When I am being stubborn or strong-willed or otherwise not doing what he wants me to, James likes to tell me that I’m being “a pill.” Given my nature, he has so many opportunities to use this moniker that it has almost turned into a term of endearment. And compared to some of the things other frustrated men have called me, I’ll take it. But lately, it has taken on a new meaning for me…..
About six months ago, I wrote about how I had turned a corner into “tween-hood” when I discovered my oldest daughter, “Sabrina,” lying to me in a very teenager way. Well, let’s just say that the forecast was accurate, and now I’m living with a multi-faceted, confused, stumbling girl/woman who is busy keeping mommy’s life off-balance.
Sabrina is super smart. I don’t say that just as a proud parent. I say that as a proud parent with the paperwork in hand to prove it. My ex and I had to have her tested a few years ago for a learning disability that turned out to be a vision problem. Instead of sending her to special education, her test scores mandated inclusion in the “talented and gifted” classes. Now, I was in those classes, too, but I never really fit in. My friends were always very smart people, but not usually smart in that particular way. Because, to be perfectly honest, those children are not only “talented and gifted” but also “socially-awkward know-it-alls.” Sorry, but it’s true. I lived it, I know. But that’s where Sabrina is most comfortable. Those are her people. They get her awkward jokes, they accept her immaturity, they value her creativity. I’m glad that she has them and a place to feel comfortable.
The only problem is that most of life is not a talented and gifted classroom. And in real life, she is struggling. Big time. She is tall for her age and used to be lanky like her dad, but puberty has started paying her some attention, and her body is changing. She has acquired the same baby pudge that suddenly appeared on my torso a year or two in advance of my period’s arrival. It disappeared a few years later, but how unfair to be shouldered with that when you’re already feeling self-conscious? She has little bra-lettes that she wears now to conceal her embarrassment more than her breasts. She is a 10-year-old who feels like an 8-year-old inside the body of a 12-year-old. No wonder she’s confused.
We have her visiting the same therapy wizard that helped our younger daughter so very much, and our fingers are crossed that she can work her magic with Sabrina, too. The therapist says that she is suffering some delayed adjustment issues from the divorce, as well as confusion over her sister’s newly-emerged personality (it was so much easier for Sabrina when her younger sister was so concretely “the bad kid.”). And she is dealing with hormones and development in advance of most of her friends and well in advance of her own readiness. My little girl still wants to play with dolls, but her body is beginning to want to play with boys.
Her mood swings are phenomenal to witness. Truly. Only my 43-year-old pregnant friend has come close to rivaling the power of those hormones. The highs are almost manic and the lows are despondent; even with no history of bi-polar depression in our families, I am on alert. Can this really be just hormones? And if it is, dear Lord, how will we survive?!
She attempts to cover her awkwardness with a sass and disrespect that I suspect she sees as “grown-up” but only comes off as grating and annoying and, well, disrespectful. She especially likes to target James with this cocktail because he is basically a fun guy who likes to joke. But she doesn’t understand the natural limits and goes too far. He bites his tongue while I try not to pull out all my hair. She is truly — to borrow his term — being “a pill,” and it’s not fun to have her around. How do you teach someone social norms at this age? I guess with patience and consistency, just like when they’re babies? Frankly, I have no freakin’ clue.
But the teenage sassiness isn’t the only arrow in her quiver these days. It alternates with the preschool whininess that she’s reverted to as well. There is something truly disconcerting about dealing with a young girl in a bra who is whining and crying over minutiae that a 5-year-old would take in stride.
Seriously. I need a Costco-sized vat of patience. Now.
To say that her moods and attitudes and my confusion over them is another strain on my relationship with James probably wouldn’t be a overstatement. He’s not altogether sure how to deal with her, either. His 19-year-old daughter is of a different personality than my Sabrina. The worst she ever hands me is the silent treatment. However, I suspect that, if I am still around when his two younger daughters get to adolescence, I will be repaid Sabrina’s sins a few times over. And that’s okay, I guess. I’m learning that it just comes with the territory.
I love my daughter, I really do. Her arrival in this world made me a mother, and that is most amazing gift any person has ever given me. She has taught me more about myself than most other people combined, and she has loved me unconditionally. I know that I need to help her through this maze of emotions and physical changes and social challenges. I’m just not sure how. I will keep working and communicating with my ex, her therapist, and her school personnel. I will keep talking to her and holding her and reassuring her and disciplining her. And I will strive to keep my own life in balance so that I have the reserves and resources to do these other things for her. I just hope it’s enough.
Sabrina said to me last week, “I don’t want to grow up, Mom. I just want to be a kid. It’s not fair.”
No kidding, babe. No kidding.