Saturday, April 12, 2014
I think I don't understand people
This has become challenging on the whole parenting a teenager front. Right now, I have a teen who I have a hard time relating to most of the time. Yes, I know, everyone is going to say "No parent can relate to their teen", but I think this is different. I stepped in at the 11th hour. I didn't have any opportunity to mold her into who she currently is, I just took what someone else had already molded and attempted to do my best. She is a great kid, but sometimes I can't understand her. She's not observant. She never sees a need and fills it. She makes a lot of excuses for why she doesn't do things or can't do things instead of realizing that she could do those things if she spent less time making all of the excuses. Often she finds herself wholly without fault in all situations where she makes mistakes, despite the fact that she has total control over them. I love her, but it's a challenge. It's a challenge to turn off the voice in my head that wants to shout "I HAVE BEEN WHERE YOU ARE NOW AND I COULD DO IT SO WHY CAN'T YOU?" and temper it for a more gentle "Maybe next time think about...." that I hope reads as a message that she does have some ownership in most situations. I'm struggling to smile and stay patient as my advice is constantly ignored, and my predictions of what will happen if her course stays the same come true over and over. I struggle with guiding her to make good decisions while knowing she's ignoring me and will just make bad ones. I know making mistakes is part of learning and growing, but does she have to make ALL of them? Can't she listen on the big things and then screw up by running out of gas on her way to work or something? I don't know how to guide someone gently. Jason is better at this than I am. I want to put my foot down and force her down the right path in some situations, because I've been through enough in my life to see the end game of the current one. I want to shout at her. I want to tell her she's being an idiot when she is being an idiot. I want to ask why she insists on making the same mistakes over and over without learning from them. I want to schedule her life and manage her time for her since she isn't great at doing it herself. I want her to have an easier path than I had, because I didn't have anyone to point these things out for me, or guide me, or tell me they had been exactly where I was and knew a better way. The problem is, you can't control people. You can only control yourself. That can be really hard sometimes.
I know this bleeds into other areas of my life as well. I had a brief e-mail exchange with a former friend this week. She and I used to be really close, or at least I thought we were. I think maybe I had more value and investment in the friendship than she did, and I just didn't realize it. But, due to some outside forces, we were exchanging a few messages and I realized that my current parenting struggles emulate my past friendship struggles with this person. In the exchange, she said something along the lines of "I've always had a strong support system in my life, and because of that, I don't think I realized you didn't and that you needed one, and you expected it to be me". Not an exact quote, but the general idea. As I read that, I sat there with my jaw slightly agape. I felt bewildered and found myself wondering "How could you NOT have realized that?". I was under the impression that everyone I was truly close to kind of knew that. I thought I had made it pretty clear to those who were trusted enough to know my life story. I was taken aback by that one statement. She didn't know? How could she not have known? What did I do to make it unclear? We were best friends for years, I just didn't understand. Then I started thinking about it in context with some of my other bewilderment with other people and realized, maybe she didn't know. Maybe, even though I said and demonstrated time and time again that I had to create an alternative support system for myself, she wasn't listening. Maybe it was a case of being a person who wasn't always observant. Maybe, like my teenager, this person was not able to see outside of herself to recognize a need in someone else because her life was different and her priorities were different, and no matter what I said, it would never really be clear because just as I was struggling to relate to her, she may have been struggling to relate to me. Does that make me go "Oh, well then everything that happened between us is fine now"? No. I still wish she had been that person who could see and understand. I still struggle with accepting that difference between us, because it's not what I would have done. But it does make me realize that just because my life and my struggles are important to me, it doesn't mean they will be important to everyone. Heck, I acknowledge that they shouldn't all be important to everyone, but I also need to understand that even the big stuff isn't going to always matter to other people. I just struggle with that because other people's stuff all matters to me. Even the little things are kind of important to me. I often find myself carrying the crosses of others without being asked because, to me, it seems like the right thing to do. Not everyone is me. Not everyone is going to do that. I just need to figure out how to accept that in others. It's not easy.
I guess the point is, I don't know how to understand people who don't feel things the way I do, or see things the way I do, or appreciate things the way I do. I don't know how to accept people who make excuses instead of owning their actions. I don't know how to make that ok, and then never call them out on it. I don't know how to understand self absorption, or anyone who can't look at someone else's struggle and say "I know you didn't ask, but that looks heavy, can I help you carry it?" because it's what I would do, and I don't understand others who don't view people the same way. I'm trying. I really am. I've made it two years in a house with a teenager I didn't raise, undoing some of the mistakes my predecessor made, and I haven't killed her. I am working so hard to accept. To bite my tongue where I should. To allow people to make excuses, or manage time poorly, or learn from their own mistakes. I'm trying. It's just so damn hard sometimes.