You Can’t Tell Me

Kids. They will suck your brains out of your head.  Just when you think you’ve got it under control and things are kosher, they will let you know that in no uncertain terms that you are totally and completely off the mark. Me ? I’ve got two teenagers now. 14 and 13. You’d think the 14-year-old would at least give me some heads up and experience before I have to deal with the 13-year-old. Nope. My 13-year-old is going to be the one to lay it down for me. Today’s gem ? I don’t like it when you tell me what to do. Hmmm. Ain’t that gonna be rough for you ?

I grew up in a house where doing as you were told was non-negotiable. It was how my parents were raised and so it went for us.  Don’t get me wrong – I tried it. And at about the same age as my daughter is trying it with me.  Although my run in was with my dad, the conversation across the generations had some similar tones to it 30 years later.  Essentially ? You sass me and there will be consequences.

My daughter, which I’m sure THRILLS my mother to no end, is a lot like me. She is already starting to not take anybody’s crap lying down. She is independent, creative, mouthy, brash, somewhat fearless and it doesn’t always occur to her to engage filter when opening mouth. She loves to make people laugh, gets enjoyment out of helping others, needs to be challenged and loves learning. Unfortunately for me, and again THRILLING for my mother, she has got one humongous attitude brewing. Stop laughing Mom.

This daughter of mine advised me yesterday in a panicky tone that she had just received a huge project, on top of another assignment and couldn’t possibly do one of her chores last night as she had to work on this project.  Today ? She calls from her friends house to check in. Yeah ! But when I tell her to go home and work on her project as she is going out later tonight, her response: No. I don’t want to. It’s too cold to walk and you can’t make me.  Jaysus.  I believe my exact response started with – Exactly who do you think you are talking to ? 

What came of this little altercation is a discussion which alerted me that my daughter thinks I tell her what to do too much. That she doesn’t like it when I tell her what to do and I needed to stop. Hmmm. Really. We’re back to that ain’t it going to be rough for you sentiment which was followed by the whole my house conversation that I’m sure most parents have at some point.  I strongly suggested that she find a way to deal with this problem of hers as I was going to be telling her what to do for quite some time to come. But she did get me thinking – just because I can tell her what to do, doesn’t mean I should.

I did make it very clear that if she chose to talk to me in the tone and manner she chose to today, there would be consequences.  But after consideration and a couple of cups of tea, I’ve come to this conclusion: I need to let her fail. I need to stop telling her what to do and let her experience life on her own. Not on big things but maybe on  some little things. She is 13. If she wants to walk in the cold without a hat and mitts, she’ll get cold. If she wants to make a crap lunch that doesn’t fill her up, she’ll get hungry. If she wants to cook her grilled cheese on high heat and burn the crap out of it, she’ll learn to cook better.

I’m denying my daughter the opportunity to fail which is what will make her successful. I’m trying too hard to protect her and teach her while letting a fabulous learning opportunity slip by. I’m damaging what I thought was a fairly decent relationship with my frustrations and expectations that in the long run aren’t doing either of us any good. I get ticked off and yell. She feels tense and doesn’t want to be at home as much. What am I gaining ? Nothing. What am I losing ? Potentially my daughter. The pay off is not worth it for either of us.

My point ? I think my daughter is right and I need to back off. Will I tell her that ? I don’t think so. Actions speak louder than words. I’ve apologized for what I felt was appropriate and let her know I’ll work on it.  That’s enough for now.  I won’t always be there to tell her what to do. She won’t always listen.  This is going to be rough for the both of us but I think in the long run, we’ll both be more successful. And that beats failing any time.

2 thoughts on “You Can’t Tell Me

  1. Some days I think you’re living my life… glad to know I’m not the only one who has a parent auto-response based on childhood echoes.

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