On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.

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In the Throes of Battle

I’ve come down from the hilltop I recently visited. Instead of lush green pasture, Ryan and I find ourselves in the throes of combat. With our own child. To illustrate what I mean, here is what Child #2 created on Monday morning:

Gummy vitamins at war. Note the Xs on the decapitated bear.

Gummy vitamins at war. Note the Xs on the decapitated bear.

My mom thinks an art therapist would have a field day with this tableau. I’m sure she’s correct about that. I’m also too afraid to ask if this bloody gummy bear scene is related to our study of the Revolutionary War or if S is acting out some latent emotions related to her big sister’s recent hideous behavior.

Lately I’ve been longing for the days where we could put the girls into their cribs at night and sleep somewhat soundly knowing that they 1) weren’t capable of escaping and 2) their limited vocabularies prevented them from insulting our parenting. Looking to the past isn’t very productive, so instead we’re surging forward into very uncharted territory for us. We admit freely that we need help parenting our tween daughter, and we’re seeking wise counsel.

We’ve started reading a few books on the topic, too. In case anyone is interested in reading with us, I can already recommend Michael Bradley’s Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy! (Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind).
I’ve finished Part 1 and still have two more sections to absorb before I can give a detailed synopsis, but it’s reassuring to learn that my once-sweet, somewhat-docile child is not deranged in a way unique to her. Dr. Bradley explains that all teenage brains are insane and gives the scientific data to support his claim. Phew!

Next on the reading list is Cynthia Tobias’s You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded) , which the author wrote to empower parents to discipline and build up their strong-willed children. Did I mention that we’re battling adolescence with a strong-willed child?!  It’s at this point that the childish part of me would like to blame my mother for wishing this crazy, stubborn child upon me. Raise your hand if your mother said, “I hope you have a child just like you, too.”

Unfortunately I can blame no one. My wise, patient mother also says that you can’t take complete responsibility for your child’s personality. To do so would be to remove God from the equation. Furthermore, the flip side of being stubborn, strong-willed, pig-headed, or whatever you want to call it isn’t a bad thing. It’s called tenacity. And tenacity–combined with faith–is what has brought me personally through a number of crises and challenges.

So this stubborn, tenacious mama is plowing ahead. In prayer and with armor and not by myself. Ryan is standing beside me, friends who’ve been there and done that have offered guidance, more friends are praying, and I’m standing firm in the hope that God is not finished with this young lady yet. And though I recently found a grey eyebrow hair, I know we will survive this phase of parenting, too.


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The View from My Hilltop

If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the past couple of months, you know that our family has been walking through a hard season. Actually, if you’re wondering why I haven’t written much, it’s for this same reason. Ryan has been actively job hunting for the past nine months, G has morphed into a hormone-fueled tween who has abandoned all reason, S’s diabetes has been even more unpredictable than usual, and I’ve been struggling to keep my anxiety under control.

Through it all, we’ve had some absolute rocks in our life. My dad has spent parts of the past two weeks with us while Ryan traveled. My mom is devoted to praying for us; Ryan’s parents just listen to us and never tell us that we’re doing things wrong. My sister gave me a proverbial kick in the pants and convinced me I wasn’t a failure because I could no longer homeschool G. Kind neighbors help with childcare, and my running buddies listen and advise during our long weekend runs. On top of it all, our church prays for us. They walk beside us and allow us to be vulnerable in admitting our struggles and failures. They point us back to the truth of God’s Word; they encourage us to place our hope in the Lord; and they rejoice with us during the good moments.

And we’ve seen some amazing moments in the past couple of weeks. Ryan has been away three times this month, and it’s only January 16! Yesterday he called me from Atlanta to give me some of the best news we’ve heard in the past year: He accepted a job offer with a major airline and is now a first officer. This is my husband’s dream come true–or, as G suggested, it would be like she were going to swim in the Olympics. We will be moving later this year so that we can live near my extended family. Neither Ryan nor I have lived in the same Zip code as any of our family members in almost 20 years, and we’ve grown weary of raising our girls without grandparents and cousins just a short drive away.

Other good things are happening, too. If you live in a somewhat rural area on the outskirts of a major metropolitan area, you might understand the struggle to find  medical specialists, especially pediatric ones. We routinely travel over an hour each way to see S’s endocrinologist four times a year, but the same problem exists for mental health providers. For the past six weeks I’ve been harassing regularly calling three different counselors who treat teens. I’ve gotten nowhere with any of them–until I tried a fourth counselor this week. To my utter shock, she returned my phone call within 24 hours. As an added bonus, counselor #3 called this week and offered to hold a spot if we don’t “click” with #4.

What a difference one week makes. For us, it’s meant a new job, an upcoming move, and someone who wants to help our sweet G make better decisions.

No, I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses at the moment. The girls aren’t thrilled with Ryan’s news, but I understand their reaction. I was a military child, too, and I rarely rejoiced when my parents told us it was time to pack up again. We also know that we have a long row ahead to hoe with G, but knowing that we’ve found others to help us allows us to take some much-needed deep breaths. I know that we’re not out of the valley yet, but the view from this little hill is certainly lovely.

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G is super nervous about starting a new school tomorrow; after all, it’s been 7 ½ years since I dropped her off for school outside of the house. Apparently everything I say to her just makes her feel worse. For example, I asked her to make her lunch and to put away her laundry after dinner tonight. I’m horrible like that.

She got into bed early with 2 of S’s Harry Potter books, and I gently suggested that she try reading the psalms instead. After all, I pointed out, King David wrote many of them when he was feeling stressed and anxious.

“Why was he feeling anxious?” G wanted to know.

“Well, he was being chased by a crazy king who wanted to kill him.” (See, Pastor Rob, I’ve been listening to your sermons about David and Saul.)

“Yeah, but Mom, he didn’t have to go to a new school. I don’t think he even went to school.”

“You’re right, but he faced an 8-foot tall giant when everyone else was too scared.”

“Mom, what’s so hard about that?”

That’s when I said good night to my fiercely stubborn child. What do you do with a 12-year-old who thinks she’s ready to take on the world but doesn’t have a clue how to do so?

Nothing. There are no words I can say to her tonight to convince her she’s going to be okay. There are just the silent prayers that I lift up in short sentences throughout the day for her.