“Do you wanna know why I am the way I am?” My fifteen year old daughter screamed at me one evening. Frozen on the spot, mouth open, I was unsure if I really wanted to hear her answer. Somewhere in my head, I believed she was ‘just’ another angry teenager who was about to unleash her wrath one more time.
Tears rolling down her face, she wiped them swiftly with the back of her hand. “I’m the way I am because of you! You’re such a hypocrite! You pretend you care, but you don’t! Want me to prove it to you again? What did I just say before what I just said?”
She had me again and she knew it. I went deeper inside my head to remember what she had just said prior to her rant, and my mind drew a blank. I looked at her, moving from one foot to the other, trying to come up with some clever reply.
“That’s what I thought. Please get out of my room.” As she said those words, she turned around and faced the wall. I watched her pick up and hug one of her pillows tight.
I walked away feeling like shit. When did things become so wrong between us? I wondered. I knew that I love her dearly, I knew that I want the best for her, but where, between us, did our wires get so crossed that she was seeing me as an enemy?
Have you ever been in a situation where your heart is aching
for a healthy resolution?
I walked into the kitchen and made myself a cup of coffee. Hurting inside, I wiped the tears spilling over my cheeks. For a brief moment, the thought occurred to me to make her see my tears – the look-what-you-did-to-me scheme – but I refrained. That control tactic did not work on her anymore. She had made it clear to me she wasn’t going to buy my guilt tripping her anymore.
Can you imagine what it feels like to try to control another human being?
I sat at the kitchen table and slowly drank my coffee. The warm liquid going down my throat rejuvenated me a little. I realized somewhere in me that I needed to really start listening to my children, but I had no idea how because I was still the type mother who used ‘How can you do this to me after all I’ve done for you!’ the way one might spread jam on a buttered toast.
My daughter walks into the kitchen. She goes to the fridge and opens it without saying a word. I can see she is trying to ignore me the way I have so often ignored her, by avoiding eye contact, but we are both physically in the same room and I believe it is time we have a real talk.
I get up and stand in front of her. “I am sorry,” I said. “I am sorry I am not the mother you need right now. I love you and I am going to do better next time.”
My daughter looked at me, her eyes blaring with anger. “That’s what you say every time. Tell me, are you really sorry or are you just sorry you got caught?”
I look at her, receiving this truth, speechless. Part of me wants to yell at her ‘I’m your mother!’ and ‘How dare you speak to me this way?’ but I really want to change my ways so I simply said, “I really want to hear what you have to say. I will change, whatever it takes. I love me and I love you.”
My daughter’s look softens. “I know you mean well, Maman, but I’ve heard you say this so many times, I am tired of it. I wish I could believe you.” Holding her inquiring gaze into my eyes, she adds thoughtfully, “Time will tell.”
I nodded in response. I felt a sense of relief she was going to give me one more chance to make it right by both of us. I was determined to stop guilt tripping her in order to make her do what I wanted her to do, not what her heart might be telling her to do.
I asked for a hug and she said no. She said hugging was too early for her, that she wasn’t ready for that. She added that I had often used hugs in the past to get forgiveness and then pretend ‘all’ was well again Well, Not this time. She was making sure we were both held accountable.
I nodded again. A huge part of me was in awe of this young woman who seemed to have a clarity of heart that I had failed to have for myself. Somehow I became even more conscious of the fact that my fifteen year old daughter was parenting me into doing what is right rather than being ‘right’.
One following Tuesday, I walked into my mentor’s office and related to him this incident. He asked,
How does your child know FOR CERTAIN you love them?
For certain? I immediately felt crushed inside. Putting myself in my daughter’s shoes, I started thinking about all the times I had used guilt tripping so I never had to really listen to her. I thought about some of the things I had said in the past, such as:
“Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister?” (This was my sneaky way to let her know something was ‘wrong’ with her, that she was ‘not’ good enough by herself.)
“What if something happened to you? I couldn’t bear it!” (This was my sneaky way to let her know my happiness depended entirely on her.)
Perhaps for the first time in my life, I started operating from a place of true empathy; I started seeing our parent-child relationship through the eyes of my daughter. Consequently, it became highly obvious to me that I needed to develop a real accountable relationship with myself first so I could be able to have a healthier relationship with others, including her.
Let me ask you…
Why do we use guilt tripping?
Why do we try to control another human being?
I believe the answer is, because we think it will be better.
Is it though? How was my constant guilt tripping my daughter ever going to advance my dream of having a healthier relationship with myself and her?
Clearly, guilt tripping does NOT work.
With this in mind:
How do things become better?
I believe, things become better when we focus on
becoming emotionally present. “What kind of person am I being right now?”
becoming intentional. “What can I do right now to become what I need to be?”
becoming accountable. “How can I hold myself accountable so I get to have what I really want?”
Here are four rock-solid tips to assist you who may want to experience healthier relationships:
Pay close attention to body language. When my daughter wiped her tears swiftly with the back of her hand, it showed frustration. When she turned to face the wall, it showed emotional hurt. When she hugged the pillow tight, it showed she needed to feel safe and comforted. By paying close attention to her body language, I have since realized my daughter is a woman who has the courage to stand up for what she believes is right.
Notice the short pauses, the long silences, the intakes of breath, the sharp exhales. Our breathing pattern says a lot about where we are at emotionally, despite what we may try to convey to others. In all cases, breathe deeply!
Never get hung on words. Words mean little as my daughter aptly pointed out to me. For example, when we make a promise, in that moment, I do believe we have the best intentions in the world. But people change, situations change, even feelings change. By saying, “time will tell”, she was actually conveying that actions do speak louder than words.
Have an accountability system/person in place. Though many of us say we know better, the thing is, we do better when we actually know better. I am highly fortunate to have children and a mentor who hold me accountable to this day for what I do or refuse to do. What about you? Who is holding you accountable to really show up in your life?
After reading these tips…
What do you believe will be your greatest challenge(s)?
A few months ago, my now 20 year old daughter visited from college. Sitting in my kitchen on a bar stool, she suddenly said, “Maman, I want you to know that time did tell, you really have changed, I’m so proud of you!” Not expecting to hear this from her, I immediately became emotional, tears watering my eyes. I pulled her tight into my arms and said, “thank you for saying this, I love US.”
May my story continue to inspire you to do what needs to be done to experience healthier relationships. You deserve it!
With Love and Compassion,