My daughter has always been a little on the quiet side. As a baby, she didn’t start talking until she was almost three, and even then, her words were few and far between. If she was upset about something she would get over it really quickly, and before I knew it, she was on to something else.
And if her little brother was upset about something (this happened a lot), she knew how to distract him and direct his attention to something happy and positive. She knew more about how to sooth a toddler than I did. I was so thankful for her and her calm demeanor. It was like she had magical powers, nothing affected her for very long. I won’t lie– it made dealing with her so easy. I could count on the fact she would not carry on, cry, or throw a long, drawn-out fit.
As she’s gotten older, she still deals with her hurt and angst in the same way– she pushes it down, will not talk about it, and finds a distraction. It’s something I never considered to be a problem when she was younger and I wish she would open up more and talk about what’s going on inside her head.
Just because she’s quiet about her feelings, it doesn’t mean she isn’t sensitive–she is– very much so. I think that confuses people, they may look at her and think she is strong because she doesn’t complain or go on and on when she is upset, but as her mother, it’s hard to watch because I know there is so much going on inside her brain.
We all know too well how damaging it can be when we stuff our feelings; the other night she was clearly upset about something, I’m guessing it had to do with friends from school, but I could be wrong. I tried to get her to talk and she didn’t want to. I know she doesn’t just do this with me, either. I’ve seen her do it with her father, grandmother, friends, and cousins. She literally clams up, walks away from the situation, then a bit later, she emerges as if nothing has happened.
I’m always available to her and she knows it. I try to coax her with stories about how hard some things during my teen years were. I’ve let her know how much better she will feel if she talks to someone about what’s on her mind. I’ve tried to give her space and see if she’ll come to me and talk on her own because perhaps all my asking and prodding makes her feels suffocated, but it hasn’t helped.
I’ve sent texts to see if maybe it’s easier for her to communicate that way, I get nothing.
I feel like I’ve tried it all and come to accept that fact my daughter needs time to decompress. She needs space. When she is upset, she doesn’t want to talk. This is the way she processes things right now and I hope, as she gets older, she will realize how important it is to face situations, even if they are uncomfortable. I want her to appreciate the power behind having a simple talk. I want her to see that getting things off your chest, with the person you are upset with, or someone you trust, can be the best therapy.
I want her to have successful relationships with partners, friends, and colleagues. A big part of that is communication, and letting them know when you are upset– you can’t just give people the silent treatment until you feel like talking (not all the time anyway), then act like everything is okay. It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to her. Feelings always fester if you don’t deal with them.
And I won’t give up on her. I do something else instead: We still have important talks about hard stuff, we just have them when she’s not upset, and feeling closed off.
I bring up the subject of friends when we are shopping together. I ask her about peer pressure and boys while we are out for ice cream. During long car rides, when her brothers have their noses in a device, we talk about school work, trying really hard, and believing in yourself when you feel down or like you could have done better. I let her know it’s okay to not be the best at something, and she should walk away from situations and people that aren’t serving her.
I can’t protect her from all the things this world is going to throw at her. But I can talk to her about it and offer advice. I’ve just found, with her, she is more available to listen when she’s not trying to process something hard. She is able to hear my message when she is feeling happy, and hopefully remember it when things bring her down.
It kills me she won’t open up, but I am her mother and I am not going to shut up and hope she figures it out for herself. It’s my job to teach her how to thrive and I won’t be quiet about such important stuff just because she’s not always open to talk about it.
And I know she is listening because the other day I started talking about how inappropriate some girls were treating their “friends” in a television she was watching. I mentioned the best thing to do is walk away from people like that because they will never be worth your energy, and if you have to convince someone to like you, it’s not a genuine and true relationship.
She looked at me and responded with,”Mom, does everything have to be a life-lesson?”
Right now, with two tweens and teenager in my house, my answer is,”Yes, it certainly does.”