My Middle Years


From the prompt on the DailyOM.com

Adolescence should be outlawed. It has the potential to truly ruin your life and carry trauma with you throughout. And so many parents have no concept of this! Did they not experience adolescence? It’s not something you go through then conveniently forget about, much like the unbelievable pain of childbirth, after which one forgets the pain and chooses to go through it again and again. I don’t know anyone who would choose to relive their adolescence and I really don’t think I know anyone who had many positive experiences with that period in their life.
I remember distinctly, as a parent, when my oldest child, a daughter, was beginning the adolescent stage. We’d gotten into a huge fight, butting heads about something she wanted to do or believed to be so and I was not going along with her train of thought or frame of mind. She was literally screaming at me that I had changed and I had become a different person, with no resemblance to the Mom she once knew and loved. I tried not to get drawn into her dramatic stance and I tried very hard to explain to her that it was she who was changing. I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain the life changes that were happening to her and she insisted that she was exactly the same and I had become this horribly changed person, disallowing her to be who she always was. That was the first of many such arguments and we went through some particularly hard times. In juxtaposition of that, it was I who had gone through a truly terrible adolescence with a life filled with chaos, where my daughter’s life was relatively normal. Her parents were still married; mine were not. In fact I had stepparents by this time. She’d lived in the same home her whole life; I’d moved 10 times by the time I was 10 years old. My parents were terribly mentally ill, suicidal, with addiction issues; my husband and I were relatively healthy although I would later succumb to severe mental illness as a result of the trauma of my own childhood. No, it was simply a matter of normal development that my daughter was going through and I thought I was prepared for it but apparently I failed. My husband was and is a passive observer. He was supportive of the idea of the two of us providing a united front as parents and we did, but he most often was standing in the background just nodding his head, not contributing any words of support or wisdom. This is not a criticism of him, it’s just the way he was. He didn’t have a lot of experience with the female psyche and didn’t know how to navigate this young daughter’s attitude towards his own wife.
Some people, like myself, never fully recover from the trauma of adolescence; others eventually come out the other side relatively unscathed even though the experience itself was horrible. I think my daughter falls somewhere in between, but I don’t really know because while we have a very good adult relationship, she’s not interested in discussing uncomfortable events in her life. She represses it and I worry about her. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, adolescence is the worst, yet most necessary period of life to go through. I wouldn’t wish my own experiences on anyone and I wish I’d done a better job with all three of my children but I do know that I did my best to guide them through this time. My parents would probably argue that they did their best as well, but the circumstances of the time far outweighed any chance of me getting through that period with any sense of contentment or growth. I had a therapist tell me some 30+ years ago that I had the EQ (emotional quotient) of a 13 year old and I can still feel the pain of those years. It takes nothing to bring me to tears when I think about those years and for a long time I believed that time would heal those vicious wounds. I’ve now matured enough to accept that sometimes, time never heals and that has brought a level of acceptance to me that is oddly comforting.
At this juncture I can safely say that all of my children matured beyond an EQ of 13, and are in fact fully functioning and happy adults. I’ve observed that when uncomfortable issues come up for then, they seem to navigate through it with aplomb but I know better than to take any credit for it. After all, as parents we get all the blame and none of the credit. And that’s ok with me as long as my kids are ok. And they are. They are remarkable people and I couldn’t be prouder. So kudos to them for making it through it all. I still think the whole season of adolescence should be outlawed. It’s a grossly unfair process to go through and surely there must be a better way to evolve into adulthood than going through all that angst.

2 thoughts on “My Middle Years

  1. Excellent, Ames! I feel fortunate that I had an idyllic adolescence But then, at 17, my Dad died unexpectedly and our family was fractured. Immediately, I lost the presence of the male figure I most needed in my life at the time. Our family’s life was changed — and not in a good way. I’m sure you are familiar with that feeling. Love, Bill www.billworthbooks.com

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