When my mother-in-law sent me this, it allowed me to exhale.
I recently read it aloud at an event and so many parents wanted a copy, I wanted to share it with you as well.
It is for those of us who are living with teenagers, it reminds us what it is all for, and honours the path they are forging. Please pass this on to anyone who needs to be reminded of what it is all for!
We are all in this together. xxx
“This is the letter I wish I could write,” wrote the teenager to the parents…
“This fight we are in right now. I need it. I need this fight. I can’t tell you this because I don’t have the language for it and it wouldn’t make sense anyway. But I need this fight. Badly. I need to hate you right now and I need you to survive it. I need you to survive my hating you and you hating me. I need this fight even though I hate it too. It doesn’t matter what this fight is even about: curfew, homework, laundry, my messy room, going out, staying in, leaving, not leaving, boyfriend, girlfriend, no friends, bad friends. It doesn’t matter. I need to fight you on it and I need you to fight me back.
I desperately need you to hold the other end of the rope. To hang on tightly while I thrash on the other end—while I find the handholds and footholds in this new world I feel like I am in. I used to know who I was, who you were, who we were. But right now I don’t. Right now I am looking for my edges and I can sometimes only find them when I am pulling on you. When I push everything I used to know to its edge. Then I feel like I exist and for a minute I can breathe. I know you long for the sweeter kid that I was. I know this because I long for that kid too, and some of that longing is what is so painful for me right now.
I need this fight and I need to see that no matter how bad or big my feelings are—they won’t destroy you or me. I need you to love me even at my worst, even when it looks like I don’t love you. I need you to love yourself and me for the both of us right now. I know it sucks to be disliked and labeled the bad guy. I feel the same way on the inside, but I need you to tolerate it and get other grownups to help you. Because I can’t right now. If you want to get all of your grown up friends together and have a ‘surviving-your-teenager-support-group-rage-fest’ that’s fine with me. Or talk about me behind my back–I don’t care. Just don’t give up on me. Don’t give up on this fight. I need it.
This is the fight that will teach me that my shadow is not bigger than my light. This is the fight that will teach me that bad feelings don’t mean the end of a relationship. This is the fight that will teach me how to listen to myself, even when it might disappoint others.
And this particular fight will end. Like any storm, it will blow over. And I will forget and you will forget. And then it will come back. And I will need you to hang on to the rope again. I will need this over and over for years.
I know there is nothing inherently satisfying in this job for you. I know I will likely never thank you for it or even acknowledge your side of it. In fact, I will probably criticize you for all this hard work. It will seem like nothing you do will be enough. And yet, I am relying entirely on your ability to stay in this fight. No matter how much I argue. No matter how much I sulk. No matter how silent I get.
Please hang on to the other end of the rope. And know that you are doing the most important job that anyone could possibly be doing for me right now.
Love, Your Teenager”
© 2015 Gretchen L Schmelzer Ph.D.
“Bigger, Stronger, Wiser, Kind, and Committed – these are always at the core of healthy parenting. Gretchen Schmelzer is utilizing the wisdom on Donald Winnicott who (60 years ago) emphasized the hard necessity of a parent enduring a child’s hatred (starting in toddlerhood). He also made the painful observation that parents also need to endure the hard necessity of sometimes feeling their own hatred (his word) and deep resentment of a child. No pretending it isn’t true and also no pretending that we can act it out on our child. We must find the support we need (from those we trust) to name it and then hold it as part of the hard work miracle that parenting involves.
Surviving hatred: not something most of us signed up for when we chose to be parents, but it sure comes with the territory.”