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“Huh.” It’s a Complete Sentence and Will Revolutionize Your Relationship With Your Teen. (I Swear.)

For me, having my children become teenagers was like having a cherished family pet die. I had been so accustomed to the presence of sweet, happy go-lucky kids that the intrusion of unexpected and prolonged silence was unexpected. No more jumping up to see me when I came home from work. No more following me around the house. Granted, there was less whining, but a lot less sprinting for joy at the site of my mediocre cooking.

With teenagers came aloofness and quiet.

The change felt jarring.

And sad.

And for this mama who – despite trying really hard not to be a helicopter mama – still swelled with joy at every little milestone, it felt terribly lonely.

All the prep in the world couldn’t have prepared me for my 13-year-old / size 13 shoe wearing boy turning me down for In and Out Burger this summer. “Sorry, Mom. I’ve got a Minecraft hangout scheduled with the guys.”

All the chats with moms of girls older than mine didn’t ease the blow when my curvy hipped 13-year-old this year started declining watching Mama movies with me. (Apparently Youtube is more exciting than classics like The Breakfast Club or kitshy Brady Bunch re-runs. Who knew?)

While I figured I would make it through the moody “Leave me alone” stage, I wasn’t expecting the “everything you say sucks, Mom” stage. Sure, I’ve read in all those fancy journals about how kids practice on Mom to learn to set boundaries elsewhere, but it still hurt.

And, despite my best efforts to let it roll off my back, I sometimes hurt them right back. Door slam for door slam, verbal insult for verbal insult, the three of us had some pretty exciting car rides. The most fulfilling were always on the way to church. On route to being holy, we held each other hostage within locked doors, each one-upping the other’s statements in a vicious attempt to win an argument over who made who late.

If I had to put it simply, all that “relationship over being right” theory sounded good until they developed body hair. And then it all went to crap, along with my hopes of ever being close to them again.

Until last month, when my daughter locked herself in the bathroom on Halloween, and my world forever changed. While I hadn’t tried to cajole her out the door to trick or treat with her brother and bestie, I did attempt to insert my opinion when the whole ordeal was over.

“What’s your part?” I asked her, after listening to every painstaking detail about why things just didn’t “go her way” and how “unfair it was.”

I didn’t see a thing wrong with my words. After all, I didn’t interrupt her once. I was a good listener. Now was her time to listen so she wouldn’t lose out on future opportunities to have fun. Right?

Wrong.

Pip: “Mom, to be honest, I just wanted you to listen and not say anything.”

For whatever reason, instead of defending my statements (which, come on, were totally amazing points and great advice… saving her thousands of dollars in future therapy) I asked her the simple question, “You mean, not say anything? At all?”

Pip: “Yeah. Nothing.”

Me: “Huh.”

People, did you know “Huh” is a complete sentence? With that very caveman response, I unintentionally broke through the teenage time space contingency and found an oasis of understanding, hearing and safety. Unexpectedly, I heard something that could have blown me over with a feather:

Pip: “Yeah. I would have been open maybe tomorrow, but today I just wanted to be heard.”

And with that last statement, as if by some magical alien implanting a chip, everything flashed before my eyes, including a resolution:

  1. If I just stay silent, she’ll tell me more.
  2. If I ask if I can give an opinion first, she’ll feel more respected
  3. If I don’t ask and just give the opinion, she might not be listening anyway
  4. Unless what she is saying to me is directly affecting me, my schedule or my life in a negative way, there’s no need to say anything at all.

NOTE: Pay most attention to #4 – it helps in the heat of battle to know when to lobby a missle or flee.

As if to hit the nail on the head even more, my son asked his sister the very next day, “Hey, Pip, do you mind telling me what happened? Only if you want to?”

She did. In the same painstaking, blow by blow, OH MY GOD MAKE IT STOP detail.

His response, “Ahhh. That must have been hard.”

Her response: “Yeah.”

His followup: “Want to play Minecraft?”

Her response: “Let’s do it.”

Done.

The End.

The real takeaway: Saying less really does mean more in the life of a teen. 

2 more things

  1. Since Halloween, I’ve used the word “Huh” more times than I can count. And it’s been more peaceful in this house than it’s been in a year.
  2. My son will be 15 next month. He’s 6’3, wears a size 14 shoe, and eats more than large farm animal. (Oh, he hasn’t eaten animals in a year, either. In addition to being psychologically more in tune than me, he’s also a vegetarian.)

Ask me how little Stink is now bigger than my fridge? You’ll only get one response so I don’t cry.

“Huh.”

 

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My book is available on Amazon. Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on FB.

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5 Ways To Face TS and Tics In 2012

I’m excited to bring you my very first post at my new website domain! Like my son’s favorite present from Santa, I hope my site can be a treasured gift to you so that you can find joy despite a diagnosis you may not be thrilled with. If there’s something you disagree with, let me know.

For those of you new to my blog, you can catch up on my TS journey at my old site here. But like Tourettes, despite good and bad days getting used to my new platform, this is my new home. Welcome!

For my first entry, I thought I’d cut and paste an entry I wrote in response to a friend of mine who was worried about her son’s new facial tics. She, like many new moms at the beginning, has moments of complete devastation. Sure, there are times when she feels like she’s okay with her son’s diagnosis (like the time when her son’s tics are the most minimal – shocking, I know.) But just when she feels like maybe she’s accepted his condition, a new twitch starts. With it comes fear, riding on a raging horse.

She wrote that she felt bad about, well, feeling bad! Like somehow she should be more accepting! Other moms in our group, it seems, are “over T.S.” and she isn’t.

For those of you who might feel like you are alone – that other folk can handle T.S. (or any disorder) and you’re in a fetal position in the corner drowning your sorrows with Two Buck Chuck from a sippy cup (hey, I resemble that remark!) rest assured – we all have our off days. Or weeks. Or months. Just hang in there – you will feel better in time.

Here’s my two cents on the subject. I edited my response a bit for the purposes of this blog.

I have been better lately for a variety of reasons.

1. Time: I have been down this road for FIVE years. I get the waxing and waning. I’ve done it all, from food and diet to supplements and possible medication options. I’ve done the holistic docs. I’m starting acupuncture. I have gotten to a point where I accept that Stink has TS and I”m doing my best. I don’t feel like ‘why can’t I fix it’ because I know I can’t 100%. But that leads me to #2.

2. A Plan.I have one. I’m going to do Brain Balance. I need to make some money to do that. This means selling some articles, teaching some online writing classes, Ebay, etc. Doing what I’m passionate about not only makes me joyful, but it has the added benefit of making me think less about the tics so I can actually change something I have control over: my attitude.

3. My Faith – Hope: Christianity has been a tremendous source of support for my up and down emotions.

* Note: Where I ramble like a Bible Thumper –  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This passage is a source of great hope for me. It means that my “suffering” is not in vain.

That tics are just like a puzzle piece. For a while, like when Stink was first diagnosed, the puzzle pieces seemed jarring. It felt like they would never fit together. Slowly, with my plan, I got the border put together. That was my emotional balance.

Now I have some of the middle put together. I can see a beautiful picture despite some missing holes. With faith, the holes can be filled in with a picture I create. That picture is a life where Stink is happy, healthy, funny and over T.S.. And if he’s not over T.S., it’s not in vain, because his character, and mine, was shaped from it.

* More thumping: And a sidenote!  I encourage all of you to find your own personal road to faith! Romans 5: 3-5 promises “And we rejoice in the HOPE of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance: perseverance, character: and character, HOPE. And HOPE does not disappoint us.” (Hooray for hope! I love hope!)

4. Finding my Passion: My writing has been tremendously helpful to me. It’s my love. I can’t form sentences and write blog posts while, at the same time, obsessing about tics. It’s simply impossible. In writing this blog, I am serving others as well. I have bad days like we all do, but in lifting others up, I am selfishly lifting myself up also. The key for me in helping others was realizing that I can’t just serve when I’m feeling okay. God can use me when I’m feeling like a piece of spit out gum stuck to the sidewalk. Before long, I’m blowing good bubbles of encouragement. And I even forgive myself for stupid analogies like the one I just wrote.

* Last thing on serving others: This is not meant as some do-good Christian tip. I don’t care what your religion is or how you feel. Taking your eyes off yourself, and putting them on someone else, is the cure-all for anthing. Don’t believe me? Try it. You’ll get hooked.

5. Acceptance: I accept that some days I’m just down. I don’t like the verbal tics any more than you all do. I have moments where I can’t be in the same room with Stink. I need a break. I have to fight for my “me” time and my “down time” and work on my marriage to do this. It’s created a wedge between my husband and me, at times, as I’m no longer the “yes” person where he gets all the breaks after his hard day at work and I continue to slave. Yes, I have down time while the kids are at school, but I also do a hell of a lot of work while I’m at home alone. I know… I KNOW… I’m worth some relaxation. Rex is starting to understand that. It’s not been a fun road, but he’s getting there, and that is all I need. Love is not a feeling – it’s an action. It’s a verb.

To help with all five points above, I am not ashamed to say I take 75mg of Zoloft every day. It’s evened me out enough to take my head out of my ass and face life the way life is. I hope to not be on it forever, but if I need to take it, I will. My good friend, Chrissy, sent me a link that talks about depression better than I could.

In closing, please know I’m here for all of you. I hope you’ll consider making a plan for yourselves to then get a plan for your child. If it’s meds, go for it. If it’s back to work, go for it. If it’s exercise, go for it. But know this: if it weren’t TS, you’d face something else at some point in your life. Perhaps your mom would die, throwing you into a tailspin. Or a husband who cheats on you. Or your child could have some other illness or you could be diagnosed with something.

I truly truly believe, now, that TS is the invitation we all need to accept life on life’s terms and do the best we can. I pray that you all find peace and are not so hard on yourselves. I’ll take the same hope for me, too.

Until tomorrow, remember my motto: A kid who tics with confidence outweighs an insecure  ass wipe any day of the week. (I should probably consider revising this tagline, but for now, the sentiment remains! Hug that ticker today!)