Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What To Do With Your Teenagers

My trips to junior high schools have prompted a few postings and here is yet another one.

I've always been very trusting, wanting a close confidant who I can share secrets with. I've only really noticed this about myself since I've been an adult but I can imagine I've always been like that though. I recall as a teenager I didn't necessarily have a best friend who followed me throughout high school but I had several who spanned a year or two. As an adult, it's been easier for me to make and keep friends, although I am far less trusting now than I ever was before.

I talk about this trust thing because looking back, it makes me wonder about some of my behaviors relative to my parents.

When I was about 15 or 16, on a normal, hot, summer night I was partying with a group of friends. My girlfriend's mother was never home and we were planning a party that night. We got all the booze we could drink, invited everybody we knew to the smallest apartment known to man, and settled in for a night of fun.

I did not ask permission. I did not inform my parents where I was nor that I would not be coming home that night.

Following the worst night of my life where I received some lifelong scars that have only recently begun to heal, I called home because I needed to be there in my relative sanctuary. My dad was understandably upset and refused to come get me. I was 7 miles from home. We were not old enough to drive so I didn't have a ride, nor did I have any money. Additionally, for reasons I have forgotten years ago, I did not have any shoes with me. My father told me to walk.

I did.

I got propositioned 3 times on my way home by dirty men in their 40's who saw an easy target.

When I finally arrived home after about 2 1/2 hours of walking, I set foot through the door to see my dad sitting on the couch watching TV. He did not address me; I went to my room.

I was a tough teenager under equally difficult circumstances which don't need to be laid out here for the world to analyze. My behaviors were not entirely my fault at that age; a fact that I have wallowed in and then finally moved past.

I told my parents a few weeks later what happened on that night. I can't recall their reactions which means they weren't significant. It was never mentioned again. I was left to stumble through the remains of my miserable existence on my own. It was a year before I was myself again. After that, I never ditched school again, never drank (was the designated driver at all parties) and only lived outside the "house rules" when I found comfort in the arms of a boyfriend or several. Much of my high school years are shameful for me and I try to forget, telling myself I'm a different person now, which I am.

It feels good to get this out into the universe to people who don't really know me (and a few who really do). This stuff doesn't define me at all and that's an important factor in my now healthy psyche.

Where I'm going with all this teenage reminiscing is that (and here mom, because I know you're out there reading this and feeling all sorts of blame - just know I'm healthy now and that you were a good mom; we all have our flaws) I can't be that fundamentally different from that girl that used to seek solace in various places. I wanted someone to talk to - that's what I'm trying to say. I'm sure that I would have been so grateful to have someone to tell the little things to, and then once they were received well, to tell all the other crap to also. I don't really remember being "talked to" on a regular basis, just for my opinions, my wants, needs, desires, stuff I'm doing, where I wanted to go, etc.

I remember sitting on the counter in our kitchen as my mom prepared dinner...this is a big memory so I must have done it a lot. That was me seeking out someone to talk to (wanting to trust someone) - she wasn't in my room. And when I say that, there's no blame, don't misunderstand. I'm just saying that I definately wanted someone enough to seek them out.

My final point in putting all this out there is that there's a lesson for me to be learned. My daughter was given to me, I'm convinced, to help me close the circle. I want to be there for her in those rough years. Really be there! Right with her (probably in the way that SelectHealth says they're with me everyday lol). I want her to know that even if she feels alone during her day at school, she won't be alone when she gets home and that I will listen.

I guess I sort of wasn't telling entirely the whole truth the other day when I wrote that I don't recall what it was like to be a teenager. I remember the pain.

7 backward glances:

Mad goat lady said...

My 18 year old daughter who no longer lives at home wants to neither talk to me nor listen to anything I have to say..at this point in time I feel I have failed with her..who knows maybe with time things will change.

Sixteen year old son and I have a fantastic relationship and the communication lines are well and truly opened both ways.

Maybe it is a female thing that we don't *want* to hear what our mother has to say..although you did so i am not sure..thanks for making me thing :)

friendinME said...

very nice post, Amy and a difficult lesson well learned.

Reading your post was for me, as a father/husband, a touching and humbling thing.

I remember when my daughter was born that someone wisely told me, "your presence is your daughter's safe place." I have remembered that very often. (She is 19 now.)

I know you weren't blaming your dad. I am guessing he had no idea what happened to you. But your story reminded me once again how important it is for dads to be a safe place.


Katie said...

Being a parent is such a huge responsibility! I don't know how people do it without Gods help:)

Jill said...

Amy ~
The more I read of your posts, the more I think we have in common. I, too, had a 'unstable' high school experience, so to speak and NEVER felt like I could be honest and open with my mom, which was hard. I also could never write about this on my blog (because she is probably my most dedicated reader) and she WOULD feel guilty and like she was a bad mother because of it even though I don't believe that now...she was only doing the best she could at the time and I know that she loved/s me. However, it makes me think, too, about my daughter's future and what kind of relationship we will have as she gets older and I can only hope that I'll find a way to make her feel comfortable being open with me...time will tell.

Shelby said...

I've never heard it put any better than friendinme when he said: "your presence is your daughter's safe place."
Thank you for that.

Ellen said...

Wow, I just left a super long comment, and blogger deleted it. Let's see if I can recreate it:

I always knew that you had it harder with Dad than I ever did. Nevertheless, I'm sorry that I wasn't there for you as a listening ear. I seem to have been asleep much of my life (at least until I turned 21) so I'm not so sure I would have been all that helpful.

I can totally relate to what you said about wanting to be there for your kids though. That's one main reason that I stay home. "They" say that your kids will talk if you're there when they get home: from school, from work, from dates, from wherever it was that took them away from you. If you're there every time, they'll get used to it and they'll come to expect it. If they expect it, it'll become a comfort. And that's a good thing.

I'm so glad that we can overcome our pasts...our each individual hurdles. It's such a relief to be able to look back, disect it, analyze it, rage about it, cry about it, blame myself or him or her or them, come to grips with it, and then finally...discard it. Not discard the past, but instead nullify its ability to define my identity.

And then we can decide to really be there for someone else. And that's good too.

Debbie said...

What a great post! I struggled with the same issues as a teen and even later, and you are right...it is a relief to be able to analyze it and go on now. I think alot had to do with having a dad whose presence wasn't felt...and I think that you begin to understand alot once you have your own family. Just look at your "growing up" years as a lesson in what you don't want to be to the SP....I think you are already doing that! :)