Love Them, Even When They Act Unlovable
Here’s the thing about being a parent: You think you know what the bad days will be like, but you really have no clue.
People will tell you that if you survive the dreaded Terrible Twos, that you’re in the clear. It’s smooth sailing from there. That’s a lie. As we found with all three of our kids, that’s just a cruel joke. Year two was a piece of cake compared to what happens when they wake up a big three year old and realize you’ve let your guard down.
But what nobody really talks about with complete honesty is that as your children grow and develop their own personality, they’ll test you. We’re not talking about simple “testing,” like the raptors testing the fences and boundaries of Jurassic Park. We’re talking about “testing” as it relates to weathering the wrath of an angry, hormonal teenager over and over and over again. Arguably, it’s worse than being eaten alive by a pissed off dinosaur.
When your teenager is shouting hateful, rude things to you and slamming doors, you’ll find yourself wondering how on earth that precious little baby turned into the she devil you find before you, whose very words cut right through to your heart and leave you feeling wounded and broken.
The same little girl who used to climb into bed with you after she had a nightmare.
The same child who you taught to tie shoes and ride a bike.
The same child who first brought you to your knees and showed you what true love really was, the moment her tiny, perfect lungs first drew air and you heard that pure, sweet cry.
The same child who first reached for your hand with her chubby little fingers and was the first to call you by your favorite moniker – “Daddy.”
You’ll remember those moments — all of them — all at once in a mind-numbing blur of emotion that will leave you almost as stunned as you were when the bedroom door was slammed shut in your face while you were trying to calm her down. Try not to think about how the whole thing started (she realized she accidentally did one of her brother’s chores that afternoon) because the “Why” of these teenage outbursts don’t actually matter most of the time.
When it comes right down to it, most of what your teenager will lose their mind over are things you didn’t actually play a part in, but you’re still the target for their rage and bewildering anger. There’s a small measure of comfort in knowing that they target you because they knows you’re strong enough to handle it. She knows that your love is unconditional; that you’ll still be there when the bedroom door opens again. She knows that you’ll stand at the side of her bed later that night, arms wrapped around her in a tight hug, like you used to do when she was just a little thing.
She won’t admit that what she really needed was a hug and she certainly won’t come to you asking for one, but the moment you walk up and pull her in for a hug, you’ll feel the sigh of relief and the exhalation of whatever emotion triggered the animosity.
So when you find yourself unintentionally pulled into a shouting match with a daughter who seems completely indifferent to your very existence until she wants something, remember the little moments and the firsts. Those are the things that will carry you through the really bad days and convince you to not actually sell them to the gypsies because — and here’s another thing you don’t fully understand until you’re faced with it — you know you only have a few more years with them before they venture out into the world on their own.
And that thought alone will make your eyes brim with tears and cause you to curse your own damn stupidity for not truly enjoying every possible moment with that baby of yours.
When even the very marrow in your bones tells you things will never get better, focus on the good in them instead of the hurt they’re causing, and love them fiercely as only a parent can.
Photo Credit: Jeff Bogle of Out With The Kids