(Photo: Steven Depolo)
This last year with our girl has been H-E-double hockey sticks (or any other L-shaped item). Some is normal kid stuff. Times four thousand. I’m pretty sure some of it is hormones; after all, she’s turning eleven. She is becoming a lady. Or, rather, a LAADI, which involves the following:
- Awful Attitude
- Disobeying Intentionally
Annnnnnd, she hates me.
Actually, we all (parents and counselors) know that she harbors an incredibly deep anger toward her birth mom. The spite and hurt are plain in her actions and her eyes. Her oppositional behavior has been escalating. She ignores or does the exact opposite of almost anything I say. She finds underhanded ways to prod her brother into a meltdown. She feels better when he is the “bad one” and she is the “good one,” which is how she sees their places in her world.
She says she enjoys the feeling of “sneaking” or deceiving us. Admits with abandon that she does her two daily chores (filling the dog’s water bowl and cleaning dishes) “in a slow or wrong way” on purpose. And the dishes…I mean, we have a dishwasher. It’s not like she’s scrubbing pots.
This year has been American Water Torture (since we’re in America, that seemed like a more appropriate title). Not waterboarding. I’m talking about that drip-drip-drip landing on the forehead. The insanity of waiting for the next drip to drop. Some of the issues are very small, but they are CONSTANT. I’m exhausted and irritated.
On vacation, the kids—who usually get along pretty well—fought every morning. On the third morning, Hubby and I realized we could solve this. “You stay in your room until we come get you.” Morning four, I woke before seven a.m. and didn’t release the hounds until after 9 a.m. Two hours of blessed peace. It was amazing.
Until then, I was unaware how much I needed a break. I gained new perspective. Our girl has been getting incredible amounts of attention for her shenanigans. We talk to her, try to reason with her, try to dig out the impetus for her behavior. And sometimes we yell, like when the dog’s water dish is empty and it’s 97 degrees outside. Not proud of it, but hey, I try to be real.
Here’s the epiphany I reached while walking on the beach. (Alone. Ahhh.) She will continue to make these choices as long as she perceives some benefit (attention).
Hubby and I discussed. Here’s what we told the kids:
- You are 9 and almost 11. It’s time for you to be more responsible.
- We should not have to ask you whether you washed your hands (with soap), brushed (with toothpaste) or are wearing underwear. We also should not have to stand over you OR go behind you OR encourage you during your chores.
- A responsible 9 or 11 year old deserves a later bedtime.
- 4 year olds require someone to watch them every minute and tell them what to do next.
- 4 year olds get an early bedtime. Really early.
- You decide (via your actions) whether you are 9, 11 or 4. Once you make that decision, your bedtime that day will be adjusted accordingly.
- If you act like a responsible 15 year old, you will get a responsible 15 year old’s bedtime and possibly some privileges (not including learning to drive) on non-school nights.
Our son took this to heart and has been doing things like holding the driver door open for me, making sure my feet are in, then closing the door. We just returned from vacation, so we all had extra chores yesterday to get the house back in order. He did his in record time.
Our daughter has not, thus far, decided to act like a 9, 11 or 15 year old. Luckily for her, we had to be somewhere last night and tonight which means she hasn’t suffered the bedtime, but tomorrow night we have nowhere to go, so…
This morning, en route to the counselor’s office, I felt like smashing my head against the steering wheel. Many times. I just want her to be a happy and successful kid. It’s a team effort, and she’s NOT PARTICIPATING.
During vacation, Hubby tried to help her grasp the idea of “thinking of others.” It didn’t go well.
“I think of others all the time. I think about whether they’ll like my shirt, or whether they’re going to talk to me, or…” She just didn’t get it. After several tries, he suggested that she make a list of the ways she knew I thought of her and cared for her. She actually came up with a decent list, which encouraged me. It’s progress. Then he asked her to make a list of the ways she shows her care for me.
He then asked for a list of the ways she shows the opposite of care. “I lie to Mama. I do the opposite of what she says. I’m rude to her. I do chores in a bad way so she’ll do them over.” (That last, for the record, does not happen. She’s hoping.)
The list kept growing. I’m glad she acknowledges the issues, but it also concerns me that most of this is conscious. There were a couple people who experienced my pre-teen rebellion, but it was rarely directed at my mom. In my pre-teen hormone frenzy, I probably didn’t always treat her right, but it was generally not intentional…she fed me (her chicken tetrazzini, probably misspelled, was AHHHmazing). I knew better than to bite that hand.
So, back to the counselor’s office. On arrival, she was out of sorts before we entered the building. She realized the conversation that was about to happen. (I was hoping the counselor would leave me in the waiting room to read blogs on my phone, but no dice.)
We settled onto the cliche—I mean, the couch. The counselor prodded, our girl evaded. I mentioned she’d been asking about her birth parents over the last few days. Suddenly, she said, “Well, the reason I’ve been disobedient is because I keep thinking about my birth parents and then I get angry and then I don’t want to do anything so I take it out on Mama and Daddy.”