These past few weeks have been stressful leaving me feeling particularly anxious and I have a hard time sleeping lately. The truth is I have a lot on my plate right now with the divorce, trying to work things out here as a 50/50 parent, work stress and kids who are being more than a handful.
I knew this would impact them, how could it not? Divorce is harsh even when the divorce terms are not and the communication is polite and reasonable. When kids see their family broken apart they don’t have a say or a choice other than to go along with it and just deal with it in some way. I think the impact on kids is the most unfortunate thing about a divorce. They act out in anger, hurt and resentment and I understand that but there’s a line.
This is most evident in my teenage daughter who over the course of the past year and a half to two years (even before divorce was considered) has progressively gotten meaner and more disrespectful, this is most evident in her interactions with her mother. The lying, stealing things from the other kids and her mom, sneaking around online as if I don’t know etc. But it’s the lack of remorse that gets me the most. When caught she simply does not care or apologize at all. I’ve tried to be understanding, to look for answers and hope that she will at least make an effort but it never ends. At times I feel completely lost in what to do.
Yesterday was another episode of lying by sneaking on social media using a basic flip phone. I really thought we removed any chance for that but as usual she found a way. So what now? I’ve taken things away, made her do chores etc. you name it but nothing seems to work. Her mother told me when she’s there it’s worse. The level of disrespect with her mother has gotten to the point of outright refusing to do something and saying, “no” and “so what if I don’t?” I can’t really understand that BUT again I look for the answer and hope there is one. “She’s a teenager and this is what teenagers do” I tell myself but this goes beyond typical teenage years rebellion. Is it a cry for help I have to wonder?
When I think back to my childhood and the anger I felt, I know that anger was rooted in feeling lost and without stability in my home. The environment didn’t feel safe to me and it wasn’t. I felt like I needed to build up a wall of anger for protection and as a result I acted out in a very similar way my kid is acting out now. So then I try to imagine how she must feel. A father who can be overbearing, angry, stressed often and perhaps worse of all poor at saying or expressing love and approval. For me I always felt like I needed to direct my kids to what’s right and allow their mother to express love. She must feel like I’m always on the verge of yelling at her or looking for ways to scold her, she doesn’t make that hard that’s for sure but what’s missing?
The responsibility is in part mine. The larger effort needed is really on my part. The chance to capture something I felt was lost on me as a kid. She’s never had to face the things I did as a kid and she never will but the lack of connection with her own father is a travesty I think. I’ve tried to provide everything reasonable for my kids but it’s not the house, vacations or any of those material things it’s the love that matters most. I need to be better at expressing that last part. I’m not naive and of course I know she will continue to be a teenager who gets on my nerves and tests me on occasion but I also know as a parent I have to step up and try my best to let her know that while I won’t be walked over, I do in fact love her.