Posted by: drrozkaplan | December 30, 2009

I Hope You Have a Child Just Like You

Okay all you parents out there:  I know I am not alone but I would love to hear from some other folks who are not enjoying this parenting thing right now.

I’m feeling like I suck at this currently.  Not in the big, global, call Division of Youth and Family Services immediately kind of way.  My kids, at 16 and 19, have survived this long without serious parental abuse or neglect.  The older one is legally an adult now, so in theory I can’t neglect him anymore (although he would definitely tell you differently if I didn’t pay plenty of attention to him).  They’ve had their annual check-ups, dental cleanings, and all their vaccines (oh, wait-my daughter will tell you that the vaccines are a form of abuse, since I bring them home from the office to administer and am forced to chase her around the house until she submits to receiving them.)  They are receiving top-notch educations- my son is at an elite university and my daughter attends an alternative high school where she receives individualized instruction for a subtle learning difference.  When they have had emotional stressors, they have had counseling.  My husband and I have worked hard to provide enough limits and structure while still being emotionally accessible.  We welcome their friends into our home.  AND YET OFTEN…

They think we are idiots.  They are enraged by our very existence.  They think everything we say and do is an attempt to annoy them.  They believe all house rules were created by us as cruel whims.  They remember every thing that happens that upsets them and forget everything nice that was ever done for them.

Okay, yes, I am complaining.  I’m complaining about the unfairness of parenting adolescents.  Because  in the world of parenting, adolescents will chew you up and spit you out if you let them.  You better not make a mistake, because they will never let you forget it.  They are unbelievably harsh critics.

They dish it out, but they really can’t take it.  They can rail at us, scream, yell, and say awful things to and about us.  And we can’t fight back.  Because inside, they are mush.  We know they really don’t mean all the horrible stuff they’re saying, that they’re just angry and can’t handle all their feelings.  But if we were to say awful things back to them, they wouldn’t know that we didn’t mean it.  They would take it to heart and believe that they are bad, or ugly, or stupid, or whatever it is that was said to them.  So we have to stay calm and not yell and just set limits.  It’s SO not fair!

It’s exhausting to take the high road 24/7 when you have tyrannical beings who are as big (or bigger) than you, but have underdeveloped brains, living in your house.

Since my college kid has been home and our usual equilibrium has been disturbed, I have felt like I’m going to blow a gasket half the time.  His days and nights are turned around completely- he sleeps from about 4 am to 1 pm, and  often leaves to go out for the evening around 10 pm.  Any comment on his lifestyle brings an angry response.  We are trying to negotiate our right to have an opinion without being intrusive. Very tricky. I’d rather just scream at him, but I know I can’t.

Meanwhile, our high school age daughter is struggling with privileges and the responsibilities they carry.  Her social life on the weekends is directly affected by how much of her schoolwork and how many chores she accomplishes during the week.  It is painful to watch her learn from mistakes, and I feel myself being very impatient with her learning process at times.

A couple years ago, I was dressed to go out to a benefit dinner.  I was wearing a long brocade jacket and pants.  My son saw me and asked, in a perturbed tone, “Where are you going?”  I told him I was going to an AIDS benefit dinner.  He said, “Are you sure you’re not going to a Revolutionary War reenactment?  Because you look a lot like George Washington in that outfit.”

Of course, I had to change my clothes after he said that, and that jacket eventually went to the Salvation Army.  It was really a pretty clever comment on his part, and very funny.  But it was also mean.  Not tactful at all.  And because he was a kid, he could get away with it.  That’s the awful thing about adolescents.  They’ll get right in your face like that, and at least in my situation, I couldn’t let it roll off my back.  (I have to admit, my son has a pretty good eye).  But don’t ever say anything like that to them, or you’ll regret it.  You’ll never hear the end of it.  If I think something they’re wearing doesn’t look right, I hold my tongue, unless I think it will cause them grave embarrassment.  Then I say something like, “I’m probably just being an old person who doesn’t know anything about what young people wear, but is that 5-inch hole in the crotch of your pants supposed to be there?”  I have to be so careful not to hurt their fragile egos.

I hear they grow up one way or another.  I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes.  I long ago heard myself say stupid things I swore I’d never say, like “don’t run with that pencil, you’ll put an eye out.”  Now I’m just trying to keep myself from saying, “I hope you have a child just like you some day- then you’ll understand.”



  1. You did bring a smile to my face this morning. My thought was “she lives my life”! How wonderful to know that most parents will “enjoy” this same behavior while raising their adolescents. Our only child seems to butt heads with me more often than my husband, but has always been a Daddy’s Girl and finds no faults in him. I find I am less often saying “please change your attitude” or “please change your tone of voice” and am glad for the stress free days that we have in our home. I know I will miss these days when she is grown and out of the house (though that could be never and I might be happy with that), but for now, I just try to not take it all personally.

    • smart lady-you WILL miss it- we had a torturous visit with our son, now he has been gone for less than 24 hours and I am sad!

  2. I luv it… we (older folks who have been there) call it just retribution (for all that you “inflicted” on us for many years).

    But there is a serious side to what you say. We are going through some tryimg times with our friends, who are old enough to be be encumbered with some serious physical,emotional and mental problems. Those of us who have children who apparently don’t care, or haven’t learned about caring, are seeing the results. And in brief, I suspect part of that caring of the younger set… the sandwich generation if you will… is a learned phenomenon from the years where Parents cared. So the hard facts are Keep caring and worrying… selfishly, it may pay off someday.

    Parenthetically, we are among gthe fortunate ones.. I guess we “abused” our kids suffiebiently to make them caring adults.. Luv you all


    • yup- retribution- we got that kid just like you had….
      no really, I know just what you’re saying…and by holding the unnamed child to task, we got unnamed child straightened out, at least this time!

  3. Hi Dr. Kaplan,

    Don’t worry, we “kids” do grow up eventually, we will remember the nice things you did for us (we remember them as teenagers too- but we won’t say it yet)… we might even actually SAY “thank you” one day. One day we do realize that parents do the best they can, where they are, with what they have.

    Just hang in there another 10 or 15 years and you will get all of the rewards coming to you! Promise.


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