Thursday, January 31, 2013

Parenting a Teen In Need, and What It's Taught Me About Myself, Part 2

Part 2:  I know you are, but what am I?

You’re just a big, fat, lying, stinky butt-head!

I know you are, but what am I?

I find that kids are just a lot smarter than we give them credit for. 

One of my favorite self-help books is The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz.  It purports to be a book of Toltec wisdom.  I have no idea if it’s actually Toltec or not, and frankly I don’t care if it was handed down by aliens from Rigel 7.  It’s good stuff and I’m consistently amazed how often I refer to the Agreements.  I won’t give away all the good stuff here (because really, you should just read it for yourself), but the gist of the book is four pretty simple statements:

The first one is “Be Impeccable With Your Word”.

Second, “Don’t Assume

Third, “Don’t Take Anything Personally

Fourth, “Always Do Your Best

In practice, one of the take-away messages from combining these four Agreements is, “Don’t let your internal poisonous feelings about yourself spill over to your interactions with others.  In fact, while you’re at it, stop drinking all that poison.  It’s going to make you sick.”

Pretty simple stuff, right?

Maybe not so much.  At least not for me.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but self-loathing?  It’s an active hobby for me.  I can sing you an album of my greatest hits entitled, Reasons I Hate Me, including Bonehead Things I’ve Done that I’m Still Embarrassed About, 104 Reasons I Hate My Thighs, I’m Not Smart Enough For This Job, Sweet Resentment, I Know You’re All Laughing Behind My Back, and My Parents Are Secretly Ashamed Of Me.

Oh, you have that album, too?  How about that?

OK, so here’s the really ugly thing I learned about me while learning to parent Daisy Mae:  Every time I put her down, every time I told her she was lazy, disrespectful, slobby, bitchy.  Every time I insisted that she should comply, “BECAUSE I SAID SO”.  Every time I imposed a completely ludicrous, arbitrary or unreasonable constraint on her time and energy, it was actually less about her and more about my own feelings of insecurity.  Every time my voice echoed so loudly in my ears that I couldn’t hear her, it was actually the voice of my own self-loathing making all that noise.

Now, let’s be honest.  Teenagers are lazy, disrespectful, slobby and bitchy.  And they smell funny (true story).  But really?  That’s their problem. And Daisy Mae is actually smart enough to know what she’s doing.  In fact, when she’s being bitchy and disrespectful, it’s because her self-loathing Greatest Hits are playing in her own head.  The sad reality is that a lot of kids in foster care have the live, platinum, double album of self-loathing greatest hits.  So what the heck do I gain by listening to her album, much less singing along?

As a parent, I became a lot happier when I recognized my own insecurities and baggage and learned to turn them off when dealing with Daisy Mae. What does that let me do?  It lets me be more objective in qualifying rules and consequences.  It lets me not take it personally when rules get violated.  It lets me not drink poison when she hands it to me.  (Oh yeah, that poison thing?  It goes both ways) and it lets me hear her out on issues of rules and conduct (hers and mine) without feeling threatened.  Oh, and it lets me teach her some new songs, like Wow, You Are So Good At Teaching Others, I Love Your Sense Of Style, That Dinner Was Wonderful, and You're Going To Be RemarkableAm I perfect at it?  Not by a long shot.  But it’s better that it was around our place, and the less I let my insecurities and self-loathing cloud my interactions, the less she does as well.

And here’s the bonus: In not sharing my self-loathing greatest hits with her, I find that my own album plays at a much lower volume than it used to. Who knows?  Maybe I can stomp on that Greatest Hits album one of these days. (Yeah; not holding my breath on that one.)

You’re a beautiful, successful person.

I know you are, but what am I?

Next:  Loving them by loving you and loving me and...wait, what?


bhd said...

Smiling. Keep 'em coming.

Anonymous said...

'You’re just a big, fat, lying, stinky butt-head!'? ... thank you!