Bring it on! Blame Mom.

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“Ok, just shoot me!” I blurted out to my daughter.

So much for compassionate conversations, which I’ve been practicing as of late. Yet when your 16-year old daughter badgers, badgers and badgers, a mother just wants to flee. It’s a natural reaction to verbal assault!

My daughter is about to get her driver’s license. Yes, in a short month. It’s a blessing and a curse: Less chauffeuring and more parental angst. It also means she’s getting a debit card to have on hand for gas or in an emergency, not to mention having a way to deposit her babysitting money. These are big milestones for a teenager.

So we opened an account with a $25 check from her most recent gig. It was important that she open the account with money she earned, rather than mom and dad giving it to her or reinforcing the childhood notion that all money just magically comes out of ATM machines. The banker was very nice and explained the whole routine and responsibility about having a debit account, overdraft protection and the like. He told her she could access her account online and gave us some directions that he told us we’d forget the minute we walked out the door Needless to say, that’s exactly what happened.

Several days later Sophie insisted on setting up the online access. It was a Sunday night. A laptop was open on the kitchen table with bank brochures. We did not yet have all the information needed, like the card and PIN number which had not yet arrived in the mail. So of course, we couldn’t set it up.

But the man at the bank said we could do this right way.
He said so, mom. Why isn’t this working?
Well, he said we should do it so we don’t forget.

Yes, but we are missing a number, honey. Until we have it we can’t do this. We have to wait. You have $25 in there. Why do you need to see right now? You have school all week. You don’t need an ATM card!

But the man at the bank said we could do this right way.
He said so, mom. Why isn’t this working?
Well, he said we should do it so we don’t forget.

We have to deal with this later in the week. I’m sorry.

No mom. The banker said we could set it up while we wait for the card to come in the mail.
But the man at the bank said we could do this right way.
He said so, mom. Why isn’t this working?

Well obviously we can’t right now and there’s nothing more we can do.

But mommmmm…


I yelled. Yes, I broke down. Patience went out the window. I used a violent image.

I just wanted to get to a yoga class and reset for the upcoming week. And, now I needed the space more than ever. Sophie tore out of the room with a gust, “Jeez, Mom!”

“That could have gone another way,“ remarked my dear husband watching this whole scene in the kitchen.

I thought, Thanks for helping out dear. Thanks for having my back.

Moms get the flak no matter what. It’s moments like these when moms go into a reverie: imagine the French Riviera, a weekend at a spa or disappearing into the vast horizon. Then we shake it off. We forge onward, bruised and tired.

When I was Sophie’s age I was more than sassy. I was angry. I told my mother I hated her numerous times. I blamed her for everything until I was old enough to shift the blame on my deadbeat dad. Much later I forgave them all. It pains me now to think of my teenage years.

Yet, it impresses me now that my mom survived it. She grew up having to go into bomb shelters during WWII. She was tough. And she had a lot to hold over us when it came to pointing out that her daughters were ungrateful and didn’t know what real suffering was. In those moments, such words made me hate her more. I confess I’m tempted to resort to the same ploy with my daughters: “You have a great life, girls. You are privileged to be born into this time and place. You are not suffering like many kids around the world! You’ll see your darn $25 on your bank account next week. Be thankful!”

I just know it won’t go anywhere.

I work with a number of young female college interns. I love them. They reflect back (about a mere 5 years) to being teenagers. Some admit they were brats. Others say they always had a good relationship with their moms. Others confess they got away with so much and they will never ever tell their parents. Cold comfort for this mom.

It’s just not easy being a mother of a teenager. It’s not easy being a daughter, either.

And it’s impossible to reason with any teen, boy or girl, on a mission like Sophie was.

Last year, the author Andrew Solomon reviewed several books on aggression and bullies in our culture, including Emily Bazelon’s “Sticks and Stones.” The NYT book review was entitled “The Brutal Years,” which I found quite apt. I saved the cover as a reminder that these are indeed the tough years and they will pass.

The Brutal Years

I remembered that headline sitting there at the kitchen table. Clearly, enough was said that evening so I went to yoga. Once there I set my intention.

I forgive myself for all I have done and not done.
I forgive Sophie for all she has had done and not done.
I love you, both.

It’s a forgiveness mantra that works for me because it includes omissions.

Sophie didn’t speak to me for two days until she needed a ride, of course. As a mom there’s no way I can or will be everything my daughters need. I will fail in ways I won’t even know for years – if or when they have the words, reflection, or courage to tell me.

By then I hope they will have the compassion I now hold for my mother. I have found empathy for my younger teen self. I forgive her, too. The hardest part is having kindness toward myself right now in this brutal moment of parenthood.

It is a practice indeed.


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Mother’s Day is just around the corner.  A great time to practice  self-kindness.

Check out my Self- Compassion Kit!



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