Sunday, November 27, 2016

Helplessness Awash

Lately, on a quite normal basis, my 14-year old daughter and I seem to be from different planets. We don't understand the language the other speaks, we are often found slamming doors, and everything is a battle royale. Every single day I am left feeling defeated and lost in thought that I must be doing something wrong.  How did I become a horrible parent who can't even talk to their kid?

When you tell people you have a teenager they laugh and say "good luck" or even a "just wait," because we all know that living with hormonal teens is downright awful. I am only 20 years apart from my daughter and even I can't begin to understand her. Teens are literal train wrecks of emotions, yet we have no problem handing them the keys to shiny new cars and send them off into the world.  Their brains aren't even fully developed yet!

It is awful.  Well, nearly all of it.  I don't have a little girl that wants me around anymore or tells me sweet things.  I don't have a cute little hand clutching mine when I walk through a parking lot or a doe-eyed girl asking if she can brush my hair.  Instead I have anxiety, a whiplash tongue, and a tenacity for offending.  I don't remember swapping the lovely qualities of parenthood for such items, but it has apparently happened without hesitation, without blinking, and without anyones say so.

Last night during one of our MMA-worthy verbal fights, she said that she wishes she could just blend in. She doesn't want to be unique and have qualities that make her stand out, even though she has been that free spirit her whole life. She never blended, she was never popular, and she has always been a tad odd.  When I say that she wore flowers in her hair, that is a direct example of how she wore her hair.  She would even sneak vases full of fake flowers to school just because they made her cheery.  Now she is trying her damnedest to suffocate any semblance of individuality to the point where I feel it is breaking her.

I get standing out.  I was one of the only pasty-white gingers in my whole school.  My red hair made me walking target for jokes and cruelty.  I also had three older brothers who constantly ridiculed me, and any number of relatives who did the same.   

So I said, "Tell me one thing you love about yourself." 
"You are telling me right now you have not one quality or physical attribute about yourself you like? You spend an hour in the mirror every morning, there has to be something."
"There isn't."
"How about that freckle in your eye?"
"I was thinking my eyes were the only thing, but I thought it was too embarrassing to say."

I basically clutched my heart and wept internally.  Apparently I have gone wrong somewhere.  My sweet little flower child has turned into a sheep.  The caveat is as hard as she tries to fit in, she doesn't.  She is gorgeous, and tall, and blond. And while she is shy and quiet socially, she is eccentric and strange so she sticks out like a sore thumb no matter how hard she tries to blend.
But she doesn't see any of the qualities we all see.
Instead, like most girls, I fear, she sees what she is lacking.
She sees what isn't good enough.
And it is weighing so heavy on my heart.

We build our daughters up their whole lives. We tell them we love them, we tell them they are beautiful.  We do their hair and dress them in nice outfits. We afford them privileges we may not have had in our own youth.  We tell them they can be anything when they grow up.  We feed them endless lines about how amazing they are and then we send them out into the world to be destroyed.  To be sliced down to size by the world who reminds them that they are not good enough unless they look a specific way, dress in specific clothes, listen to specific music, and watch specific TV programs.  And if you do not mold yourself to fit into the pre-approved boxes, you are a weirdo.

So my daughter, who is 4 to 6 inches taller than her friends, who doesn't weigh 120 lbs, who doesn't dress in name brand clothing, who listens to alternative rock, and watches Japanese cartoons is a freak. And people judge her, tease her, and misunderstand her.  And I pity her.  I try to help. I try to tell her it is good to be different and that none of it will matter in 4 years when high school is over.  But she doesn't care what I have to say right now.  She doesn't care that I may have went through a similar plight. And for now, I feel like the worst mom in the world - a helpless mom.