Sunday, February 17, 2013


Parenting Teenagers. Building Problem-solving Skills Together.

NPR's Emailed Story: How Parents Can Learn to Deal w/ a Testy Teenager and Build Problem-solving Skills

When you go directly to this blog article, you'll see the many comments in the section below. My own comment and what I've learned from the times of parenting my teens, is below:

A man wrote in about negotiating a time when the electronics were turned off at night. His kids said 10:00, he said 9. They agreed on 9:30 pm.

My response:

"Loved the negotiation to 9:30. Now that I'm alone, for my own health, I shut down the EMR's piercing the walls.  I just unplug the router. I no longer have 5 teenagers at one time, but I've had company that knows well... texting or internet throughout the night is met with my own home's boundary-a peaceful night with no electromagnetic radiation generated by me, because there's no WIFI. (You can just hope any neighbor's system is passworded...)

My own 7 children had the security of two parents, until the 1985 divorce, then disclosure of an aunt and uncle and step-grandparent's sexual abuse, then abandonment of 9 aunts and uncles and the grandparents and their father. The anger and grief overwhelmed any family system of rules as they blamed me, and wanted me to 'fix it' without doing their personal work. We struggle even today. What makes sense is deciding what we want. To be right, or happy. Some decided to try calling me by my first name. I invited them to refrain from contact until they could show the respect I believe...I'd earned, of 'Mom'. Earning Master's, PhD's and Law degrees are not a feeling of success, when the nuclear family is destroyed.

One of my daughters had her child disclose inappropriate grooming behavior, written down, after a visit to her father. This generation is better armed. My daughter wanted to wipe the guy out, of course. I told her that during her childhood, I regretted not being able to remain calm and patient at all times. I missed out on the Christ gene under my own burdens. (Sometimes we don't have the convenience of some 'break-down'. We keep functioning.) She laughed.

My most unfavorite task as parent was coming up with consequences. I'd let my children help, but they were too harsh on themselves. Years later, I heard a talk in which a man said we chastise our children for their mistakes, but too often leave them in the mess, instead of showing them how a few steps can get them back on track. Simultaneous grief in a family, especially layered disappointment, may take years to heal. Verbal abuse, emotional blackmail or physical abuse is simply not acceptable. "Services' must stop until civility returns and apologies are made and kept. Too many parents today keep performing though boundaries of respect are crossed. We were not born to be door mats or the 'whipping boy' for our children. This is not success, or a gift to our young."

In my own family of origin, my mother was silent, and my father aggressively loud and explosive. This is the problem solving I saw. Even though I tried to reason with my own children, and maintain the family system after the divorce and then sexual abuse disclosure, loss of any support system as we moved, left the religion, and lost all my large extended family and any contact with their father ceased, it was a losing battle. The model my children had seen from their father's own personal demons, was to act self righteous while projecting his self hatred, with silence and passive aggressive behavior.

Discussing the truth of history, I had to think of what influences my children had and what problem solving examples I set, etc. Though I had sworn I would never take the abuse I saw my mother experience, the man I married was also wounded, like so many of us are. His mother died at 8 or 9, his father withdrew in his own grief of his life long partner of 20+ years, and his only sibling, a sister, went to live elsewhere. He was left to figure life out for himself. His teeth weren't fixed, and when he later worked at a car wash as a teenager, he saved up the $1 an hour wage and paid for his own dental work.  This had affected his self confidence, along with a home without a woman's touch. 

The curtains were black where his father grabbed them in the middle to close them at the end of the day. My ex-husband felt too embarrassed at the condition of the house to invite his friends over. Roaches in the Mesa, Arizona adobe home took over the kitchen, leaving streaks of their waste down the cupboards. Black widows and scorpions are quite comfortable in the heat, and the citrus trees and date palms lent great homes to anything insect and crawly. The honey house with its large extractor and fading green paint was a memory to days of apiary work, where father and son worked to heat and cut or strip off the wax of a frame and set the exposed honeycomb into its place to be whirled along with others. The golden Arizona honey collected at the bottom, only to be siphoned off into 5 gallon cans. They talked about Alfalfa honey, the prized Orange Honey, Clover honey, etc. as to where the beehives were, and what kind of color and taste their finished product had.  His father sent trainloads of honey off through the years, and used the money his hard work earned to buy land and build rentals for his retirement someday. 

My ex-husband had a lot of hives that were burned along with the weeds, along canals, by fields, etc., during the two years he served a Mormon mission in Argentina. 

Because my ex-husband's father was a hard working man, and taught that work ethic to his youngest son, they worked together. They'd go to Eager, and work to build a cabin together on land that overlooked John Wayne's 26 Bar Hereford Ranch. He also passed on his ideas of his station in life, by saying his kids would have to work twice as hard as anyone elses', to be as good. His father had been raised on dirt floors on farmland in Missouri or Mississippi. That's why dangling a black widow from one hand to the other didn't phase him, I guess. 

One morning around 3:30 or 4 AM, when his dad came over to help him irrigate several pieces of land in Mesa, my ex-husband and I had some sort of argument, and though I was pregnant with our first child, his way to 'win' seemed to include trying to kick me as I looked for something on the floor in the extra bedroom. I snarled at him to go get his father, so he could see what a 'man' his son was, kicking a pregnant wife. He stopped. Another time, he pushed me outside, and locked me out. He literally locked me out of his emotional life, being mostly silent, and having his own private life outside his home life, which I was about to find out.

In Arizona, work as a brick mason and hod carrier (mixing cement and lime and carrying "mud" or mortar, water, brick and block, building and stocking scaffolding) or laying brick or block was a physical labor that keeps a man in top physical shape. It also allows him to inhale lime and cement dust into his lungs for annual respiratory bouts, and wears out his elbows, etc. with tendonitis, carpal tunnel and arthritis as he ages. To work in the Arizona summers, one has to rise around 3:30 AM, pack a lunch and get to work to out-fox the beating sun. Think of a brick mason in the elements, like a roofer, etc., and you will know that not every man has the work ethic to cut it. (Yes, Emily, ;-}...there are women roofers, also, and probably masons.)

When I was pregnant with our second child, maintaining this Mormon temple marriage/playing house role, two policemen came to the door and asked me about the truck in the driveway. Who drove it? Did anyone else drive it?...

To be continued....

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