Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The teenage years

My 16 year old daughter and I are struggling through the teenage years and trying to work on our relationship with each other. A few weeks ago I decided it had reached the point of needing professional help. Of course, she doesn’t think any of this is necessary but is reluctantly participating. We have already had a “together” session and now we are heading to her “one-on-one session.” It will be her turn to vent about me, while I sit in the waiting room and try to read a book.

We drive to the counseling center in silence. Me, pretending to listen to the radio. She, text messaging all of her friends. I can tell that she is nervous about this, and texting somehow makes her feel more secure. She looks so young and innocent all of a sudden.

We arrive and she goes into her “one-on-one session”. I am left in the waiting room, looking around at my surroundings. The office is in an old church which has been converted to an office. I am pretty sure that every furnishing in the room has been chosen for its soothing qualities. The music is classical and the reading material is sophisticated. There are no People or Us magazines for some reason. There are only beautiful books such as “20,000 Years of World Paintings”. I am pretty sure I will only be able to get through about 50 years of paintings during the allotted forty-five minute session. I am hoping that things will improve between us before I am able to make it through all 20,000 years of this book.

In this tranquil space it is hard to imagine some of the yelling and arguing that have gone on between me and my daughter. I know that this is normal teenager-parent conflict and I know that it will get better some day, but that is no consolation for right now. No one tells you how painful and difficult parenthood can be. I want to laugh and play with my precious daughter again, just like when she was little. That is why I have made the commitment to be here, and that is why I have forced her to come here with me. I will fight for this relationship as long as it takes.

While this process has been emotionally draining for both of us, I am starting to see signs of improvement. She comes out of the counselor’s private office and walks toward me with a smile on her face. We decide to stop at the grocery store on the way home. While a grocery store experience is usually not the highlight of my day, today it is. We shop together, pick out some food that we both like, and she tells me some things that are going on in her life. For the moment our world is harmonious. Please let this last.


1 comment:

Kai Elizabeth said...


I loved reading this post. I was especially struck by the line where you say you just wish you could play with her again like when she was little. I had a very sweet moment with my 5 year old girl today where I was trying to sing to her at bedtime. She said, "Mommy, come on" and then started cracking up. Pretty soon I was purposefully making up goofy lyric to my lullaby and we were both giggling like mad.
I commend you for reaching out to your daughter in her teen years. I think my parents were afraid of my anger, my strength and my rebellion during that time in my life. I kept many things from them and took unhealthy risks because of my emotional distance from them at 14, 15 and 16. At 17 I lost my Dad and my Mom and I are just now finding our way back to a relationship where we can be honest and respectful of one another. Where we can be angry and loving, irritated and tolerant of one another. We are now 36 and 66.
Despite how your daughter may react to the counseling now, I'm sure when she reflects on it as an adult, or perhaps when she becomes a mother she will know that she had a parent that cared enough about her to take that extra step and really work on it.