Sometimes in the world of parenting we are faced with situations that seem far beyond our capacity to endure. Sleepless nights. Painful breast feeding. Endless potty training. Then we coast for a while during the golden years of 4-12. Yes, those are the golden years when your word is law, your decisions count, when they still need you but not like the baby and toddler eras. They are cute still, funny in an inadvertant way. Then they change. They hit secondary school and life changes in a not-so-funny way.
I have learned that 12-year-old girls are not to be trifled with. You can't fob them off with an "Because I said so" as much. They become secretive. They challenge you on a daily basis. They judge you far more than anyone else ever will.
What to do? Where is the Toddler Taming book for teen-age girls?
And so yesterday I was faced with a new challenge. My daughter brought home her end-of-year report. Quite good in one subject, OK in most. But French? What happened in French? Her exam result was good, but the NC level didn't seem to reflect this. "I missed some tests when I was off ill in February and the teacher never would let me make them up." Hmmm. Do I smell a rat here? Yes, I suppose it's possible the teacher is that incompetent and uncaring. But why was this the first I'd heard about it? I tried to keep calm and maintain control as I was driving during this exchange. My daughter's voice, on the other hand, got louder and stroppier. OK, I wasn't educated in this country so these numbers are meaningless to me. But eventually she was so impudent I felt I was going to have to take some action. But what? Slapping her face, which is what my mother did to me when I behaved that way, is out of order. Should I ground her? Is that coming down too hard on her?
I rang my husband and calmly read the results to him, looking for his reaction to guide me. I said she'd been quite stroppy to me. He said he would talk to her later. Hmm. Later wasn't really good enough. I could go to the school and inquire about this, but suspect that I would be made a fool of. It's her word vs. the teacher's. And she was quite late about informing me about the missed tests. If I'd known earlier, I could have spoken to the head of year.
And that is the heart of the matter. She is shutting me out when she really needs to keep me informed.
I made tea, then gathered some papers I needed to post in people's houses around the village. "You're coming on a walk with me," I told her. With very bad grace, she got ready to go. Her body language said it all. She expected a big lecture from me. She didn't get one.
"I used to talk to my mother the way you talked to me today. And now I really regret it," I told her. "You're acting like you don't have to or want to tell me anything about your school life. But you do. I could have done something about the French teacher if you'd told me earlier."
"You've been too busy with my brother this year because it's been a really important year for him and I didn't want to bother you," she replied.
"But you're my child, too. I care about you, too," I said.
And then she opened up a bit about what's been going on with her, how her old friends talked about her behind her back and tried to get her new friends not to like her. How she hung in there though and now the new friends like her and not the old friends. I told her about what's going on with my mother and my concerns for her. I said I hadn't wanted to burden her with this information. I told her how much happier I am now that I no longer try to be part of the mothers' group.
During that walk, it was like the Golden Years again. The 12-year-old monster had been vanquished. Until it rears its ugly head again.
You know that feeling you had when you finally conquered potty training or any other milestone with your child? I had that last night. I'd done it right. I'd faced the temptation of making our relationship even more distant and fought it off.