We stood only two feet apart with a granite island stuck between us, but the divide felt more the size of the Atlantic Ocean.
I knew she was lying to me. I knew she would lie before I asked the question.
It wasn’t a big deal. “Hey, don’t you have a math test coming up?”
I already knew the answer. Her teacher emailed me earlier that evening. “I put up some extra practice questions on Google classroom. I didn’t get a chance to let all the students know, and with the test tomorrow I wanted to make sure the kids knew it was available.”
So when I casually asked my daughter about her exam, it did not surprise me when she looked me square in the eye and said: “No, it’s not until next week.”
Sometimes I don’t like my daughter. Sometimes I am terrified of the person she is growing into, the comfortableness she finds in the lies and deception.
She is a young teen now, and doesn’t enjoy being told what to do. She is a strong student, a gifted athlete, and considered a leader at her school.
But sometimes we watch as she attempts to manipulate us, telling us half-truths about a situation. Sometimes we catch her in out and out lies, weaving tales full of deception. Sometimes her actions seem so deliberate, so selfish, so incredibly insensitive, that sometimes although I love my daughter deeply, she makes it difficult to like her.
I’ve talked to other moms, veterans of the teenage years many times over. They assure me it is normal.
“She is just rebelling,” or “I remember that time well. If only we could all be as smart as a 14-year old!”
I laugh, nod accordingly and offer my gratitude, but the pit in my stomach remains, a ball of worry for what her future holds.
My relationship with my daughter is difficult and complex, a continuous loop of dysfunction. Her father and I set rules, and she walks on the line of each one. We punish, she seemingly does not care. We lecture, she ignores. We offer her more freedom, and she abuses it; less trust, and she sinks further into her guarded silence.
And sometimes, just when we feel like we are at the end of our rope, we see glimpses of the kind, caring young girl who possessed unlimited potential.
While we knew most of her unseemly behavior only occurred at home, and her lies appeared insignificant, our fear about the risky or dangerous behavior she would be exposed to when she entered high school grew. Knowing we needed help, we sought the advice of a counselor focused on teens.
“We know she is a good kid, but something doesn’t feel right,” we tell the psychologist. The first meeting is just with the parents to get background on the issues.
And as we talk more, I admit to this stranger, I say the words out loud: “Sometimes I don’t like my daughter.”
After a few sessions, we learn how to work on our relationship. We discover that problem-solving, or fear of not looking capable, is difficult for her, and lying is a go-to coping mechanism. We also find out that my daughter fibs because it is expedient. This is code for getting out of a lecture from (mainly) mom or dad.
But most importantly, I learned that sometimes I don’t like my daughter’s actions — especially her lies – but I always like her. Separating her actions from my opinions about who she is as a person allows me to be more level-headed when discussing her behavior.
When I removed the morality of lying out of the equation and assured her that I would not lecture her at every misstep, the gates of communication opened.
We’re still rebuilding the trust with our daughter. She committed to sharing more with me when we are in the car driving to practice and has weekly Starbucks “dates” with her dad. Our relationship involves more tongue biting on our end and more effort on hers. It’s not perfect, but the pit in my stomach is shrinking day by day.
Most importantly, the bridge we built enables me to clearly see my daughter in all her glorious potential.
And although I will always love my daughter, it feels good to like her again too.
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