I’ve had one of those days where I feel like I have totally and utterly failed as a parent.
I think that yes, it is hard to parent teenagers. It is hard to parent teenagers as a single parent. Now add Asperger’s to the mix.
I think of the attribution pie my therapist sketched out for me in one particular session. Let’s look at one of her behaviours. Part of it is genetic. Part is Asperger’s. Part is influenced by the sum of her experiences. Part is the parenting she’s received. Part is the crazy hormonal influence of just being a 14 year old girl. Throw it all together and today we ended up with a miserable, ranting, screaming mess of a girl.
It began when I suggested we all go to my boyfriend’s place for a skate on his lovely backyard rink, to be followed with pizza for dinner. Just a couple of hours hanging out with him and his kids. She went into defiant mode. She didn’t want to go because she said she felt ‘alone’ around them.
What I think she meant was that she felt apart. Social situations are tough for a hundred and one reasons that I don’t need to explain to anyone familiar with ASD. And, her history of being bullied, being ‘friends’ with girls who were fairweather at best, manipulative and game-playing and cruel at their worst, has left scars. She is afraid of most people her age. Who could blame her after what she has been through?
Yet I encourage her to try. She accuses me of trying to change her. I say, no sweetie, all anyone wants for you is to be happy and to find ways to cope better with situations you find tough. She says, why don’t the bullies have to change? I can see her point, but the reality is we have to find ways to cope because we can never change another. She says, mom, you’re a hypocrite.
And such begins the circle of frustration.
I start to panic, feel desperate. I feel feelings a mother shouldn’t feel about their child: resentment, anger, even a bit of fury. Because, dammit, I am trying to HELP you!
She wants help and she doesn’t. She wants friends that exist beyond her laptop, but she is afraid to approach other kids in the real world. She’s been burned too many times before.
I expect her to make sense, to tell me exactly what she needs, but of course she can’t.
Guilt sets in. I am failing her. I try and I try and I try and I blow it.
Then an hour later I hear her laughing upstairs, with her brother. And I am in awe because I admire her resilience, her ability to get up and carry on, over and over and over.
She’s my hero.