Holy hell, I had no idea. Little GV (now 13 years old) has never been what one would call an “easy kid” in a variety of ways, but I didn’t realize her shenanigans and the resultant frustration would increase exponentially, rather than the linear pace she’d previously committed to.
Keep in mind that this child is the best thing that ever happened to me and I tell her this on a fairly regular basis. She is loved by many and wants for nothing (white, middle class). She has amazing resources for support. She has been seeing a therapist for most of the last couple years and was diagnosed with ADHD over a year ago. We’ve just started working on medication (please, no comments there) and getting an IEP-type plan going at school. Even though her dad and I have been divorced for years we’ve always gotten on well and we co-parent well. My partner is also involved to a lesser degree (I almost always ask his input, but he doesn’t go to school meetings).
Micro-level issue is that we found out she had a slew of social network accounts we didn’t know about and that she’s been doing some low-level catfishing. She’s already been busted down from a smartphone to a slide-out keyboard phone, but she was even doing it over text after she lost internet privileges. I think that last bit was more opportunistic because it was only one person, but it still counts.
She also lies. About everything. “Did you put your clothes away?” “No, but I was just about to.” “Did you do ____?” “Well, I couldn’t because (insert ridiculous or lame excuse).” I’ve even heard “so-and-so does it, too.” I know none of it is developmentally inappropriate, but I’m constantly overwhelmed by having to police her every move. My time is so taken up by watching her that I barely have time to try to figure out what’s really going on and what to do about it.
Which takes me to the macro-level issues: this kid is depressed and has given up on herself. Just typing that makes me feel so incredibly sad. From the time I found out I was pregnant on through her early years I assumed that if I did my best, trusted my gut, and relied on the appropriate resources she’d turn out basically ok. How did we get where we are, then? How the fuck did we fail this kid? How do we fix this situation (not specifically her)? I knew she’d struggled with bullying off an on in grade school, but it was and is worse than she let on. WTF do we do about that? I’ll bring it up to the counselor at her school (a really good guy), but what can he actually do about it? Her self-esteem has been topedoed. How do we shore that up? This is a kid who is unapologetically herself. So much courage! Unfortunately, we live in a world where that is rarely applauded, so she’s already fighting that awful uphill battle. She struggles in school under the weight of the Curse of Potential. I know that one is partially my fault and it happened before I realized what I was doing. I don’t think it makes me solely responsible for anything, but I feel stupid because I know what that curse feels like and I managed to pass it down to her.
Intellectually, I know I’m not a bad parent. In fact, I know I’m a really good parent because I see all of this and I am actively trying to do something about it at many levels (Dunning-Kruger, bitches!). We got her involved with a local organization that is for adolescent girls that is all about empowerment, education, and support. I hope that we now have a more accurate picture of what’s really going on and that we can use that knowledge to figure out how best to help her.
I’m just so tired of all of it. I hate that I’m relieved when she’s at her dad’s because for a couple days I’m not the first one to find out the latest bunch of crap she’s pulled. I’m tired of carrying so much anger toward the people who stripped her of her ability to feel good about herself. Yes, most of them are/were “just kids,” but they hurt my kid. They made her feel bad about herself to the point where she doesn’t really care about other people or herself. (I have no concerns she’s going to hurt herself) I’m tired of being a cop, I’m tired of being angry with her, and I’m tired of feeling like a failure.
This shit is harder than I ever could have imagined. I’ll NEVER give up on her, but can I get a moment to breathe?
tl;dr: this is really long and kids are more (insert adjective here) than I imagined.