There was such a huge response to my stories recently when I asked for help regarding the relationship I had with my almost teenage daughter. Things have been tough for a number of years due to ongoing mental health issues, but this felt more like mother daughter issue.
It seemed I was not the only one struggling to deal with these pre-teens. I had such a varied response from everyone regarding their struggles, but most importantly the key message seemed from you all confirm as I suspected all along. It was not tough love that was going to win, but I needed a total 180 degree turn, to go back the other-way. She needed lots of love.
I have thought for many years how difficult it must have been for Lola to adjust when her brothers came along. An only child for eight years, then suddenly a sister of two small demanding boys within 22 months. As much as I tried to ensure that she didn't take a backseat, life with 2 under two was really hard. Throw in my battle with postnatal depression, Lolas anxiety diagnoses, starting a brand new business, and moving her from her childhood home you've got yourself quite a situation.
One of the most thought-provoking messages I received was from a lady that I have followed for quite some time. We don't know each other and have never met but we're obviously aware of each other's lives from instagram. I'm going to keep her identity private , But her message has me in tears. She made me stop and think and really put myself in Lola's shoes.
"Hey Carley. I hope your well, despite your worries on your recent story. I hope you don't mind but I'm going to come in from a different angle. Hers. All my life I've had a very turbulent relationship with my mother. Even now at the age of 30, married with two children we still have episodes of not talking/constant bickering etc. As a teenager I definitely felt like a bother to her. A chore. I was an only child until my brother came along when I was 10 and everything he has done ever since have been absolutely gleaming in her eyes. She has never made any conscious effort to disguise her feelings and I've always felt the under dog in comparison to someone 10 years my junior. I found growing up the way she would speak to me would be different to how she would speak to him. . If I showed my hurt I was never asked what was wrong, I was always left to deal with my emotions alone. Teenage/ pre teenage years are difficult.
I'm not saying for any second that what I have described is what I think is going on in your home. I can see your a fantastic mother. And I always want to shine a light on teenage years in the modern day. It's a complete contrast to how we grew up. Children talk about things at school that children shouldn't even know. Even if they are 12/13. I'm sure school holds a lot of pressure for her in terms of work load, maintaining friendships, boys, bloody sexual chat even dare I say it, image and reputation. Maybe just try being her friend for a while. Rediscover what makes her smile and do that together. Just the two of you. Sometimes not being 'mum' for the day might benefit you both. I know I longed for that.
I hope you haven't took this message with anything other than thoughts from my own experience. Because I think your pretty wonderful and so does she x
I read that with tears rolling down my face, Did Lola think that of me? Have I unintentionally favoured her brothers over her? Did she feel like a chore? I didn't think I had, but it was a huge wake up call to make sure we didn't end up there. It's made me think about how I treat her day to day. As the oldest she's often expected to be helpful and grown-up. Maybe she still wants to be my little girl still despite all the bravado? Yes, there are still chores to be done and she has to help, but what if after they are all done, we spend some much needed time together?
I'm not afraid to stand up and say I've made mistakes as a parent. No one's perfect, even if they say or imply they are. I really do think I need to address the way that our relationship is at the moment. As I've never been a mum to a 12 year old before , I am still finding my way. Being a good mum isn't easy, there are so many pitfalls along the way. We are all trying to work this as we go, winging it! All whilst we are juggling so much. Drawing on my own childhood isn't always easy as things have changed so much in 21 years it's hard to have boundaries for things you never had.
Lots of the other messages I received from so many other mums, with children of all ages was about "love bombing" which is just spending time with them. Often they play up more when they want or need you.
Again, it's something I'm aware that I need to make more of an effort with. I know that I make conscious effort with the boys, but with our relationship strained I've probably stopped making the effort with Lola. Who wants to spend time with someone who Is pushing you to the brink everyday? But, it's true children of any age just want attention, whether its positive or negative. They will find a way of getting it.
This week, i have tried to make a real effort with Lola, trying to remind myself to give her the attention she needs. It's not going to change overnight. I need to re-jig my time and try and find the all elusive "spare time" to take her out and spend a few hours together, just the the two of us. For me that means looking at how I spend my weekends and trying to work less of them. It might mean a midweek late night trip to our local shopping centre or, ice cream after school , or even just the two of us laying on her bed in the evening painting nails and talking without any interruption from small people. I am hope just a few hours a week will be enough to see a real change.
Will it work? I don't know, But right now something needs to change and I'm very happy to make the first move.
A very lovely friend of mine sent me this a couple of months ago and I thought you might find this as helpful as i did ;
I was also sent so many book recommendations, that i thought it would be easier if I listed them here. Because I'm kind to you I have even linked them to Amazon :) Some of these are suitable for different age ranges and some are even great for our own mental well being.
The Teenage BrainFrances - E. Jensen
Lastly, if you are local to Hampshire this lady have been mentioned a few time and she runs parenting workshops across Hampshire