Last week I had the most terrible day. After being on our world backpacking trip for ten months, my daughter had a meltdown and told me she couldn’t wait to go home and never wanted to set foot on an aeroplane ever again.
Not ideal when your future plans include being a family travel blogger.
She went on to say that travelling was my dream and not hers and that she was sick of sharing her knickers with her mother who is nearly 50.
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What It Looks Like When Your Teenager Opens Up
After frantically typing out a blog post to tell you all about it, I spent the rest of the evening trying to divert snot and tears away from my red wine glass. I blubbed to Brian about how we were going to have to make things better for our distressed, unhappy daughter, how we had destroyed her young life. It was surely our fault she was a sad, lonely, loner with no friends and a weird Mother who didn’t even share her knickers nicely.
And then, the following day we went to Scotland to stay with family. A family who have two teenagers. A girl and a boy both a similar age to my two.
And what do you know? All the miserable, homesickness, guilt-laden sadness disappeared from my daughter’s shoulders – just like Willow the Wisp.
In its place, the familiar happy, fun loving, travel adoring (ok Liz, don’t get carried away) daughter had returned.
Leaving me with an extra wrinkle on my chin and a face that resembled the inside of a confused washing machine.
Three days earlier I had convinced myself that I’d damaged my fourteen-year-old girl for life.
And now, here she was frolicking with her new found friend, skipping down to the coffee shop while gushing about the places she’d been to and where she couldn’t wait to go to next.
Not a shred of unhappiness on her beautiful face. No reference to her previous despair and the crippling homesickness. She didn’t even mention the knicker drama.
It had all magically disappeared.
How Not To Take Everything Our Kids Say To Heart.
And then I realised how similar we were, her and me. I often have days where, for whatever reason, I feel as though everything is shit. I confide in someone who I can trust – usually Brian or a tree.
Or, I will go to my favourite weapon. I write every thought that is in my head down onto some A4 paper and then screw up the pages and throw them away.
This is a wonderful way to clear your mind and one that I could talk about all day. I first discovered this brilliant technique through a book called ‘The Artists Way‘. If, like me, you have struggled with putting your thoughts into order or have a tendency to want to perform everything to perfection, then please, do yourself a favour and read this book.
Don’t be put off by the title. Yes, it’s for ‘creatives’ (which, by the way, the author believes we all are) but it has helped me enormously in putting my runaway mind in its place and has answered a lot of my questions.
Read it. At least three times. It will change the way you see your thoughts.
Because quite often, the worries and the overwhelming fears that are present in our minds on any given day are transient. They don’t hang around for long. They try – but I have learned to recognise them for what they are and have techniques to cope. Because I am a 47-year-old woman and not a 14-year-old girl.
Being The Safe Place For Our Kids
So why would it be any different for our kids? It wouldn’t. But unfortunately, they haven’t yet grasped the transient thought idea. It took me 45 years after all.
Instead, they will tell someone who they trust just how they’re feeling; right there and then. No censors.
And that someone is often Mum or Dad. Yep. That’s our job, that’s what the parent job description states. We are their safe place. Their piece of A4 paper who – unbeknown to them, will often crumple as soon as they’ve emptied their sad thoughts onto us.
If you are lucky enough to have a relationship with your kids where they talk openly to you, then that’s fabulous. Sort of.
Although I couldn’t bear it if my kids never confided in me, equally, I need to refrain from asking what’s on their mind every minute of the day.
As parents, we take their sadness on, take it personally and try to fix it for them, which, short of being miracle makers, is impossible.
We attempt to take on their unhappiness for them, which, as proved this week with Tess, is usually not unhappiness but an off the cuff transient thought that they need to get off their minds. It isn’t as earth stoppingly serious as we are imagining it to be.
Pinch of salt and all that.
Putting Things Into Perspective.
Perhaps they were feeling hormonal that day; maybe someone has upset them on social media. (bloody social media, that’s a touchy subject with me) or more than likely they have failed to reach the next level on Fortnite. Most probably.
So I am here to tell you, parents, here to remind you, that half the stay-awake-until-3 am- stuff we worry about when it comes to kids is mostly pointless, temporary, and transient.
They’re simply airing their chests.
Try to remember this and keep that chin wrinkle free. It will pass.
Yes, keep your eye on potential problems, but don’t do a Chicken Little and run around the house screaming that the sky is falling down just because your daughter says she’s not happy and misses her friends.
It. Will. Pass.
In three days time, she’ll have forgotten that she even said it. She will look at you, seemingly unaware of your puffy, drained, worried sick face, and say as she flicks her hair absent mindlessly:
“What? I didn’t say that! Oh no, I didn’t mean it that way. By the way, can you stop stretching my knickers? You’re making me feel sad and big bummed”.
Shut up you and pass me the wine.