Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Teenage Angst

I read somewhere that the two most difficult years of a woman's life are the year she turns 13 and the year her daughter turns 13. My stepdaughter, the gorgeous Rose, is halfway through her 13th year. DH and I have no problems with her whatsoever, but admittedly she's only with us a couple of nights a fortnight. At her mother's house there are almost nightly yelling incidents between her and The Screaming Banshee (her mother) and sometimes the Loser Boyfriend, which all too often escalate into violence, verbal abuse and tears.

We, of course, just get Rose's side of the story. She is a strong willed girl and I'm sure she could be a handful if she wanted to be, after all she is her mother's daughter. And as the name suggests, her mother is a Screaming Banshee with a very short fuse. She is prone to massive temper tantrums in which she will scream, yell, and throw insults (and the occasional object). Her most popular insult at the moment is to call Rose a slut, which has its desired effect of reducing Rose to tears. Rose rang DH this morning upset because she heard her mother telling someone else that 'Rose is becoming a real little slut'.

There have been many incidents over the years that I have felt warranted our intervention, but DH has always been reluctant, he doesn't want to give the Banshee an excuse to enter our lives so we shouldn't enter hers. But I am struggling with this. Rose is on the cusp of that age when boys become all consuming, I don't want her to be making decisions with thoughts in her head like 'oh well Mum already thinks I'm a slut'.

I talk alot with Rose about body image and self esteem but we haven't spoken directly about this. I sent her an email today with a daggy little 'I love you' song (so cute!) to cheer her up, but I apart from "your mother is an idiot" I'm not sure what to say.

Sorry about my rant, but I'm in need of some assvice. I understand that parenting teenage girls is difficult, but what kind of mother calls her 13 year old a slut?! How do you ask/tell a co-parent to change the way they are parenting their child? How do I undo the poison this woman is putting in her daughter's head? Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?


Melbagirl said...

You are not making a mountain out of a molehill.

The girl is at a critical age. Don't the clever books say that her father is an important role model for her at the moment? She's very lucky to have such a good role-model as her father then. Hopefully she won't make the same mistakes her mother is making with loser boyfriends if she has her father as an example.

Still, my heart goes out to her. The girl is old enough to make up her own mind where she wants to live and may decide life is rosier with you guys. No child deserves to be called a slut. At her age she needs to be listened to and understood. If I was in your shoes, I would seek to understand her - listen to her, and be a good role-model (her mother's not doing a very good job!).

Your step daughter is the number one most important person at the moment and worth a sacrifice, or a risk; I think you are right to want to intervene. Children are precious. I've never had a teenage daughter problem though and so I wish I could be more help! This may be your first real reason to visit a parenting board! Sorry. Just my two cents worth because I'm not a councillor, but I can understand your desire to want to help her. I'd want to help her too. Maybe you could ask her if she can think of anything you can do to help her ... what are her thoughts? I'm wishing her all the best love and you all the best judgement.

sweetpeapod said...

I don't have any brilliant advice for you on this one... but it definitely is important that you continue to be there for Rose and to keep your lines of communications open. It must be a really frustrating situation for you. On the other hand, I'm glad that you're able to be there for her. I don't think there's any age I'd LESS like to be back at than 13! Poor girl.

Wordgirl said...

Oh awful.

I had a difficult mother when I was 13 -- but she balanced the awful with the wonderful -- so that was a saving grace -- but I've heard it said that it takes only one caring, loving adult to change the course of a child's life -- and it sounds like that's what you are to Rose -- I've found that I can't say anything directly to W's stepmom -- it's far too volatile, even with how well we get along -- any sticky territory is dealt with through my husband and I usually just give him my opinion -- but even then sometimes he gets overloaded -- if X is super emotional and draining on one end -- and I'm expressive on the other -- he hates that too...so I've found that all I can do is love W -- and be the kind of mother to him that I wish he had -- and if he ever wants to talk about his mom I'll listen, but usually I tell stories about my mom and how hurt I was when she did 'x' -- or an emotional story from my childhood -- (within boundaries, of course) so its a story where he knows he's not alone, he knows I get it, and he knows I'm here if he ever wants to talk...but if I were to address X directly to him I'd afraid it'd backfire, no matter what she's like, she's still his mom...

Rose is very very lucky to have you. It's so hard isn't it? I think stepparenthood is the hardest job...of course, I'm biased :)



Kenya said...

You can't "undo" anything. As her stepmom you can only support her. Keep giving her advise and having one on one talks with her. If she feels that she can trust you and talk to you it will make a world of difference once boys become her world. I was one of those 13 yr olds from hell.

LL said...

Is the Screaming Banshee a wanna-be Roberta Williams????

How awful for Rose. I think the only advice I can give is just keep the lines of communication open.. keep talking about positive self image.

Rebecca said...

I teach 8th grade, so I deal with these girls all the time...you're right, you're only getting one side of the story, but you're also right in the fact that her Mom has to watch what she says. As long as your husband has his ideas about how this can go, all you can do is listen when she wants to talk. Put yourself out there and make sure that she knows that you will listen and try to help. I suggest that when school starts, your husband gets in touch with the counselor...it's amazing how different these kids act when they're in school as opposed to home. Good luck...this is the toughest time to be a parent...take your vitamins!

sara said...

You aren't making a mountain out of nothing - you're just being a great and concerned parent. Girls are really impressionable - and I think the best thing you can do is be there for you. Which it sounds like you already do a great job doing just that. But it is hard to see others not quite following your lead. ((hugs))

Anonymous said...

I was the victim of that kind of verbal abuse from my mother and it nearly destroyed my life. I allowed myself to be abused by men thinking I was worthless. Please talk to her and so should her father, because had someone intervened, I might have been spared years of low self esteem that hasn't been entirely fixed.