I’ve been pretty silent here on the blog lately because I’m having problems deciding what is appropriate to share. Quite honestly, right now, I’m having more issues navigating life with my 16 year old “typical” daughter than I am with my 13 year old autistic daughter or 9 year old son. And because my oldest is 16, the issues I’m dealing with are a lot more complicated than potty training or sleeping through the night. I would have no problems sharing that kind of information here. But the issues I’m trying to cope with are more interpersonal – my relationship with my daughter, her relationship with me – issues of independence and control.
It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write. Believe me, there have been moments recently where I’ve wanted to lay down a blazing rant, but even in my anger and frustration I still want to protect my daughter’s privacy. She didn’t ask to have her life chronicled in a blog. I’m also fully aware that even as I stand tall in self-righteous indignation, I am only seeing my side of the story – or there are times when I can see her side, but think it’s completely ridiculous, or see her side and feel badly for her as a teenager wanting to be older. I know what it’s like to want to be free from parental control and rules.
One of the HUGE differences between my daughter and me is that I grew up in an abusive home, and actual rebelling was NOT a realistic option for me. I was brought up not able to openly question or disagree with my parents, especially my father. Indeed, I grew up with a lot of fear. I didn’t want that for my children. The result? My daughter feels perfectly comfortable disagreeing with and questioning me to my face (and my husband’s face too while we’re at it). I love that and am SO uncomfortable with it at the same time.
She has always been this way, but since she turned sixteen back in October, there has been a more dramatic shift. She somehow thinks that sixteen is a license to absolute freedom and autonomy. Well, not in my house. I never (to my knowledge) gave her any impression that once she turned sixteen she would be free to do whatever she pleased with whomever she pleased. So there has been considerable pulling and pushing in the past few months as she has tested the limits. For example, she can be angry, argue and even yell at me, but on New Year’s Eve she started hurling personal attacks at me, and THAT was unacceptable. She got grounded for the first time in her life.
I recognize the need to give her more freedom as she shows us that she can handle it. She gets very good grades and overall has a good head on her shoulders. But like any normal teenager, her capacity to sense danger is limited if non-existent. I’m afraid every time she goes out the door and gets in a car with friends (many of her friends are in the next grade up and have their driver’s licenses already – she is still learning). Isn’t the fact I let her drive in a car with friends to the mall (or so she says) proof that I’m not an overbearing mother?
But the fear is almost overwhelming. I’m afraid every time she goes to a friend’s house, every time she gets in a car and drives off… I have set certain rules for those things that I think are reasonable. But kids will sometimes be kids and work around those rules or lie outright. I know she doesn’t tell me everything, and I don’t expect that she will. I can only hope the lies she tells me (or the things she doesn’t tell me) aren’t ones that will endanger her safety. Perhaps that is my biggest fear. And there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.
I think my job is to balance my fear with her freedom. There are times when I have to “suck it up” and let her go, to stifle that voice inside of me that’s screaming “NO! Don’t you leave this house!” But there are also times when I need to pay attention to that voice, trust it, and let that voice come out. But dang it, there’s no rhyme or reason for when to listen to that voice and when stifle it. Flying by the seat of your pants IS NOT EASY OR FUN.
I had high blood pressure before this. I think I may need to “up” the dosage on my medication. I’ve got two and a half years before she graduates from high school. Then, when she’s living on her own, I’m sure I’ll enter a new kind of hell. Pray for me please!