Parent experience; May
My daughter Hannah is fourteen. She is my eldest so I have never had to navigate the teenage years before and it is hard. It is sometimes brutal, often distressing, occasionally astonishing and frequently hilarious but it is never easy. It is more emotional (for me) than during her younger years when tears and tantrums were all part of her being little. Back then, I wasn’t too affected by her moods. I knew it was part of her being a child so I could help her most of the time.
My role as a parent has changed
Now it can feel as if the goal is for Hannah to be happy – but happy away from me. On holiday she would rather be on Snapchat than swim in the sea. At home she is in her room most of the time and doesn’t want to do things with me. Other people offer her the reassurance and the support that I used to. Other people make her happy and home is just a place to be in between. On a good day I’m just happy to be in the background and to help her when I can. But on a bad day I feel upset and rejected. She hurts me by not wanting to be with me and I know that makes her feel guilty (which neither of us wants).
Hannah can be unreasonable and really selfish. To me she can be rude and angry and demanding (and then she is smiling and happy with her friends). It can feel as if I am worthless, boring, old and irrelevant.
What helps me
What helps me is to remember that it has to be like this. She has to grow away from me and fighting is part of her separating. I think she probably needs to see me as irrelevant and boring (so I just have to hold on to the fact that I’m not!). She needs to do this so that she can experiment with not needing me.
It also helps me to notice some of the ridiculous things she does which she thinks are mature but I can see are very young (like being frustrated at my opinion because she thinks she is so much more worldly and informed than I am). At these times I remember how young she is and that she is just testing things and working out how to be in the world.
It’s hard to overstate how sad this loss is for me – the loss of the relationship I used to have with her. It can leave me grieving, tearful and longing for her. I miss her. I miss how close we were and I miss being able to delight her, make her laugh, hold her, help her.
What I try to remember
The upside to all this – as Hannah develops and grows away from me – is the joy I feel when she comes back to me. She comes back as someone I don’t know as well as I used to. She is like a place I used to know but which has changed while I was away. She is the same, but she is new. She is interesting and opinionated, cool and sharp and funny. She surprises me and fascinates me and makes me laugh out loud. At these moments I can feel excited and amazed at the adult she is becoming and it helps me to remember that we will have lots of time in a relationship together as two adults. At these times I can feel excited about the future and very very proud.