Have you seen this movie? It’s the Disney tale of a teenage daughter and her mother in classic parent/teen conflict who experience a body switch for a day to help them understand each other. That part about the parent and teen conflict? That is my life lately, and it is not easy to write about. The past few weeks I have posted about the fun times in my life, and called those posts “Fun Fridays.” This Friday is not fun. In fact, it’s completely not fun.
Yet, as difficult as it is a parent trying to negotiate your way through teen drama, the Freaky Friday experience let’s me catch glimpses into my own painful experiences as a young teen. That terrible trying-to-fit-in-I-want-to-hang-with-the-popular-girls-please-cute-boy-like-me-stage. It reminds me how it felt to go home to parents who couldn’t’ possibly understand what it meant to be in middle school and feel the peer pressure and the academic pressure to keep up. How it felt to be the only one in the universe with parents who were so strict and old-fashioned that I couldn’t wait to get out of their clutches. As I am witness to all her teen anguish it pains me to see her hurt, and yet I find it hard to overcome my own resentment and impatience at her self-centered, disrespectful behavior. It’s even more troubling for me because I am only the step-mother, and my role is limited. I am there to support my husband, her father, in raising her. My own mothering instinct kicks in and I feel the need to discipline, and intervene so that I can maintain some degree of calm in the midst of this storm, and protect the rest of the household.
I feel badly for her, guilty about my own feelings of impatience and anger, sad for my husband who is doing the best he can, loving her in this storm, and feeling unloved in return. I almost wish we could have that Disney moment. A moment filled with clarity after the parent and daughter, having switched places and after returning to their own bodies, each gain valuable insight and a deeper appreciation for each other. But our own version of this movie has just begun. Even though her father and I have been through our own adolescence, and we should be able to understand her, in the heat of the battle we forget what it’s like. And because, she is still weathering her own adolescence, and has yet to experience the “joys” of parenthood, she cannot understand how it feels as parents to be deemed irrelevant and considered the cause of all that is wrong in life.
In the Disney movie the mother, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, and the teen daughter, played by Lindsey Lohan, work out their differences and you are left with the impression that they will have a good relationship. But, I fear what every parent of a teen must fear, that in real life it may not always work out so happily. Look at Lindsey’s life now? I only hope that this too shall pass and my Freaky Friday experience works out like the Disney film version.