Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Battling for Cell Phone Supremacy

                I’m a mother of daughters. My oldest daughter will be eleven next month. With the approach of yet another move toward independence, my daughter is beginning to chafe at the limits that have been in place in her world. The logic that once tempered her reactions to life and its inequities is occasionally overshadowed by the raging hormones and a pervasive awareness of her own point of view. This child, always able to clearly reason through concerns and understand the perspectives of others, has leapt wholeheartedly into her tween years and has developed a distinct case of selective tunnel vision. Usually, that tunnel vision leads her to decide that her problems are my fault. In turn, this occasionally prompts her to lash out with disrespect. Handling life’s disappointment with respect for our family members is an issue that we’re all having to learn more about.
                As I’ve thought a bit more deeply about the concerns I have about these periodic bouts of disrespect, I’ve realized that there is more to it than my daughter’s lashing out. The situation isn’t just comprised of her poor choices, but of my own interpretation of and reaction to it. I have my own context for everything she does. I color her words with my own perspective. Of course, a large part of this is based on sensory data. Her expressions, her gestures, the (meant to be) oh-so-intimidating silent treatment, and of course, the ever-popular eye roll all communicate my daughter’s disgust with my current line of reasoning. Today, while discussing why she may not currently have a cell phone – especially not one with internet or picture texts – this child of mine broadened her repertoire, stating “That’s not fair!!!” and “It’s my life; I can if I want to.” This sensory data threatened to skip thoughts and head straight into emotion. My body tends to have an instant response to sensory data that desperately tries to bypass any form of logic (or illogical reasoning.)
                I’ve found that when my daughter is in the throes of tunnel vision passion, my brain wants to shut down and join in the party. On the plus side, I’ve been parenting for almost eleven years now. I’m learning to recognize my own reactions and the destruction or improvement they can effect on a situation. I have my own process that I have to go through in order to get to a place where I can act in reason. Fortunately, recognizing that process seems to help speed my end of things up a bit. I tend to receive my daughter’s sensory data with my own gut instinct. At this point, I can do one of two things – allow my daughter’s feelings to rule the conversation and join right in or take a step back and think about it. It’s usually more effective to step back, to ask myself why I’m feeling that way and if it’s logical. At this point, I usually remind myself that I’m the adult, and this is our new norm. It’s up to me to figure out how to rule my emotions and find solutions that allow me to react calmly. While I agree with the text that there’s a difference between thoughts and feelings, I’ve also found that for me, these two aspects of the awareness wheel have to go hand in hand to function effectively.
                Once I’ve found my adult footing again, it’s helpful for me to step back and examine my wants. Why am I doing what I’m doing? Is it a battle worth fighting? In today’s Battle for Cell Phone Freedom, I had to think about what my long term goals are for my daughter and how that fit into her vision for herself. In the end, I think that we want the same things. She wants to be responsible and have her own phone – she did suggest that she could get a job and pay for it. I want her to be responsible and have her own phone when she can handle the responsibility. I want her to learn how to monitor her own behavior so that she can be trusted to wisely handle those responsibilities – both age-appropriate jobs and cell phones. She is my daughter, and, of course, I have hopes and dreams for her. Longings and fears both jostle for space in these kind of dilemmas.
                For better or for worse, my actions tend to try and find a balance between the high standards I’d love to hold her to and the more temperate compromises that will allow her independence and allow me to fulfill my parental responsibilities. In our cell phone discussion, I explained that talking so disrespectfully would not show that she was responsible enough to handle her own phone. We talked about ways that she could show me she would be responsible with what she already has – complete her homework regularly, take care of her things, and complete her chores within a reasonable time-frame. I explained the concerns that her father and I have for her. We also talked about how she will have future opportunities to earn greater privileges as she appropriately uses the ones she has. I’m certain that there will be many more of these learning opportunities for us in the years to come, but, even with the periodic eye rolling, these moments usually strengthen our relationship when I remember to step back and work through it in a calm manner.