When Your Kid is Too Good for Brené Brown (Cross Posted on ACEs Connection)

Childhood, like literature, lasts.”

Lance Woolaver, paraphrased from his book, Maud Lewis: The Heart at the Door.

Even in the midst of conflict, I have known moments of maternal bliss. I had one just recently when my daughter and I hit a snag. It wasn’t one of the ugly, awful or prolonged versions. That’s not due to me though. That’s mostly because my kid has a practical, logical and rational nature which does not clash with my more emotional, reactive and fearful one.

We are alike enough to “get” each other and different enough to diffuse intensity. We recover from conflict quickly and easily.

The Irish in me wants to knock wood, cross my fingers and not put that in print as though I’ll jinx myself.

But the part of me all about hope and healing wants to remind you that parenting a teen is not only possible but pleasant despite all the messages we get about how terrible teens can be.

I love parenting my teen. I not only love my daughter but like the human she is. And parenting feels possible.

Thank Fuck!

Parenting during this stage much easier than early parenting, which for me was the first decade of baby, toddler, pre-school, grade-school years. That was hard. Really hard. Brutally hard at times.

I’ve shared about that and will again over at Parenting with ACEs where I blog all things ACEs all of the time. But parenting isn’t always hard or trying.

Sometimes it is amazing and awesome and maybe even more so because of an ACE-filled past.

There are days and years worth savoring and times that must be celebrated.

Some moments are small, like when we are watching Big Brother together, eating popcorn or having popsicles and not having to juggle school, homework, and rides.

We’re simply relaxed together and enjoying each other.

There are times when sleeps in and I bring blueberries on yogurt in a bowl so she can unwind. I watch her sleepy and ache to nurture her because she works so hard at dance and deserves to be pampered.

Sometimes she gets to me out of the blue. I cried last week when she texted me a picture of a “Love you to the moon and back” t-shirt while walking around Plymouth for the first time with a friend, not a parent.

The little girl who said, “I hope I never get too big for uppies” is having smoothies with a friend.

What? When? How?

Other times we have the joy of sharing the same hammock when we are squished into one another as a fire crackles and warms us. We have a house rule that “hammock time” cannot be denied or put off. If asked, one must oblige and take a swing moment no matter what. We don’t hammock often but when we do it is bliss.

Bliss is bliss. But awesome does not mean always perfect. Or easy.

Awesome isn’t always deep or exciting. Sometimes it’s relief, after grocery shopping, when there’s a no cook sushi meal and we make faces because we took too big a bite of wasabi.

Awesome includes push, pull and strain. It might mean my kid is bored or seems only able to start sentences that being with, “I want, I need and can you take, buy, get or do x, y and z for me in the next 30 seconds?”

Awesome includes the days that I’m out of time, money, patience, and empathy- which doesn’t ever feel awesome to me.

Sometimes I flunk at high road or mature.

Like when I lost my cool because I was stretched in real day present time but also worn down, depleted and managing heavy inner bags having nothing to do with my present day life – or my kid.

My daughter had to be at a dance competition and the timing was tough. The event wasn’t planned in advance because I don’t know why. So, we had little time to adjust schedules. Plus, she has a team of dance buddies with mothers who don’t work and who can afford to shop, eat out and stay at hotels during competitions – which for us has been a rare luxury.

Maybe I was tired of hearing about her friends gathering again, living large, eating out and shopping while she was getting asked to walk the dog, water the plants and other horrible things. While I was glad to have the flexibility to drive her to classes and competition and to make up work in the evening, she was not “feeling” the gratitude or the bounty of that. She was only feeling what she wasn’t getting to have or go or be with.

I was feeling how much she wasn’t feeling it and angry.

Angry means I was not feeling empathy for her, for feeling left out and out of the loop with her teammates.

Art by Margaret Bellafiore

So, when she asked, on my way to dropping her at a dance camp, and before her evening dance class,  if I could drive her to meet her friends eating at Panera… again….

In another town.

An hour drive for an hour of fun in the middle of the day. During a work day….

I did not say, “Sorry, no can do sweetie, maybe next time.”

I said, “Just because I work from home doesn’t mean it’s not real work. You have not called your father from work even once. Guess what? I’M WORKING.”

If I had shut my mouth at that point it would have been o.k.

But I felt guilty that she couldn’t be with her friends, irritated that her father has moved far enough way not to help with rides and also, maybe a little jealousy that the mothers of her friends didn’t have to work and could spend more money and time with and on their kids than I.

And I even knew that driving the car while screaming, “I’m working” might be confusing.

Yet, when she told me how so and so’s mom gave her $160. for an afternoon of shopping when I had given her $10. and it wasn’t even from her allowance, I said. “Well, you don’t have one of those moms. “You have this one. This one has to work so you get more of my time or more of the money I make but I can’t give you both. I just can’t.”

And then, I burst into tears.

And then, she burst into tears, too.

I already know I am the adult. I do. I knew it at the moment but forgot which is why it is called “losing” the cool.

I blame it a little bit on last year.

Last y

Photo & Art: Margaret Bellafiore

ear was hard. Not trauma hard but stress hard. We moved twice and my daughter’s Dad moved, too making it be three moves for her in six months. . My daughter changed dance teams as well and I started a new job. All of these changes were choices and most of them had serious upside.

But stress is stress. Change is change. Transition means things aren’t all staying the same.

Transitions, in fast succession, are trying.

For anyone and everyone.

And sometimes, especially for kids and adults and families with lots of ACEs. Like ours.

After the tears, composure, explanations, and apologies – we were o.k. I told her she’s not responsible for my stress, I’m the adult, she can ask me for anything and talk about anything AND sometimes I’ll have to say no. Blah. Blah. Blah.

I reminded her we aren’t in the same situation as some of her friends and that’s just how it is and it’s not changing anytime soon and might never change. I told her that even if we had more money to burn I may never choose to spend it that way anyhow and will only know for sure, if we do. More blah-blah-blah and breathing.

Eventually, I could muster up and feel more compassion for her, too.

I told her I understood how it can be hard to have less time or money or stuff than friends.

I heard that. I knew that.

I actually felt that.

I didn’t detail how well I know it though I’m sure that was part of what was making me feel so emotional. I remembered Wrangler jeans instead of LEVI’s or Calvin Klein’s as well as pretending not to be hungry or not wanting to go just because the money to do so made invitations get answered with “No thanks” if they did come.

The awkwardness, comparing, self-consciousness of childhood can feel huge as a kid.

We worked through our garden variety slice-of-life conflict and in good time, too. She even got to go to Panera and have lunch with her friends and later stepped up and helped with chores around the house for the rest of the week while I put in extra hours.

We worked it through emotionally and logistically and that felt good.

It gets better.

Before bed, we hugged it out one last time with a final “love you” and apology in both directions. Because I’ve been reading Brené Brown’s Rising Strong, I added, “You are the perfect daughter.  As is.  You are enough just as you are.”

She pulled away from the hug in disgust.

“Enough?” she said. “Enough? I’m more than enough and so are you.”

To her, enough was not even a compliment.

To her, enough was actually an insult.

To me, enough is sacred high ground. To her, it’s too low a bar to set.

It’s not even shame I was talking or vulnerability – just being enough.

My daughter smirked me on her way to bed like I’d been talking gibberish.

I laughed.

The next day I called my best friend and celebrated the fact that I have a kid, who in her childhood, feels worthy.

Worthy. Now. Present tense.

Knock on wood.

Knock on wood.

Knock on wood.

Remind self it’s o.k. to say good things and not be struck by lightning.

It was epic and awesome and unexpected. I got this gift in the middle of regular life.

How do I even have a kid who feels so o.k. that being called “enough” is an insult?

Epic mother win. I felt accomplished, as a parent.

As someone who loves Brené Brown and is Parenting with ACEs, I was startled.

Imagine what it might be like to feel good in childhood about yourself and/or life itself?

Why is that not guaranteed to all  children or humans?

What if it could be?

I guess there’d be no need for Brené Brown and that would be sad. I’m sure Brown could be doing other things. She doesn’t need me worrying about her.

My job is mother.

I’m glad my daughter has no need to discover her inner enoughness. I’m glad she has something deep down and within her being that feels bigger.

I hope it’s a foundation she forever rests on.

It’s not trauma-informed if it’s not informed by trauma survivors. 

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