Can anyone offer thoughts to change how I see my 11 year old? She is so much like her father, whom I divorced 3 years ago and it is so many of the aspects that I loathed in him, I find myself loathing them in her and that is a really yucky feeling. I watch some behaviors and they put me right back into that time in place when things were so bad with him...it brings it all up again.
For example; he was never motivated to do anything. Watching tv, eating, and avoiding helping me with kids/house was a daily battle. He didn't help with discipline, making parenting decisions, or anything else. He just zoned 95% of the time. He ignored me and was disrespectful of me.
My dd's motivation is a little better, but still she would rather absorb into the tv and eat as opposed to doing anything constructive at all. I thank the Gods she like to read because it is the one thing I can have her go do. But when I watch her zoning out, not being responsible with her things, expecting me to do everything for her, and not having an interest in doing much, I feel like the ignored mom/wife who didn't matter. Taking it a step beyond this and beyond me, it's good for her to learn to be creative and interested and attentive to her things etc. But..as a general rule, she's not. When I watch her I am truly afraid for her future. Obviously there's more to it than just the example I'm giving, but the fear I have is real and the issues/behaviors she has are real.
I think there may be some genetic issues at play. For example, her dad meets the criteria for aspergers and I see some of these sensory issues in dd, although she has been tested for processing disorders. I've known she has had issues her entire life, but it's never really been pinpointed. Because she is high functioning (does decent in school, has friends) they've never considered testing for autism spectrum....
ack..there's just a lot.
Maybe I don't make sense and it's late/stressful day.
Awww, those feelings are tough. I haven't been through a separation or divorce, but I know exactly how it can feel to see behaviours in your kids that give you this awful tidal wave of a feeling that they're turning out all wrong. I've had those feelings. Usually they say more about me and my state of mind than about my kids. A few days later I'll be in a different state of mind and my worries will seem silly. But they come back....
It sounds like your dh never grew out of the self-centred lazy irresponsible tween stage. And that must have been infuriating and impossible to live with. But here's the thing: it's normal for your dd to be in a self-centred lazy irresponsible tween stage. Perfectly normal. She's eleven. It wasn't developmentally appropriate behaviour for an adult male, but for her ... it's fine, it'll pass, it's not a sign of genetics, it's a sign of being 11. Old enough to have specific desires and to be remarkably capable in many respects but not quite there yet with the goal-setting, self-motivation, social graces and perseverance necessary to take on more grown-up levels of responsibility.
When I was going through periods of despair with my kids I found it very helpful to be able to go back and revisit things I had journaled about them when I was feeling proud, hopeful and tender towards them. It helped me balance my perspective and ease the despair. I would very much encourage you to consider doing that ... to take a few minutes once a day, or once a week, or whenever you feel like you can, to write down observations and thoughts that make you proud of your dd, that celebrate her moments of goodness and grace. To me those anecdotes and thoughts were like savings in the bank that I could withdraw when times were tough.
I expect these worries will wax and wane throughout her adolescence, but you (and she) will likely come out the other end just fine. Expect goodness from her, and look for it and celebrate it. She'll live up to that view you have of her.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
Hi, You totally make sense. I think that part of the answer is letting go of the hurt and anger from your marriage (I know that is easier said than done). She is bringing up those feelings because you haven't fully released them. Do what ever works for YOU to truly move past it -- therapy, yoga, journaling, etc.
Part of the problem is that what you describe from her is typical adolescent behavior. "zoning out, not being responsible with her things, expecting me to do everything for her, and not having an interest in doing much" describes many teens at least part of the time. While these are things that we help our children move past, it isn't anything to take personal. Keep reminding yourself that her behavior really doesn't have anything to do with you or with your ex.
My advice is to work on developing friendships with adults you really enjoy. When your needs for acceptance and belonging are met, you will have less of a need for your DD to fulfill them, and therefore will hopefully feel less sad and hurt when she is just acting..... her age.
My other advice is to try to find SOMETHING you enjoy doing with your DD. Sadly, I know that at times, this can be very challenging. But may be the two of you would enjoy hunting in used books stores, and then getting a Starbucks, or seeing cheesy teen films together while sharing popcorn. I don't think it matters what it is, but some way of spending time together when you are just being together, not worrying about how she'll turn out.
I get the worrying about special needs stuff -- I have a DD with high functioning autism. Not sure what to say, except that 12 was a real low point in her life, and now she is 17 and doing really well.
but everything has pros and cons
Those feelings pop-up in lots of different ways. My little brother was incredibly difficult. Very sensitive and intelligent but also had intense anger issues. The house was a battle field most nights no matter what my parents tried (and they did try everything.) We all carry scars from those years both physical and emotional. Along comes my DS who looks just like him and has "just enough" in common to freak me out once in awhile. Puberty has brought out his impulsive, over-emotional and angry side. He had an outburst a month ago which really, was not outside normal for a 13-year-old boy... certainly nothing close to what my brother was like but I was instantly transported back in time and found myself cowering in my room trying to stop shaking. I know how you feel and it's not a good feeling.
I don't have any answers really. Just empathy. I know at the root, I need to come to terms with my brother, his childhood and how it effected my childhood. For the time being, I just try to focus on DS's positives and there are many.
Hugs to you!
Thank you so much everyone. So much helpful advice,. but also helpful to know I am not alone. I've done much better today with staying calm. I'll be here a lot I think!