Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mentally Ill, or Just Strong Willed?

And now back to the saga of raising our strong willed baby girl. 

Some days, during nap time, Jordan would throw a tantrum in her crib. No tears, but a blatant, I'm not getting what I want, and I'm angry about it, tantrum. Usually at this young age, if I told her to stop, she would lay herself down, a pacifier in each hand, and go to sleep. One time at dinner, Adam had to yell at her because she was “yelling” at him. No words (because she was only seven months old) mind you, just full blown attitude, being thrown right in Dad's face. Gratefully, after he reprimanded her, she did stop yelling.

At this time we both thought that she was a trip. A seven month old trip, with a huge attitude. We were serious with her, and let her know that her behavior was not acceptable, but it was still kind of amusing. Like "who the hell did she think she was?", kind of amusing. As the years went on and these small battles of will continued and increased in number and emotion, let me tell you... it became much less cute. 

I was never sure why these battles had to be fought, but they were fought very often. She appeared to want things her way almost all of the time. Is this a normal human instinct? It's like we could never put our guard down. I can't tell you how many times we have muttered the words "if we give her an inch, she takes a mile", throughout the past seventeen years. But again, in my heart I felt that these battles had to be won by Adam and Me. Because as the saying goes: Parents always know best.

Or do they? Now that she is seventeen and our other daughter, Kayla is almost sixteen, I can't say that with quite as much confidence. The world has changed so quickly, that apparently I have had some trouble keeping up. Teens are much more aware of the trends and the constantly shifting norms. Sometimes after talking to our girls, I feel like I grew up in Amish country like 100 years ago. They educate me about this new world and I usually feel overwhelmed and a bit shocked to realize all that they are confronted and bombarded with.  It's crazy. And we tried to run a pretty sheltered, tight ship here, when it came to raising our kids.

But at this time, when she was an adorable, attitude-filled baby, we did have the upper hand. She (mostly) listened when we reprimanded her, and if she didn't we could just pick her up and remove her from the tense situation. But as kids get older, it's certainly not that easy. Your grab-bag of distractions and tricks become less effective, and wow... is that frustrating. And it's also scary. 

I never would have imagined that I would need to mutter the words that we have all heard in so many movies and T.V. shows: "If you don't like it, there's the door, and good luck, because you're gonna need it.” But remembering all of the battles of will that we experienced, it wasn't surprising that when Jordan was fourteen, I felt that I did have to say that exact sentence to her. Thankfully, and probably because of her severe fears and anxiety, she never walked out the door. 

And believe me, that night I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

This history, our history, was a big part of the reason why initially, we were so confused with Jordan's diagnoses. She was always SO stubborn, and hard headed. She didn't like any idea or suggestion that wasn't hers, and she was rarely able to break away from her initial expectation. Not to mention that as kids get older, they are faced with more decisions, stress, peer pressure, doubts, and hormone levels. 

So, how are parents supposed to tell if the teen drama and angst is just an exaggerated version of the rigid attitude that was present throughout the years, or if it is a real chemical imbalance/mental illness? It's a tough question with probably a million answers. 

I guess I will just continue writing about it, and perhaps someday we will all get a little closer to figuring out an answer that is right for Us. 

Thank you.

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