One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as a Mom is this one: It’s not personal. Meaning, I can’t take things personally in regard to my teenager. A lot of what we go through with them will feel like its personal, or maybe I’m just more sensitive! I’ve come a long way with not taking things personally, but it still creeps in now and again—I’m only human, right?!
What I’ve seen is that our kids have their own issues, too. For me to not take things personally, meaning that my daughter is doing something against me or because of me, I’ve had to separate the labels of “child” and “mother” when I’m trying to get perspective. It might sound like Crazyville, but honestly it has helped so much.
For me to detach from those roles, even if it’s just for a few minutes, helps. I look at my teen as a human being. I view her as an individual apart from me, someone who is just a girl, trying to get through these trying years as a teen. If I view her in this way it helps me see that she has her own struggles, and that they really don’t have anything to do with me, but with her.
Here’s an example. She went to Prom a few weeks ago, and we were doing pictures at her boyfriend’s home. When we arrived with my daughter, we were not greeted. Her boyfriend’s Mother didn’t say how beautiful she looked, let alone “Hello.” For the next hour it was like an organized boot camp, and extremely uncomfortable. I was so taken off guard and shocked at the way this woman behaved that it threw me off my game. I spoke up and asked directly and politely when we were going to do photos with my daughter and her family. When I did that, my daughter shushed me. That kicked me in the gut. I felt at that moment that she was embarrassed of me. I noticed throughout this photo taking boot camp, that my daughter was very keen on what would come out of my mouth, almost like she was watching me. I could feel the tension.
I felt awful and was totally taking it personally. I felt like my daughter was against me and for her boyfriend’s Mother. I felt like she was choosing them! It was very difficult and painful to go through. We never know what is going to throw us off. I mean, why would something like this affect me so much? Why was I so hurt?
It took us a good week to iron this one out. But WE DID. With commitment and perseverance and TIME. It would be something a lot of people would just move on from and not get to the bottom of, but I refused to accept that. I wanted to teach my daughter conflict management, and I couldn’t do that if we’d just moved on or swept it under the rug. We both knew there was a deeper issue, and we were able to get to the bottom of it together. She even said a few times, “Mom, I’m so tired of talking about this, we’ve been on it now for days, can we just let it go?”
My response was that, yes there is a time and place to let go, but if conflict hasn’t been resolved, or even in the midst of it being resolved you can take breaks, but until we are reconciled, it’s not time to let go.
We learned so much about the both of us—I learned again that it wasn’t personal-she wasn’t embarrassed of me, she wasn’t choosing them over me. I learned that my daughter is at the age where she can hurt me; whether intentionally or unintentionally. And that I need to learn how to handle it when she does.
My daughter learned that she cares too much about what others think. She’s known this for a while, but she put caring about what they thought above recognizing that the whole family was uncomfortable and it was frustrating for us. I told her that all she had to do was come up to me quietly and say, “Mom, I know this is super annoying and frustrating, I’m with you, I hear you, but it’s almost over.” Something like that. But hey, she’s 16! A lot of adults don’t do that!
We both see new (and old) areas of our worse self that we need to work on and improve. We are both up for the challenge and together we are stronger for going through this rough patch.
Everyday I’m learning more and more that it’s not personal, my daughter is not just my baby girl, she’s her own individual with her own struggles and shortcomings. It’s not about me most of the time, it’s about life and herself. But I had to make the time to see the truth of these things. I’m so thankful it wasn’t about me, because I have my own self to manage!
About Gina Norma
Gina Norma grew up in St. Paul MN, and enjoys art, reading, traveling, thrift shopping, picnics, volunteering and spending time with her 17-year-old. One day she hopes to go to Italy, attend college, and solve world hunger. Gina says, “To me, parenting is all about building relationships with our kids and walking along side them — not trying to control them or use shame.” You can read Gina’s blog at www.walkwithyourteen.blogspot.com.