready to be on your own.

Keep a mantra ready. Mine is, This, too, shall pass. I've been using it for the last 16 years.

Most importantly, know that I do accept shipments of boxed wine. I find the crisp green apple from Franzia a delightful white that dances on the tongue.


  1. Disrespect from our children is some of the hardest to bear and hurts us the deepest. I've lost many nights sleep over it and still do, from time to time, even though mine are grown. I'd love to say I was able to do the things you outlined, however, that wasn't usually the case. While I may be pretty darn good at keeping my mouth shut in the blog world, I rarely do in real life.

  2. Those are the hardest years and it doesn't get easier til mid or late 20's if ever. It will pass. Good luck! Hope you get some sleep tonight. I had many sleepless nights with my eldest but my youngest I have grown accustomed to things and don't get as uptight over them.

  3. btdt recently. Lately I am going head to head w/ my 12 ds, who used to think I was the most delightful/most beautiful woman, ugh. My trigger is the lack of respect. I feel bad when I handle it badly, I too need a pocketful of strategies for next time. After the last incident, I reflected on how I liked to be talked to as a kid..and how it didn't come out of my mouth that way. sigh. Onward and upward, huh?

  4. Mine are only 3, but I taught middle school, so I know that's when the tough stuff really your three steps.

    Franzia? Really? ;)

  5. I'm printing this out and keeping it somewhere handy. I am NOT good at rule #1, but I'm working on it. My boys are only 7 & 9 so I know things are getting rougher from here.

    As for rule #3--so true. I've often said that most of the unkind things I've said in my life could have been avoided with the swift application of a snicker's bar.

  6. My 11 yo is getting a real attitude lately and his brother is not far behind him in the tween angst department. Sometimes I wish they didn't have to grow up...then I remember how hard it was care for infants/toddlers and realize if they didn't grow up it would kill us.

  7. Great advice...I'll try to remember it! My 12 year old has been acting like a teenager for awhile now. I've been saying "this too shall pass" A LOT lately!

  8. When my son grows into a teen, can I ship him to you along with the boxed wine?

    Joking. I'll just load him with carbs and tell myself, this too, shall pass. The latter of which, I am doing much of while he's in the throes of the terrible twos.

  9. Sometimes being with my 5 year old feels like living with a teenager. Is it weird that I think these suggestions will work with her, too?

  10. I love you, guys.

    Thanks for listening.

    Really, I don't know how I would've slept if it weren't for being able to sit and pull the thoughts together via this blog.


  11. Spot On! And it always helps if there is chocolate and/or boxed wine at hand in your happy place.

  12. I have a plan to deal with their teenage years.

    Ship them off to live with my parents. And I'm not even gonna tell them. To everyone it will be a surprise. Its totally doable right?

    Sigh. Yeah I like to dream.

    Sorry you had to go through that

  13. sigh. I read this after an afternoon car explosion: shoving and bickering in the back seat, and WHAM a yelling mom in the front seat. ugh ugh ugh. A bad feeling all around. There were apologies, so that's good, but UGH. Why can't I keep my mouth shut? I would have to say that most of the world's problems are caused by low blood sugar. That may be what's bothering most of the world's leaders, actually. So keeping the snack-packs handy is key. (I forgot that too this afternoon). Your box o'wine is in the mail.

  14. smiles....give them one week when they have to do everything for themselves...cleverly disguise it as getting them ready, as they surely act like they are...let them live as they want...cook their own meals, give them an allotment to get food with...did this with one i work with and it was eye opening..

  15. Excellent post, Alexandra. I like the tip about leaving treats in the car as I'm often enticed that way myself. I'll have to bear this in mind when I have kids of my own. So many of your posts are being filed away :)

    Just know that you are a wonderful momma and that your children love you very much. But sometimes we have these rifts and disagreements every now and then. It's par for the course, I believe.

    Also, "this too shall pass" has been my mantra for a few years now, too. Helps all the time.

  16. Oh dear. "Low blood sugar, a disappointing day, a minor break out on the cheek, and it's every man for himself. " So great to remember 'the good old days'. (plus I needed a laugh.)

    So many great suggestions on how to handle disrespect. I can't even imagine THREE boys. It was easy to handle it when our (now 22 year old) young man announced quite matter-of-factly: "It's amazing how far you've gotten with your sub-par intelligence." But when our 19 yr old daughter demurred on helping to pack up the car to take her back to college: (lazily but icy) "I'm reading." I wish I'd had this post to read.

    Now comes the fun part. I know only three college graduates who've flown the nest. Our own in-house college grad has just secured a position scooping ice cream in Hell's Kitchen, the night shift. God help us.

  17. This will definitely be good advice for a few years time, thank you. #3 is something that also is very important for toddlers and kids too, I always have snack on hand for school pickup!

  18. I'm still in the tween phase but there have been random disrespectful moments. Some I think I've handled magically, after an initial step back, cock of the head to think a minute. And then there are other times that, well, not so much. Since I still have a toddler too, we've never gotten out of the "keep snacks on hand" rule. And instead of keeping them at the ready for just him, we do it for the other two as well. Disrespect will not be tolerated. But then I find myself realizing that at times I've disrespected them right back: their opinion, their logic, etc. and I'll do just what you did -- sit and reflect and think how I could have handled it better.

  19. holy moly, timely advice. i don't always carry snacks in the car, but i may have to use that one!!

    and the i can't wait till you go to college (i HAVE thought that...)

  20. I know what happens to me when I get too hungry, and it isn't pretty. People cart around cheerios all the time for their toddlers - I don't see any reason to ever stop!

  21. I have a 7 year-old-daughter who is training for the day when she can unleash her fury upon me and the rest of the world.

    99.9% she is the epitome of sweet, but that one moment- holy cow someone kidnapped my daughter and replaced her with an alien.

    I am slowly trying to prepare my own bag of tricks for when the time officially hits.

  22. Boxed wine comes in a green apple flavor?? I really need to start drinking again!!! LOL

    And your advice is spot reminds me of all the things I'm going to be trying to do *o right" as they grow up. Honestly your aplomb with is is making me respect you even more. Xo

  23. Oh my lady!!

    That part at the end where you implore readers to be open to the heartfelt apology? To me this is the most salient advice.

    My son is 14 and a veteran button pusher. My buttons, to be exact. He's super-smart and well aware of the impact of his behavior. But. He's also a kid. And testing me. And I'm the grown-up who's supposed to know that, right?

    So a while back, we'd had "words" and I was sulking because he hadn't apologized. When I pointed out the fact that he hadn't bothered to say I'm sorry, he looked at me and said this:

    "Why should I? You never accept it."

    I think all the air sucked out of the room at that point.

    He was so right. When his disrespect really hurt me, I would listen to him say I'm sorry and still pout. Give him the silent treatment, cold shoulder, whatever you want to call it. Like a child.

    So we had a long talk about "cumulative effects" and that sometimes, after so many battles or enough bad feelings adding up, it was hard for me to just "get over" the pain I'd be feeling just because he'd said, "I'm sorry."

    Maybe I was immature or weak, but I was trying to be honest.

    Anyway, I apologized to him for not being more aware of his efforts and we worked out a new system to cope with our inevitable friction.

    (Because I am, after all, his mother not his friend, right?)

    Now, we both try to address a problem swiftly and both of us are quick to warn the other if we're already tired/hungry/cranky/sick or anything that might exacerbate the negativity.

    And when/if the situation still escalates to the point where I need time to recover, I'll say something like this:

    "I accept your apology. I do. But my feelings are hurt so I may need a minute to get over it."

    Then, after a few minutes, I do something to shake it off...perhaps a little dance (like green apple Franzia on your tongue) to get him laughing and we turn it around. We do.

    It really works. But DAMN it's hard to be a good parent.

    Especially when your dance moves suck.


  24. You're an amazing mother who is only human. A lot of parents don't recognize these things even in hindsight.
    Now, do you have any tips on taming a three and a half year old? I imagine they might be very similar...

  25. As I sat nursing my wounded heart from Mr 15s "I cant wait till I'm not living with you" your post turned up. It's good to remember it's not that's just what teens do now and then as they learn about emotional power, about sharing space, about their own tempers, and yes about blood sugar levels. Thanks Empress.

  26. Thank you for the therapy bills you probably just saved me. I will print is out and keep it in my glove compartment to reread every time I am waiting in a parking lot to chauffeur whomever!

  27. Ugh, I'm so not looking forward to the teen years... huu huuu...

    But thanks for these advice, Alexandra! I think in a way I'm dealing with one right now (i.e. a certain mid-life crazed person who's having his second or third puberty right now). LOL. You're right. There is no point throwing oil to the fire. And the mantra, this too shall pass? PERFECT. I really should just record it and somehow replay it over and over again in my iPod (hmm... that could make a lot of money. You shd make an Apps for that ;).

  28. Thank you. Your comments here today have me wishing you were sitting right next to me on the sofa. Dipping into the bag of chocolate chips with me.

    Commiseration is a wonderful, wonderful thing. Thank you.

  29. I may need to pack chocolate in favor of pringles in our carpool, but all 3 principles apply. Thank you. I think you know EXACTLY what to do.

  30. I may need to pack chocolate in favor of pringles in our carpool, but all 3 principles apply. Thank you. I think you know EXACTLY what to do.

  31. My oldest turns 14 in one week. I needed this post more than you will ever know. You have helped. Oh boy, have you helped.

    (Big Fan!)

  32. As you know my mom is staying with me so I'm RIGHT back in adolescence and she's right back parenting the adolescent. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

    I thought this might cheer you up. Or scare the crap out of you.

  33. Aaaah! Wonderful.

    When my two girls were of this age disrespect is the one thing I wouldn't tolerate. And somehow it worked. I don't know how I got so lucky. I believe it may be because I was such a stubborn bitch.

    And I always apologized if I was wrong. Always. They appreciated it I do believe. This along with really listening. (You know what I'm talking about; I know you do! You're a good listener.)

    Making our kids feel like we listen and us doing it for real makes huge differences. At least for me.

    You are so ahead of the game! Seriously.

  34. Spot-on suggestions! Having survived an easy son and a spectacularly difficult daughter I KNOW they work. Until those times when all your buttons are pushed at once and you chase your child out of the house and she has to lock herself in her car to retain all her limbs!

  35. Oh honey, I'm so sorry.

    I hate that feeling where you suddenly realize that knowing what NOT to do is not enough [I get that in my marriage] and then you are at sea.

    You, however, are a stellar parent. You truly are.


  36. Oh I love this post! No one writes about teenagers on blogs- except me, it feels sometimes. I love the honesty and the advice. I'm sharing and stumbling this!!

  37. You are so wise, especially in your reflections. That's going to be tough for me, and I'll remember your advice when the time comes.

  38. GREAT advice for anyone at any age. It's very hard not to take things personally! I always tell my husband that he makes me the happiest I've ever been and the maddest I've ever been. I also figured out why....because I love him a ton and all my emotions with him are BIGGER!

    It's amazing what a soft word and a hug can achieve - for the giver and the receiver!

    Hugs to you....

  39. I was just saying to friends at a holiday party that the tough part of parenting isn't when the newborn baby won't sleep. Although, that IS tough. The harder part is when that newborn babe grows up to be a strong-willed teenager. So much harder.

    This too shall pass.

  40. Okay, my mantra is "I brought you into this world and I can take you out."

    Then again, no one ever accused me of being a patient, nice person.




  41. I love the carb loading idea. I know personally when I'm really hungry, I'm kind of a bitch.

    My oldest is almost 5 so I still have some time ahead of me to master the art of holding my own tongue. At least I hope I can figure it out by then!

  42. I love this for so many reasons. One, it's "nice" to hear about your moments and your struggles - nice isn't a great word and I'm hoping you get what I'm trying to say. Two, I will struggle with these three steps a lot... because I can be a stubborn ass (wonder where they get it from) but reading this here will help me. Truly. Bookmarked it.

  43. Just pinned this under inspiring blog posts. Blogher... that's all I'm gonna say.

  44. i just learned some very important things, i know it.

  45. I hope you can tell how much I love my teen, and how important my boy is to me.

    I could've handled this night better, but my pet peeve, my under the skin getter, is disrespect.

    I have to rein in my reaction, I know it.

  46. You had me at "boxed wine."

    I try to think back to my own childhood . . . and my teenaged years. I like to think that I was respectful - I mean, I'm a pretty respectful person (objectification of women aside, which I always do tongue-in-cheek), but I know I must have selective memories.

    I worry about my 2 year old, knowing that I don't want him to hit me, so he'll hit me. Knowing I need him to be quiet because his sister is asleep, so he yells and jumps. And, I worry, more that she seems to relish in doing exactly what I don't want her to do.

    But, I'm not sure that's true disrespect, but, rather, just boundary-pushing (which, maybe, is what disrespect actually is? I'm far from a psychologist).

    What I do know is that the best parents are the ones with long memories but find forgiving second-nature.

  47. I used to run a home for youth in crisis. They would say terrible things that would make my blood boil! But? You have worded it perfectly.
    Stay calm.
    Now is not the time.
    They need support and are not the adult.
    They are still learning how to deal with emotions.
    We are the teacher.

    Good for you.
    You are something special my friend xo

  48. Respect really is a very important thing for us parents. It is the least our teens can do to make us feel better. If I had a very disrespectful teen in my hands my head would probably explode and my heart will be torn off. I am lucky I don’t have one.



Related Posts with Thumbnails