There been so many books that have been written about raising a teenager and while I haven’t read them all, I seem to be consuming a fair number of them lately. I have been trying to navigate the waters and the experience has been interesting. There are definitely those days that I’ve got a really good stride going, but I would be lying if I said I did not have those times where I vacillate between swimming and coughing up water while my nose gets that awful burning feeling.
We were having one of those days recently. Things seem to be going great and I didn’t even notice the “Danger – Rough Waters Ahead” sign. While driving her to the library, all of a sudden her calm demeanor changed and her voice became more terse and tense. The next thing I know, I was on the receiving end of little daggers from her tongue. “What had I done to deserve this?,” I wondered and I immediately launched into teaching mode about things like kind words and gratefulness. (After all, I was being the mommy chauffeur for the day and I didn’t see any tips coming my way for my efforts).
Soon tears of remorse streamed down her face and tugged at my heart. Yes, she did need to hear that we should speak the truth in love, but an act of kindness on my part may have been to help get to the bottom of what was behind the change in her behavior.
Prior to her getting out of the car, she turned to me and said, “Mom, I have theatre rehearsal later. You won’t forget about me, right?” I looked at her patiently and said, “Have I ever forgotten you?” She smiled and said, “Of course not.” While she walked into the library, I replayed the conversation in my mind including her question.
One of my favorite lessons learned from parenting is that behavior speaks and we need to listen to what it is saying. My daughter’s tension was trying to speak to me, and I jumped into a lesson before I understood what her behavior was trying to say. When I took the time to go through my A-B-C’s (Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence), I realized that the tension came after I nonchalantly brought up my schedule for the afternoon and the many things that I needed to do after dropping her off. My daughter is incredibly prompt and timely. She is also intelligent and perceptive. I found out later from her that the thought of all of the things I had to do was starting to make her anxious about whether or not she would be late, or even worse, forgotten.
I would have loved to have said to her when she got out of the car, “Can a mother forget her chicks? Surely I will not forget you” reminding her not only of my love for her but paraphrasing a loving scripture reminding her of Another’s even greater love. I wish I could tell you that when I saw her again I said just the right words to her. You know, a nice healthy balance of wit and wisdom with a dash of the poetic on the side. But, the moment passed, along with any eloquence that I could have come up with on the fly.
I reminded myself that our words and behavior are an indicator of our need for affirmation and assurance of how valuable we are in the eyes of those we love and those who love us. So instead of poetry or wit, I settled for plain old straight forward truth. When I picked her up on time, I just gave her a smile and a squeeze of her hand then said, “See, I could never forget you.” In that moment, her returning smile told me that what I said, eloquent or not, was more than enough.
Here are some things to consider:
- Have you ever had a moment where you went back and replayed a scene in her mind thinking, “Oh, I wish I had said that” or “Gee, that would have gone so much better if I had just done this?”
- Regardless of what their different ability, we all crave love in its many forms. How do you express to your loved one or child that they are important, valuable, and loved?
Want to Learn More?
Bergina Isbell, MD is the mother of two children with Special Needs. She is a Psychiatrist and founder of the Autism Alignment Movement, which includes a live interview series of other successful parents and experts who care for those with Special Needs.
To join the Autism Alignment Movement and get access to the live interviews as well as a monthly newsletter, click here https://bit.ly/autismstrategist.