Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wrecking my kids

Okay, so I already feel guilty about the divorce and everything. Now I have to wonder if I'm messing them up in other ways.

We have a serious problem with time: Samantha is unable to detect it passing. She attempts to do everything on her own schedule, without regard for anyone else’s priorities.

So, let her be late or miss her activities, you say -- she'll get the idea.
No, actually, she won't. I let her be late for things, and her conclusion is
a) someone made me late;
b) the universe conspired against me; or
c) i made myself late, i'm a loser, i suck, i don't deserve to live.
Nowhere in her thought pattern is the part where she says "Gosh, I better adjust my habits/behaviour/approach so I wont' be late next time." It’s always “Someone else, something else, something else, not my fault, oh, I’m horrible I suck and I’ll always be a loser.”

She is almost impossible to get to go to bed. (At 15, I thought I'd be out of this business by now -- her 13-yr-old brother puts himself to bed before 10pm when he knows he has to be up the next morning).

If I let her, she'll stay up drawing or organizing her paper clips or playing a video game till somewhere between 1-3am every night, then have to get up at 6:15 for school, then maybe take a nap in the afternoon when she should be doing her homework, then stay up again from 8pm to 2:15am, etc.

As I believe I may have mentioned, rewards & punishments have no meaning for Samantha. So to make her go to bed, I have to follow her around chirping “Go to bed now. Go to bed now. Go to bed now.” for about a half an hour. Being her dad, I have to give her privacy to shower, change, etc – so at those times I have to bang on the door every two minutes or she drifts off into some other activity.

She is impossible to move when we're trying to go somewhere. I'm constantly waiting for her in the car as she putters around finding the things she should have been wearing 10 minutes ago. In the morning, she's tired (naturally), so getting her to school is a chore, involving much nagging and reminding.

Again, letting her fail isn’t an option since she’d happily stay home for the day. I’m not wild about making her walk to school, since it’s 4 miles away and dangerous from traffic (or if you go the back way, from getting kidnapped). We let her fail the entire school year last year because it caused too much strife to try to get her to do her homework. Failure does not motivate her to succeed; it only makes her feel worse about herself.

So this morning, she dilly-dallies around until it’s almost time for the bus; as she leaves the bathroom, I remind her she hasn’t brushed her teeth. (These teeth have cost me several thousands of dollars in fillings and braces.) She says she doesn’t have time. I make her do it. I watch her just make a token effort on the tops and the front. Finally in frustration, I demonstrate with my fist and a hairbrush how to brush one’s teeth. She hurries through it – I let it slide – and rushes out the door, to miss the bus by 30 seconds.

I’m already back in bed (I was up late working) when she comes back in. She yells “Dad, I need a ride!” about 6 times from the bottom of the stairs. I make her walk up the stairs and address me in a calm voice. I make her stop demanding a ride, and ask for one. I make her say “I messed up this morning. It’s my responsibility to be ready for school, to make time to brush my teeth properly. I’m sorry, and could you please give me a ride to school?” And I make her pay me $10 for the ride.

I probably should have let that be the extent of the lesson, but I have been through this so many times before. I am frustrated beyond belief, at my wits’ end.

So I get dressed, and then as she’s going out the door, I sit down and begin playing the piano. She comes back in, agitated. “What are you doing? I’m going to be late!” I say, “Oh, do you have a deadline? Somewhere to be at a certain time? Are you frustrated because someone else is messing up your schedule? Gosh, how irritating that must be.” I continue playing. She gets more and more upset. I tell her that the frustration she feels is exactly how others feel when she makes them wait for her, when she refuses to take into account the time schedule of the people around her. I draw it out for about five minutes, until she is literally screaming and crying.

I feel like complete crap – I want to cry myself, but I don’t let her see it. She has done this to me at least a hundred times; I tell myself that if this is what it takes to get the message across, I can do it, even though my precious daughter that I love so much is lying on the floor, hiccupping and crying.

Eventually, we get in the truck and head for school. On the way I tell her how much I love her, and that I'm just trying to impress on her the fact that she has to make some effort to conform to the schedule of the household and the world around her. She tells me that it just makes her more depressed, and likely to do something destructive. She says maybe she’ll cut her wrists. I tell her that there’s no need to get into a contest about who can hurt Samantha more – that she’ll always win that contest. I tell her I love her and want her to be healthy and happy. She says she just feels depressed.

When we get to the school, she is calm and rational again. I drop her off. I drive home, I go into the house, and cry.


At Wed Dec 07, 12:13:00 PM PST, Blogger jay are said...

And now I want to cry and have to make an effort not to. Sometimes there's a part of us that kind of sighs with relief when we see that we're not the only parent in the world who feels like he or she wrecks her kids on a daily basis. That's the selfish part. The other part feels so crummy and awful for you and for Samantha.

What you did was not terrible, Bryan. Here's a viewpoint from someone very smart that I know: you are clearly not going to be able to connect on a rational level with this person; your only option, perhaps, is to connect on an emotional one.

I know that platitudes from someone else will not convince you that you're not wrecking your kids. I know that because I receive those platitudes and they don't convince me when I feel like I've screwed up terribly. But you're not.

Be kind to yourself. You're being too many things at once and they can't ALL be perfect. Think how bad the rest of us would look if you could shine every single minute of every stinkin' day.


At Wed Dec 07, 05:55:00 PM PST, Blogger Always Smiling said...

You did perfectly, Bryan and that's from a Mom (and probably quite unbelievably based on my blog a good one!!!)

I have one child in that way...almost unaware as he walks through life...very little focus...

I accept him for who he is..but at hte same time try to teach him some discipline so that he can get through life. And realize that consequences his actions or lack of focus cause.

I swear..I can't even give him 3 things to do. He can only handle 1 at a time or he becomes lost between point A and B. Not a learning problem - he's incredibly smart and gets pretty good. He's just not someone who concentrates.

Be good to yourself Bryan have to!

At Thu Dec 08, 06:53:00 AM PST, Blogger unca said...

My heart goes out to you with everything you're going through right now. For what it's worth, I think you're supporting Samantha in the best way possible -- even though it continues to be frustrating for you and for her. I'm glad you posted this since it allows those who know you IRL to think of you and what you're going through -- I hope that helps you in some way.

At Thu Dec 08, 11:15:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's painful at times to be a good parent. Sounds like your doing great.

At Thu Dec 08, 12:24:00 PM PST, Blogger mreddie said...

I'm of the opinion that all parents of teenagers need a strong support group just to keep from going bonkers. ec

At Thu Dec 08, 03:50:00 PM PST, Blogger No_Newz said...

Jeez man, you actually made my icy little heart melt. Being a parent is the hardest job we'll ever have. We never know if we are doing things right until they are grown and raising their own children.
I think you set a good example no matter how painful it was for both of you. (and me, thanks for making me cry!!!) I hope she gets the picture and you are both spared that kind of morning ever again.
Have you tried giving her time saving tips like laying her clothes out the night before, showering the night before, haveing her homework and everything ready to go before she goes to bed?
I hope she finds a groove that works well for both of you.
You have my email if you need someone's ear to yell into, I'll send my number.
Lois Lane

At Thu Dec 08, 06:56:00 PM PST, Blogger Bonita said...

I'm sorry you suffer so with your daughter. She sounds a lot like my son, Taraz, at that age. He tried 9th grade 3 times, and couldn't do it. We tried alternate school, then he simply dropped out. Your comment: "Failure does not motivate her to succeed; it only makes her feel worse about herself." That is so true. Successful parenting and successful growing are hard lessons to learn. My husband is a child development specialist, a therapist in family dynamics, and I can assure you even with the most trained professionals, like him, we still suffer set-backs and can get bogged down in learning styles, goals, etc. Our boy ultimately put himself through a technical college, studying digital media. He still struggles to acquire academic skills...his mental, emotional and spiritual health are fantastic. That's all that I care about now...

At Thu Dec 08, 11:51:00 PM PST, Blogger blogball said...

What nice blog friends you have Bryan. Nice comments by all.

I think all loving parents could write a book called “Wrecking My kids” As jay are pointed out sometimes there is a part of us (other kid wreckers) that sigh with relief when we see that we are not the only parents in the world who feel like this.
Bryan, you are a good Dad. Just keep on doing what you’re doing.

At Fri Dec 09, 06:16:00 PM PST, Blogger Always Smiling said...

Wow you added a picture - or I'm unobservant! :) Very nice!

At Fri Dec 09, 10:38:00 PM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

Thanks, everybody for your very kind comments. I appreciate it a lot.
I just returned from a two-day business trip to southern california (didn't have time to stop in and see Stephanie, too bad) (just kidding, Steph). ;-)

Anyway, it's nice to have all the nice comments waiting. For the record, Samantha seems fine -- when I arrived she had a friend already over to spend the night and they seemed very content, drawing and talking some kind of teenage girl talk I don't even try to understand.
I'ver been thinking about a quote I like: "To have children is to have your heart walking around outside your body..."
Okay, that's all I have to say about that...

At Fri Dec 09, 11:58:00 PM PST, Blogger jay are said...

that's exactly what it is. Skin inside out....
things will be good.

At Sat Dec 10, 02:48:00 PM PST, Anonymous si said...

couldn't comment earlier...

glad she's doing better now. whenever you post "these", it really has a profound effect on me. i'm not sure whether it's more from her standpoint or yours. i just feel bad for both of you. so, no answers -- just sympathy.

At Sat Dec 10, 08:10:00 PM PST, Blogger Always Smiling said... helps me to close my eyes...and chant internally...

"this too shall pass..this too shall pass..."


At Mon Dec 12, 10:12:00 AM PST, Blogger Crystal said...

being a 15 year old girl SUCKS. i would never go back to that! my dad just yelled at me. he never took the time to punish me in creative ways. way to go!


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