Oh how the teeter-totter swings…
This is a story about how I took my girls to their psychologist appointment and how I needed her more than they did.
It started out as an average day. I was in relatively good spirits when I picked up the girls early from school and we started out on our hour drive to the office.
We talked about swimming lessons and the upcoming book fair and all those other school things. Then my youngest started doing what she does best.
She started pushing my buttons.
This kid has a gift in this particular area. She’s a force to be reckoned with at all times. She’s that girl in the class that all the little boys are afraid of because you KNOW she can take them and they know it too. She refuses to wear a dress, is freaking amazing at sports, and has no filter on her mouth.
She can be the fiercest warrior and the most vulnerable child all at the same time.
She’s also one big messed up bag of conflicting emotions.
Coming from a background where she has already experienced profound loss with her birthparents, she is now trying to get a grasp on the loss of her father. Or more accurately, who she thought her father was.
She is not so good at this.
Working with our counsellor she has come to realize that she’s on a teeter-totter of conflicting emotions with her dad. She hates him and is embarrassed by him and is angry with him and scared of him. But the next minute the teeter-totter swings the other way and she loves him and wants to protect him and be with him and get him gifts and write him love notes and so on.
It’s enough to make me crazy.
The teeter-totter is always moving. It’s exhausting for all of us, but especially for her.
She has this one defence mechanism of singing his praises for all to hear when she’s feeling particularly uncertain or afraid of how she’s feeling about him. I know most of it is unconscious but you would not believe how frustrating it can be.
On this particular trip to the psychologist this defence mechanism came into play. And I didn’t handle it well. I knew the truth about him. The truth she refuses to accept because it’s way too scary and hard.
Usually I can be fairly grown-upish about it and answer her appropriately, but on this day I was not grown-upish. She pushed me and I pushed back.
By the time we got to the office, we were both emotional disasters. She marched into the waiting room and promptly turned her chair around so she was facing the corner, and there she sat in seething silence. Talk about non-verbal communication.
When our therapist came out to greet us I hijacked the appointment time and took the first few minutes for myself. She was very understanding and empathetic as I cried and explained what had transpired on our way there. I knew that my words to my daughter were not helpful and that I had created a divide between us. But it was like I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t take one more minute of her bullsh** nonsense about her dad.
Our lovely therapist reminded me that when I responded in the manner I did, I was filling my need, not my daughter’s. While I wanted/needed my daughter to see the truth because I love her and I’m concerned about her, my actions and words didn’t meet her need. They met my need. When she is ready she will choose to see the truth and nobody can make her see it before she is ready. When you push back with the truth it backfires and only alienates you from your child.
Such a good reminder! Sometimes so hard to actually do!
She also provided a good response for me to use with my daughter when it was just one of those days that mommy can’t deal with it. Her advice was to let her know that I can’t talk about her dad that day and can we talk about him another day. So simple! Let’s hope it works.
This kid of mine KNOWS she pushes buttons. She will freely admit it. She was also reminded by our therapist that she needs to not push my buttons on those days.
So there. She got in trouble too. Perhaps a bit of immaturity on my part but it made me feel better!
So for mamas going though similar stuff with their kiddos, know that you’re not the only one who blows it. Know that there are days you probably just need to tell your kids that today is not a good day for talking about it. Let them know that everyone has limits and it’s ok to put boundaries and expectations in place when they are needed.
May your counselling bills be small, and may there be a Starbucks nearby for a much needed coffee on your way home!
Hugs and good luck.