My daughter spends a lot of time in her room these days. She doesn’t want to do as many things with me and often acts out when I want to give her a hug or show any kind of affection.
A lot of my questions about her school day or social life are met with irritation. She’d rather be with her friends than with me, of course. But even after some time away, I can tell she doesn’t really miss me like she used to even a year ago.
Well, maybe she does, but she certainly isn’t able to show it. It’s as if she’s been replaced with someone I’ve never met before. Her new personality is so different than her old one that it leaves me longing for my daughter. I want to look at her and ask what she’s done with my Anna.
But I won’t.
Although I do see glimpses of her old self from time to time, they only last for a few seconds, leaving as soon as they come. I have a very moody teen on my hands these days. There are times when I want to pull my hair out in frustration, but instead, I’m not going to do a thing about it.
The reason? This is my second rodeo — my teenage son went through this a while ago. I spent a lot of time worrying over and mourning my little boy, wondering what I had done to fail him. I kept telling him that I’d raised him better than this, that I was not going to have a disrespectful child living under my roof, and that I deserved more.
After a few months of this dance, I took a step back because nothing was working — and by “nothing,” I’m really talking about my constant nagging.
“What did you do today?”
“Why won’t you talk to me?”
“What did I do?”
“Why do you spend so much time in your room?”
“You act like you don’t like me or need me anymore.”
These were just a few things I’d say to him almost every day. I realized they were about me, and how I was missing the bond we’d once shared. He was quiet, needed more time alone, and had stopped letting me in on every detail in his life. He changed, since he was now caught somewhere between being a boy and a man, and it was confusing enough for him to figure out what he was going through without his mother hounding him.
My constant in-your-face approach wasn’t working for him — in fact, it exacerbated this stage he was going through. As soon as I backed off with the questions and demands as to why he had the audacity to change on me, I saw a shift in his behavior.
I still casually asked some questions of course, but for the most part, I was just there. I was present. I let him know I cared in other ways.
He started spending less time in his room. He started talking more. We both made it through a rough patch, and while he still has his days, most of his moodiness has subsided. Is he still a different kid now that he’s gone through puberty? Yes, but I needed to accept that he wasn’t a 6-year-old boy any longer, and he’s not supposed to act like it, either.
So, now I can look at my daughter and know it’s not that I am raising a jerk or I that I am failing her in any way. Being moody is part of being a teenager — I remember the horrible mood swings I’d have when I was in middle school and high school, and I had no idea why I was having them. I just needed to be left alone sometimes.
I know my daughter and I will get through this, although some days will be hard. I know I can show her my love and presence without suffocating her. This might mean telling her I love her more, whisking her away for a manicure or to do some shopping, even if she doesn’t seem very peppy.
She is going to be moody. It’s normal, and everything is going to be fine. I don’t need to be all over her and pepper her with questions as to why she’s acting a certain way or needs a lot of time alone. I just need to be her mom and let her know I am here without making her feel even worse for all the changes she is going through.
And we can both thank her older brother for teaching me this.