meandering

Meandering Along the Road Less Travelled

meandering
Images.com/Corbis

“Taking the road less travelled”. I’ve been thinking about this saying a lot lately. For some reason it has sparked my interest after a conversation during the week about Jessie. The person said that they often found those who had taken the road less travelled to be the most amazing people. The saying made me step back and have a look at us. Jessie’s been meandering along the road less travelled for a while now. And after stepping back, from that distanced view I could see her story forming. I had a glimpse of her retelling the tale of how she became a nurse. I wonder of the future hurdles she’ll have overcome, and how beautifully multi-layered all these experiences will make her.

I’ve been staying in the day to day, not allowing myself to daydream too much about the future in any context. However there’s been a basal shift in Jessie that’s enabling her to push through her nerves and negative thoughts and get back into life. She has goals she wants to achieve, which is giving her direction and real purpose.

With Jessie at TAFE this year I’d been thinking that our lives are becoming more normal again. From our perspective they are – Jessie’s back to attending classes in a couple of weeks. To most I realise it still isn’t normal – kids Jessie’s age are studying Years 11 & 12; mine is in adult education. It’s funny how we perceive things differently depending on our own experiences. And I’ve spent way too much time worrying about not living a normal life. But what is normal anyway?? And who gets to judge?! Humans don’t generally welcome those who are ‘different’. Sadly mental illness remains judged without being understood. But that will be part of her story, and a part I don’t doubt she will continue to grow resilient against.

Jessie’s meandering road has taken her to some pretty dark places. They’ve broken her, but she’s rebuilding with an amazing capacity for compassion. The last two years in her room has been spent putting herself back together. Being determined and strong willed by nature, she’s worked so hard to be at a place where she’s really excited about the acting training, studying away from home, and making a future for herself. Being very self aware, she’s learned to manage her symptoms so much better. She’s developing a sense of self, which I’m enjoying see happen. I’d so love to see that general confidence she used to have, back as well. Give it time…having purpose does wonders for so many things.

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations” – auther unknown

meandering

 

 


 

mental

Jessie vs Mental Illness – To the Victor Go the Spoils

mentalMental illness has been such a destructive force for Jessie, that has seen her life stripped back to its bare bones. She became unable to cope with human contact and attending school became altogether too much for her. Living in the dark of her bedroom, she only came out only for food or the bathroom. She shut right down and pretty much closed herself off to the world for close on 12 months.

Her re-emergence has been a slow and gradual process, but she’s been able to do it in her own time. Because of this, she’s been able to create strong foundations for herself. No-one has built them for her, she’s put in all the hard work, making them pretty sturdy. Her time’s been well spent researching all about bipolar and anxiety as well as positive coping techniques. Jessie’s level of insight into herself and others is amazing and is continuing to grow.

♥ After refusing professional help for many years, appointments are now requested, willingly attended and well utilised.

♥ After being fired from a job at 14 because she was too quiet and shy, she’s now making new friends where she works in customer service. She has to deal with all types of pesky people, some of them quite rude. Just the other night we we’re talking about how resilient it’s helping her become.

♥ After missing probably half of her education since Year 4, being educated at home has allowed Jessie to get back into her studies. She plodded along for the most part but I’ve spoken with 2 teachers who have both said how much things have changed over the last 6 months.

mentalI’d been contacted a few weeks ago as Jessie had won a Principal’s award for her mockumentary she made for English. I was also told that her gothic poem has been printed in the Year Book! That was a good day, made even better seeing Jessie really happy as well. I haven’t seen her outwardly care about her results like that for a long time.

Last week I had a call and a letter to say Jessie was getting another award and could we attend Presentation Day so she can “be presented with her ‘portfolio’ of awards”, whatever that means. It sounds impressive but we joked it could be a plastic sleeve folder with one award. …’To be added to’!

The icing on the cake for Jessie was being accepted into a talent academy. It’s such an awesome opportunity for her and who knows what doors it could open. This will give her training and exposure to agents, and she’s really excited but keeping her feet firmly on the ground. I’ve been receiving emails from Star Now for a few years. The interest’s been there, just not the self esteem.

I’m so rapt that she finally has the confidence to be moving out of her comfort zone. It shows that mental illness no longer holds the monopoly. It hasn’t gone away, but Jessie knows her triggers and symptoms and has a good grasp of her emotions. She’s learning to control the symptoms of her mental illness, instead of them controlling her. And she so deserves these outcomes.

She’s said to me that she’s waiting for it all to fall apart because things don’t go this well for her. Luck has had nothing to do with her academic achievements I reassured her  – they have come from her decision to put the effort in. Her acceptance into the talent academy was due to her creativity and the immediate impression she made at the audition. Jessie has her own green screen and has starred in her own short movies for years. She has earned loads of merit awards throughout  her school years for her stories and poetry. Writing is something she has always enjoyed, even when not engaged in school.

I’m so proud of the person she is becoming. I’m feeling more and more confident that she’s not only going to be okay, she’s going to be awesome. Even during her last full on manic episode where she didn’t sleep for two days, she decided to use it to her benefit. She washed all her bedding, did a big clear out of her wardrobe and drawers, tidied and cleaned her room and did a week’s worth of schoolwork. She was so productive which I think helped her keep it together. By having tasks to focus on, her energy was directed instead of being scattered.

It takes great courage, determination and inner strength to overcome the challenges Jessie has faced in her young life. Like an iceberg, people only see what’s above the surface. However what’s unseen is the largest part of the equation. People like to make judgement on what they see, presuming they understand and are therefore entitled to do so. Jessie’s learning to recognise her worth and not allow others to undermine her achievements. Unlike her mum, others opinions no longer affect her so negatively and this is going to help her immensely in life.

The harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.

mental

 
 


 
 


 
 

formal

Year 10 Formal, Meet Anxiety and PTSD

formalYear 10 Formal. What was hoped to be a special night for Jessie, ended up being memorable for all the wrong reasons sadly. She looked absolutely gorgeous and had been so excited. My heart sank when I got the first text an hour in, and I knew where it was going. I hadn’t been home an hour after already doing the 2 hour round trip to drop them off before I was doing it over again…

For $90 per head to attend formal, we knew there was a three course sit down dinner, DJ, photographer and photo booth. What we didn’t know was that the girls hadn’t put their table request in so wouldn’t all be seated together. Or that the DJ would be playing so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, from the start of the night. I felt for the teachers, but that’s how I loved my music many years ago, and all the girls had fantastic night. But for Jessie, her anxiety and PTSD were triggered, she lost her confidence and it was all over red rover.

I was angry. Screw you universe for allowing this to happen to Jessie. Fuck you for giving her this shitty plot in life that stops her from being a normal teen. I was angry that I had all the driving, when I’d been SO needing time out. I was angry that neither of our nights were what we’d hoped for. Jessie had been looking forward to the formal for so long. She’d paid off her own dress with weekly payments. It was a big deal for her, I wanted it to be a night with her friends she’d always remember. For me – I wanted to feel like I assume most parents feel thinking of their teen out having an awesome time. I don’t know what that’s like, Jessie’s been unwell since age 8.

formalJessie’s aware her mental illness isn’t taken seriously, and formal night really cemented that for her. She’d obviously gotten the feeling from friends on the night that she needed to say sorry, and did so the next day. I think she needed reassurance, but instead was thanked by her best friend for apologising. For what I don’t know. She didn’t create a big scene, she managed herself really well, just sat and waited for me. But as we talked about with Jessie’s counsellor, mental illness is invisible, and people don’t understand. If she’d had a physical illness, no doubt her friends would have instead looked after her. And certainly wouldn’t have expected an apology.

Sadly people don’t understand mental illness. The notion is thoughtlessly thrown out there that sufferers should be able to control their symptoms. Yet you’d be a real a-hole to expect someone to control their asthma symptoms, or to walk on a broken leg. But the reality is that I think many mental illnesses are seen as a choice, and can therefore be controlled. If not controlled, the mind must be weak. Weak is definitely not a word I’d use to describe my Jessie, in any way, shape or form!

But that’s life. And as disappointing as it can be, if Jessie can learn how to get on regardless now, she’ll have strong foundations for life.

She loves her friends. And her need for friends is the same as everyone else’s.

They’re all learning – they’re teenagers, all trying to work out how and where they fit in this world.

formal

 
 

future

The Future is Starting to Glimmer and Shine

futureDuring the week Jessie came with me to TAFE to return and borrow library books. I’ve finally completed my Cert IV in Bookkeeping and onto my second cluster of subjects in a Cert IV in Mental Health. The Diploma in Mental Health is next, as my future plan is to find paid work in the field. Currently I’m volunteering which I really love. I’ve also been recommended to be on the Board for Kathleen York House, a drug and alcohol treatment centre run by the Alcohol Drug Foundation NSW. Hopefully I’ll be meeting up with them this coming week. All great experience and good for my resume!

But l’m already off track. This post was intended to be about Jessie, and the epiphany she had as we were leaving TAFE. So diverting back – this visit unexpectedly sparked a shift and an excited buzz in Jessie around her future studies. She started reminiscing about school and talking about the things she missed. In general these were the learning environment, friends and being part of something. Music to my ears.

I suggested she should find out what courses are run at our local tafe. She was pumped and did just that the minute we got home. There are times a rocket can’t shift this kid, but when she’s motivated, don’t get in her way. Either she’ll take you out in her haste, or I’ll take you out for stopping her (I write in humour, having a little chuckle to myself – before realising there may just be a little truth in it!). I don’t care what she choses to futuredo or in which direction she goes. I just want her to find her direction and kick its arse. Or just follow it. Or anything in between!

With a uni application already under her belt, she’s now favouring the pathway through TAFE. Personally I think she’s made the right decision for herself, if for nothing more than the fact it’s going to be a big change from what she’s doing now. So the wait now is for her to finish Year 10 so she can apply for her chosen course, and hope to god she gets in.

After all these years of worrying about what Jessie’s future might look like, this excitement in her passed through to me. I allowed myself to feel the relief and imagine seeing Jessie grow up to have a happy life. What a luxury!! And something I’d always taken for granted before things went haywire. She may very well have just taken an alternate route to get to where she was always going. Fingers crossed…

“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”

future

 


 
 

challenges

My Challenges to Conquer as a Parent

challengesAs parents I guess many of us face challenges we want to conquer in order to be the best role models for our kids. Our job is to teach our kids so they grow to reach their full potential, whatever that may be. Rationale tells me that to achieve this, the parent must be adept at life skills themselves in order to be able to teach. Agreed? So what do we do when we question our own skills?

A recent situation with Jessie has really made me think about my boundaries and whether they’re right for Jessie. She had been really hurt and upset about a text message from a close friend. She didn’t know how to respond, and became really down on herself and her value to her friends. My suggestion was to let her friend know how the message made her feel. Jessie read her text to me before sending it and I thought it was great. It wasn’t accusatory or mean spirited, just explained how she felt and why. Whether Jessie reading it to me gave me the added benefit of her tone I don’t know, but it wasn’t received well.

The reply Jessie received in return had her in tears and feeling suicidal. This was not okay and I felt the need to intervene. Not a way any friendship should ever leave you feeling. I was told that Jessie was the cause of so much pain and pressure to others and caused other emotional scars. That statement really stood out to me and I wondered what the hell had been going on. My heart broke. What was it Jessie had done and how can I help her to have better friendships? And how awful to have friends who thought of me that way. So therein lie my challenges…

Firstly, at what age do parents stop getting involved? For what things do parents remain involved for kids with social issues like mine – if any? The goal posts keep moving and sometimes I’m not sure where they are! Maybe at 15 all I can do is support her from my end with whatever comes her way. I realise Jessie has to learn to work through friendship problems and create her own values. Which leads to my second challenge…

challengesIf you were to ask me, I’d tell you I’m happy with my set of values around friendships. However I do wonder if they’re too black and white for modelling to Jessie. I become very protective when she’s hurting and feeling so worthless to the world. She’s been through so much and I wish I could shield her from any further anguish. My ‘shark music’ takes over and emotion challenges my reasoning. But that is my baggage, and I need to remember that Jessie’s on the ball. She does have good boundaries around what she feels is and isn’t a good friend. I need to let her forge her own way, learn from life in her own way, and only share my thoughts when she asks for them. She’s got this. She needs me to love her and support her through her experiences.

I don’t ever remember evaluating friendships at Jessie’s age – not until I was much older. I was lucky with my group of friends – and I didn’t have social issues then which probably helped. We didn’t have mobile phones and internet like we do these days, which probably helped as well!

Maybe questioning the sincerity behind our fellow humans is something that can happen after our core feeling of trust and safety’s been damaged by another? Or is it that I’ve lost faith in my own ability to make good choices in who I allow to get close? Maybe it’s that I feel when anyone gets to know me and sees my flaws and weaknesses, they’ll not want to know me any longer? It could be my rates of forgiveness are no longer favourable? No doubt it’s a combination of all of the above that has contributed to independence in my own life. Where’s that line between being teaching awareness and teaching our own fears, if that makes sense?

I don’t like seeing Jessie so distraught, but maybe it’s not my job to fix it anymore? It can be difficult letting go…an only child is the first and the last out of the nest. I wonder if it’s going to get easier…

“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had…

…and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.”

– Linda Wooten

challenges

 

pets

Pets Provide the Best Therapy

petsWe love our pets. We have two cats, Meisha and Ji. They’re members of our family – even though they can be naughty. Sometimes very naughty! But life wouldn’t be the same without them. It’s really lovely, Jessie and I each have our own special connections with them both. I feed them and clean the kitty litter, so they know who looks after them. However Jessie likes to play with them and pick them up for cuddles. Meisha usually likes to interact on her terms, but doesn’t mind a quick hug from Jessie.

Meisha is our tortioseshell, and she’ll be 6 next month. A long story short, Jessie refused to hand this little kitten back to the girl at the pet shop, and refused to leave the store without her. (Two weeks prior they’d sold the kitten we were supposed to be getting.) She ended up costing a fortune! It petswas just before Chirstmas and I had an expensive present stolen from my trolley in the commotion that I had to buy again as well. Anyway, Meisha believes she is queen of the house and claims everything as her own. I’m sure she believes we’re actually her pets, and not the other way around.

She’s a cat cat, who despite having lived indoors her whole life, prefers to dig in my pot plants rather than use the kitty litter, and shows all the typical hunting behaviours when birds sit on the balcony railing – or she sees an insect.

Ji is our tuxedo cat who looks very smart in his suit indeed. He’ll be 5 next month, and is finally starting to grow up…a little. He’s a wuss cat, and attempts to imitate Meisha’s hunting prowess which is incredibly funny. He studies her for ages. She has really taught him how to cat. He was only 5 weeks old when we took in these three little petsorphans. We chose to keep Ji because he started purring whenever you even looked at him. At 8 weeks of age his brother and sister were old enough and went off to their new homes. Meisha used to clean him all the time, but he’s pretty much on his own now. Which I think he prefers because she always ends up chastising him by biting his neck or ears! She has become a disgruntled mother, and her patience with him wears thin.

Meisha’s my hot water bottle at night, always snuggled up next to me, no matter which way I move. Quite often I’m woken by her wet nose touching mine, or her stare from up close and personal, willing me to wake up and pat her before she goes back to sleep again. There are times however when Jessie’s really upset that she’ll sleep on Jessie’s bed. Meisha’s very in tune with Jessie’s mood fluctuations and knows when to hide and when to keep her company.

petsPets seem to love unconditionally, and Meisha and Ji are no exception. And although cats are very independent and can seem quite aloof, I realise that ours more often than not follow me if I change rooms and settle down to sleep again, or just hang out with me.

Pets bring joy, purpose and love into our lives. They provide us with the best therapy, being company that is loyal, always happy to see us, and always happy to listen. The conservative notion that poor or homeless people shouldn’t have pets due to the expense is one I’m glad the RSPCA is providing a solution for with their Living Ruff Program. The RSPCA recognises the ‘mental, emotional and physical benefits’ of owning a pet, providing free food, worming and flea treaments, and access to vet services through this fantastic program. Being a not-for-profit, community based organisation they are always in need of donations which, if you like, can be generously made on their site here.

♥ Pets are family too ♥

pets

farewell

My Final Farewell

farewellThis will be my final farewell to you. In your voicemail you told me you wanted to reconnect again, but told me call back or not, either was okay. Jessie doesn’t want any contact, and I chose not to respond after the way you behaved last time. I then see a comment and a sad face on my facebook page. I blocked that account, so you use another account to leave yet another comment and another sad face – clearly for yourself. By disrespecting my silence once then leaving, what were they, desperate or demanding? messages with all those exclamation marks and question marks, shows this is all about you. In three messages you didn’t mention Jessie once! But you think I should give you the time of day??

I will reiterate what you were told in 2015. If Jessie does ever want to try getting to know you again, she will contact you. She won’t need me like she did last time, so there is no reason for us ever to be in contact again. I’m asking that you stay out of my life and my business. I want to be very clear here as to why I will not accept you in my life anymore. You don’t have to agree with it, because it’s not about you. It’s about me and written from my perspective and requires no response. Many of the facts however, are recorded and indisputable.

farewellTo start: If you’d read the blog you commented on, I stated one of the things really adding to my frustrations was the fact that you owed over $27,000 in child support. I can’t believe you actually had the nerve to contact me. It’s Jessie who’s missed out by you not paying, and ensuring your weekly amount due is as little as possible, but you don’t care. After you completely killed any chance of a relationship with Jessie you then resigned from your job. The only decent paying job you couldn’t hide from the ATO and CSA, so were forced to pay. 5 months out of 15 years. Pathetic. Child Support tells me you’re not even paying the paltry amount you are meant to pay each fortnight now – they’ve been collecting that from a third party.

I was so afraid of Jessie meeting you because I didn’t want her being hurt. She had enough going on. But I knew I had to let Jessie make a choice at her age, as you are her biological father. You took a week off, only booked accomodation for one night for some reason, so I opened my home to you for a night. You then decided you wanted to go home, so did. I lied to Jessie so she wouldn’t be hurt, told her you had to go back for work.

I took you to see her psychologist so you could hear from her Jessie’s likely reactions, and the best way for you to handle it. Jessie reacted as predicted. You didn’t even last a week before deciding it was all my fault and started with your charming abuse again. It just went on and on and on. Hateful, derogatory insults and blaming me for your life.

You hurt me, disrespected me and blamed me for your choices in your own life that I’ve had nothing to do with in 15 years. You’re a grown man for god’s sake. Take responsibility for yourself and the decisions you’ve made. How dare you blame me, and then Jessie because she doesn’t treat you like a dad who’s been around all her life.

farewellShe’s a smart cookie, and picks up on things. She asked to do something on my phone, but I caught her reading all your messages. How do you think that made her feel, seeing the things you said to me? And you put me down to her, what? try to turn her against me? I’m the one who has raised her, loved her, supported her, taken care of her, and been there for her every single day of her life. But you want to hurt her like that. You don’t even consider her, your priority is to abuse me as usual. She told you not to talk to me like that or she didn’t want to see you again. You told her goodbye, then became nasty with her.

You just cannot put her first. You’d rather sacrifice trying to build a relationship with her than sort your attitude out. You blew a perfect opportunity. She is so worthy of being made a priority, and you have never been able to put her first. Never.

We go away for a few days break, and I’ve Jessie’s psychologist calling me, letting me know you’d rung. Later that afternoon I have the police call me. Despite being given an update that day, you chose to call the police, saying you couldn’t get hold of me, didn’t know how Jessie was and you were worried about her safety with me because I’m such a bad mother.

As you knew, Jessie hates talking on the phone. They wouldn’t take my word that she was okay. I had to end up telling her that they need to speak her so they know she’s alive, they can’t just take my word for it, before she finally spoke to the officer. You rang them, knowing you were lying, and had her talk to the police, who you knew she’d had traumatic experiences with. But you were so wrapped up in yourself you didn’t care about that. What sort of person does that? What sort of father does that? It’s not okay. But you think I should give you the time of day??!

farewellWe had broken up way before Jessie was born. I regret so much asking you more than once to come down before she was due. I blame it on hormones and a false hope that you’d changed. It was insane of me. You spat on me and poured a bottle of cordial over me when I was pregnant. You used to put your arms around me and squeeze as hard as you could to squeeze the breath out of me. You’ve called me every low life name there is. You burned my first beautiful pregnancy journal. A journal I’d had for years, saving it for something special. Which my pregnancy was, and you couldn’t handle it. Jealous of your own unborn child who I loved more than anything.

Then when I asked you to leave you stole my Kaz Cooke pregnancy book that I’d written all the way through during my pregnancy. I used it as my diary and it was hidden away until you moved out of Stockton. I was going to give it to Jessie one day, but you stole it. To steal something purely because you know it’s so special to someone, is a trait of someone very unhinged. What makes it worse is knowing that if I hadn’t asked you to come down, you would’nt have. There would’ve been no contact anyway! You weren’t interested at all. And your actions over the last 15 years prove it.

The night Jessie was born you left me to walk her myself, an hour after giving birth, to the Maternity Ward, because you wanted to go home and play PlayStation. But as you told me, you were bored after I had the epidural. I should have kicked you out of my existence then and there. You had me stressed out during the happiest moments of my life because of your temper outbursts. So much so I came home less than 24 hours after giving birth, having to install the baby capsule in the back seat of my 2 door Cordia at the hospital first. Fucking ridiculous!! She was 3 days old the first time I needed to call the police.

Even when she was a little baby you still chose to call me a slut and to accuse me of sleeping with other men. On two occasions you squeezed me while I had Jessie in my arms. You squeezed until she was screaming her poor head off. One one occasion you punched me in the face while I was holding her. The police took out an AVO against you after you left two very graphic, gruesome voice messages telling me how you were going to kill me. And telling me about the 10-15 ‘uvver’ women you’d ‘fucked’, mistakenly thinking I’d give a shit after I’d calmly told you I didn’t love you. My focus was my newborn baby – you just never got it! But you think I should give you the time of day??

And I’ll never forget the afternoon you refused to get Jessie out of the car in 30+ degree heat. You had her locked in the hot car and she was bright red, screaming and dripping wet. We had to call police. I wanted her out but you just wanted to abuse me and call me names. Never again did I trust you with her, even to drop her home, and visit changeovers were moved to Ashfield Police Station, and you stopped coming to get her altogether. 10 out of 40 recorded visits you attended. Not a single one without incident.

As you said when you were here, no-one in your family was going to have contact with Jessie if you weren’t. I despise you for all you have robbed her of, and for hurting her the way you have. And I despise you for treating me the way you have, and for believing you have the right to do so. Again, I’m upholding my right to not accept your treatment.

 

I will NEVER again give you the time of day.

 

Please remember this is my final farewell.

farewell

I won’t ever get caught up in your cycle of abuse again.

 

bonds

What Bonds You With Your Teen?

bondsThere are so many things that can cause conflict between parents and teens.  Chuck in a mental health condition or two, and you’ve just raised the stakes.  Bonds between parents and teens can be pushed to their limits.  Therefore it’s not unheard of that a little arguing and shouting breaks out!

Nurturing those parental bonds keeps them strong enough to ride out tough times.  Ways to do that are as varied as our families are, however the common denominators are always communication and/or fun.  The more you have of both, the more resilient the connection is.

Jessie has a unique way of thinking that often leaves me in hysterics or shaking my head, speechless.  And sometimes a combination of the two.  Sometimes I have the same effect on her, although more of the head shaking from her end, “omg mum you’re so embarrassing.”  We don’t spend money on the things that bond us.  They’re free and effective.  I find it’s the conversations we have together about anything, or after an argument, that help.  Having conversations where we are each other’s focus, instead of a screen of some description, are awesome.  And the simple things like enjoying time together playing a game or watching a movie, sharing funny things we see online, and laughing together about silly things.

bondsWhen we started really working on our connection during our stay at Coral Tree we played charades on the iPad each night before Jessie went to bed.  There are a few free apps you can download.  We continued that at home, even on nights where we weren’t feeling so happy with each other.  Amazingly, every time we’d end up having fun together and letting go of the days upsets.  15 minutes each night is all it takes, no longer.  I wonder if it’s the same principle as reading stories before bed when they’re little? Quite possibly.

Jessie cracks me up. We were watching tv last night and an ad came on for a spray called V.I.Poo.  You spray it in the loo before you go and it claims to mask any odours.  (I love how politely I’ve written that.)  I told her I wanted to get some and she couldn’t understand why, so I was explaining the benefits to her i.e you bondscan have a crap while you’re at a party, or at your boyfriends house and you won’t leave a smell. We were already laughing because she thought it was such a waste of time and that I was weird. So after I tried convincing her of the benefits yet again, she just said to me, “nah, when you leave fast enough it doesn’t matter.”  It was a funny enough conversation, and this had me on the floor.  Who cares about washing hands, it just slows down the getaway!

Jessie was nine or ten when she started seeing a wonderful child psychologist at Westmead Children’s Hospital.  She was very volatile back then, and I remember him saying to me that having gone through these issues so young, and with all that I was learning and changing, he believed we’d find the teenage years much easier.  At the time I couldn’t see that being possible, but I think he was right.  We both know how to handle conflict a lot better, but even better, we know how to repair our bonds after any issues.

Stronger, wiser and kind

bonds

 

teenagers

Teenagers, Parties and Alcohol

teenagersDay Before the Party:  I was unexpectedly asked the dreaded question this afternoon – “Mum am I allowed to have a drink at the party?”.  I was a little taken aback.  This all seems to be happening so quickly.  For me anyway! Teenagers and drinking – it doesn’t bring pretty pictures to mind.  But I must remember that my teenager’s not me at the same age.  That’s a massive consolation, and I’d love for it to stay that way.

Today Jessie met up with her old friends from school which was a lovely surprise.  She was anticipating only knowing one friend in the group that was going, and was super excited about, so having them all made her day.  They went into the city to play laser tag, and she was gone for the entire day.  I’d started getting worried by the afternoon.  She normally texts me regularly and sends me photos on the occasions she does go somewhere without me.  But nothing…until she needed me, haha.  She was too busy enjoying herself thankfully, and didn’t need the contact with me.  I’m so happy for her!  They’re responsible, really lovely girls who I trust, and trust with Jessie.

teenagersAfter leaving the house at 9:20 this morning, she rang at 4:30 asking could she go with the girls to a party tomorrow night.  Omg this is awesome!!!  Socialising with her old gang!!  Having a life outside of her bedroom!!  Seeing Jessie so genuinely happy and feeling like she really belongs is elating for me.  Even a couple of months ago I doubt she would’ve wanted to go out today, let alone go to a party.

Such feelings of elation aren’t evoked by the details of this party though.  There are lots of girls from her old school going.  Which immediately told me drugs and lots of drinking, by some anyway.  That’s a concern. But again, my teenager is not me at that age.  She is way more sensible and switched on!

teenagersMy decision comes down to a choice really.  I either trust in Jessie’s sensibilities, or I not allow her to go, at a time when these friendships have a chance to bond again.  That’s how I see it anyway.  And being her only parent, that is my perogative.  Jessie’s socialisation has taken a real hit over the last couple of years, so I’ve chosen to let her go.  Intertwined with my anxieties about it was real excitement for her.  A glimmer of normality for her was so relieving for me.  It’s brought me out of a deep rut I was in about our dysfunctional reality.

My next decision was around alcohol.  Two of the parents are allowing one drink, however there are such strongly divided sides to this amongst mums and dads. My thoughts go back to my adolescence, and to things our much loved caseworker had said a few years ago.  It was time for me to now make up my own mind as a parent.

teenagersThere are two irrefutable facts:

1. alcohol is damaging to teenagers maturing brains and,

2. teenagers who want to drink are going to drink.

 

Jessie knows more about the damaging effects than I do as it turns out.  Good job school!  We discussed the possible side effects of alcohol with her medication and the concerns with her bipolar.  On this she was well researched and I was impressed with her knowledge and understanding.  She can be so mature – I see glimpses of her grown up self. She’s so funny, I was giving her a few excuses to use if she was pressured to have more to drink. She looked at me like I was mad and said “why would I have to lie? I’d tell them straight out I don’t want another drink.” And I have no doubt she would too!

My preferrence would be she didn’t drink at all, however I think it’s safest to discuss and negotiate together.  That way we’re both heard and respected. I’ve learnt that teenagers have a greater chance of sticking to an agreement they’ve had a say in putting together.  With a close relationship comes a respect and trust they really don’t want to break.  But if Jessie was to slip up or find herself in trouble, I’d rather be the first one she calls.

She and her friends are sensible girls, and Jessie acknowledged the trust I was placing in her.  Still, I hope I’ve made the right call…

*I trust in myself that I have *

teenagers

 

violent teens

Handling Aggressive or Violent Teens

violent teensParenting a teenager is a whole new life experience. Particularly for parents who face aggressive or violent teens when they are disappointed or challenged. If you are one of these parents, believe me, you are not alone. There are many mums and dads struggling, faced with the same behaviours in their teens. It’s an issue that affects families from all walks of life and economic backgrounds. Coming to know these truths prompted me to write this blog. The following paragraph from this article in the SMH explains so perfectly what often happens:

“The first act of violence, parents are so shocked and taken aback they don’t know how to respond,” Ms Howard said. “It escalates to the point where parents are too intimidated and scared to stop the behaviour.”

violent teensThe article says that psychologists and researchers have found this behaviour linked to a sense of entitlement and ‘cotton wool parenting’. While I don’t disagree with that, many other factors can play a role as well. For many, mental health issues and the inability to cope with thoughts and emotions are the cause. I’m writing from the latter angle.

In our case, my daughter, Jessie, went from being a confident, happy kid, to being volatile and unpredictable. Her friendships were becoming fractured. Her tolerance for disappointment or discipline was no longer existent. It was extremely shocking and confronting! I couldn’t understand why my violent teenparenting methods were no longer working. Neither did I understand why her reactions were so intense. I was living on eggshells, afraid to parent and at a loss. Jessie was ruling the roost with anger and violence. (No pun intended!) Things needed to change because it wasn’t any way to live for either of us. With support and learning though, homelife is way more peaceful and connected these days.

As a loving and responsible parent, safety for everyone must be paramount. Our boundaries around safety in the home need to be made clear to our teens. Consequences also need to be made clear, and we must be consistent in upholding them. Physical violence and destruction of property need a no tolerance attitude. Police should be called if your teen is acting out in a way that poses a serious risk to themselves or others. As harsh as that may sound, the fact is that violence and physical abuse isn’t acceptable behaviour, or appropriate coping mechanisms. Those are rules of life. Better our kids learn that before adult consequences come into play.

While we are standing firm on the no violence rule, we need to give another outlet. My daughter punched her pillows and screamed into them. If you’ve got violent teenspace, hang up a punching bag that your teen can take their rage out on.

As parents we can do a lot to help as well. By modelling the behaviour we want to see, we show them how it’s done, as well as demonstrating that we are strong and capable of dealing with whatever they bring our way. Teens feel safer knowing we are their rock.

Communication plays a huge role in dealing with aggressive and violent teens. Effective use of it can de-escalate the situation before things become out of control and police are required. Read my article here about communication holding the power for attaining peace. Like changing any habits, it takes practice before it comes second nature, but the pay-offs are well worth it.

What teens are throwing out to us, mirrors what is happening with them. If we can remember that they’re hurting and/or really not liking themselves, and try not to take things to heart, we can provide the best support. I think it’s important we tell them how their words or action affect us, so they learn about others emotions. However it’s most effective to stay calm and don’t react in the same ways they are.

Try and see humour whenever you can, to give you a giggle on the inside. A couple of weeks ago Jessie came home annoyed and yelling at me. When I told her it upset me when she spoke to me that way, and she replied “well I’m sorry you’re the only one here for me to take it out on!!” I burst out laughing (NOT in the good parenting book), so had to take myself off to the bathroom. I still find it amusing. The apitome of teenage thinking!

If you need help:

ReachOut.com Australia runs a FREE, flexible coaching course for parents to help us help our teens, with whatever the issues are. You need a computer and a phone, and 90 minutes for the first session. You can however make use of up to an additional three, one hour sessions. Click here for more info or to register.

ReachOut.com also runs a forum which is a supportive community of parents needing assistance or offering advice, learned from experience. If you’re feeling isolated, you will find others going through similar things, which can be therapeutic in itself. You can check out the forum here.

violent teens

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