My 15-year-old daughter can’t seem to get herself ready for school. I get anxious and have to help, since she isn’t able to do it on her own. Then she gets angry at me for interfering—she says I don’t trust her—and we wind up fighting. Sometimes, she’s late to school. How can I get her to see she needs my help?
Growing up is hard to do—for mothers as well as daughters. Kids your daughter’s age (you were once one of them!) need lots of room to develop a healthy sense of independence, while still knowing you’re there for them. In fact, the most loving gift you can give your daughter is the room she needs to do things on her own, like prepping for school. Unfortunately, the two of you are now engaged in a version of the “teenage two-step,” where your daughter expects you to come to her rescue, even though she doesn’t really want that. In short, it’s become the routine for both of you, but is serving neither.
Putting your daughter aside for a moment, what about you? I get the sense that you may be attaching too much self-worth to your role as mom and not enough to your role as the vital, independent woman you are. One of the toughest transitions a parent must make—I know this from experience—is from defining your identity in terms of being a mom (or dad) to re-establishing a sense of identity that is wholly your own.
Practically speaking, you, as indeed, the grown-up, need to take the lead in unwinding the morning ritual that is now in place. Quietly. Carefully. Thoughtfully. Find a calm moment to tell your daughter that you’ve been thinking a lot about how you and she interact and realize it isn’t good for either of you. Tell her that you know that she really is capable of getting ready for school. Tell her that if she really needs assistance on something, you’ll be available, if she asks. Otherwise, you have your own get-ready ritual to attend to.
Be prepared: She might test your resolve at first to see if you’re serious. She might deliberately not get ready, because she’s become used to your “participation.” Leave her alone.If she’s late for school once or twice, she’ll survive, she’ll learn, and she’ll develop a deeper respect for you as her mother, rather than you as her caretaker.
In short, honor the individual inside your child.
An Affair to Forget
My friend, Gloria (not her real name), whom I’ve know for seven years, is married, has three young kids, and has always been flirty. But I think she’s taken the next step with one particular guy. I’ve seen her talk to him at length at parties. She’s recently been “going to movies by herself,” or “taking night-time yoga classes,” neither of which is her style. Is it my business to get involved, if I think she’s having an affair?
What would you want to accomplish by “getting involved” and what exactly does that mean? Here are three questions to answer before you do anything:
◗ Do I want to take on the responsibility of being Gloria’s counselor?
◗ Am I really just interested in following the progress of her affair vicariously?
◗ Who will I tell or not tell about my friend’s activities?
Affairs are deeply personal matters to the participants. No one has the right to ask someone else if they’re having an affair, unless that someone happens to be a spouse or significant other. Best to apply the current military adage: Don’t ask, don’t tell. If, however, Gloria volunteers her indiscretion, become a listener extraordinaire, but not her therapist.
There is never a happy outcome to affairs; they are fiery cauldrons of hurt for all concerned, often even for innocent by-standers like yourself. So, to answer your question directly: No, it is not your business to get involved; i.e., to invite yourself into her “affairs.” It is your business to recognize critical boundaries and to continue to simply be Gloria’s friend, as you have been so far.
Keeping Up Appearances
I have a decent job, but my salary is well below what many of my friends make. I drive an Audi, which is expensive, but I like it and want to keep up appearances. My wife hangs out with my friends’ wives, doing lunches and shopping, spending probably more than she should. We both feel the need to “keep up,” but we don’t always like that feeling. How can we live within our means and still have close friends who live out of our price range?
“The devil made you do it.” Or, so you might like to think. But he didn’t. The good news is that you “don’t always like that feeling.” Which means you understand that what you’re doing makes no sense at all. Let’s talk about love, because that’s what’s at stake here. What do you love more—your social status, your friends, your marriage? Each requires making choices. Love your social status more? Go into debt and take the risks that come with bankruptcy. Love your friends more? Test the waters. See if, in fact, they are really friends, or just convenient money-buddies. Ask them to do things that are more modest and see how they respond. Love your marriage more? Make a pact with your wife that nothing will get in the way of your life together: not money, not friends, not Audis.
Here’s another angle on your angst: People who are desperate to keep up with the Joneses, usually are trying to make up on the outside for what’s lacking on the inside; namely, a clear and confident sense of self that transcends all the material matters we invest so much of ourselves in, especially here in Fairfield County.
If indeed you have a “decent” job and generally like what you do, take stock of that. Give yourself credit for that, since in this economy such jobs are hard to come by, and tell your wife that you actually like and believe in what you do. The two of you, couple-wise, are far more important than individuals whose definition of friendship revolves around cars, shopping, and Salade Niçoise.
A last thought: there’s an expression that “you never know what’s really important to you, until you’ve lost it.” Don’t let yourself wind up being one of those people.