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  • Writer's pictureclaudiaherman

When Your Teenager Knows EVERYTHING!

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

I live with two teenagers. They are both exceptional human beings. Interesting. Funny. Kind. Insightful. They also know EVERYTHING!

One teenager, who shall be known as Mr T, went skiing with school.

The other teenager, let's call her Em, spent a few days in Iceland with her mum, aka me.

Anyone on the socials will know we all had a fabulous time and approximately a gazillion photos were shared.

When our teenagers know EVERYTHING, it might push our buttons as parents and carers but it is in fact a completely normal and healthy phase of development called Individuation.

This is when our kids start to realise that we're not conjoined. They no longer look entirely to us for their sense of self. We're no longer cool or super heroes. In fact we're just normal, ordinary, flawed humans.

This can come as a shock to both parties and can feel a bit hurtful for parents and a bit disappointing for kids.

My daughter has spent 14 years in my company. She has holidayed with me on several occasions.

However, this time she noticed. She noticed that I have zero sense of direction. She noticed that I'm disorganised and chaotic. She noticed that I'm mal coordinated and calamitous. She noticed that I can't read maps. She noticed that I can't remember landmarks.

She is very sharp in her observations and very blunt in her delivery of her observations.

She shared her observations in the manner of a confident, smart 14 year old girl and initially I felt hurt.

I felt hurt for the following reasons:

Anyone who has the honour of knowing my daughter knows she can be a bit blunt in her delivery. So, yep, it stings.

I was diagnosed as being dyspraxic and dyslexic only very recently. My whole life prior to diagnosis, I felt embarrassed and stupid.

Whilst sharing her observations she asked me, 'How have we been on holidays before?' Well, it has required a super human amount of effort, of which she was blissfully unaware because she wasn't 14 years old on previous holidays.

Also, previous holidays have involved package holidays where we hang out by a pool all day and my only responsibility is to ensure that no one drowns, and holidaying with a wonderful friend who is a functioning adult who can read maps and plan.

Previously, when people, usually lovely friends, have passed comment on my woeful organisation skills and general calamitousness, although comment has been passed playfully and without malice, I have felt judged and criticised and have made myself style it out and go along with the joke, of which I'm the punchline.

Had I know earlier that I'm dyspraxic, my likely response might have been, 'I'm dyspraxic, get over it'.

Because I have been much more on top of my daughter's needs than I have my own, I was first aware that she likely was neurodivergent before she was 2 years old.

Her dad and I have worked hard to ensure that she has had appropriate support and has been able to amass tools and strategies to unlock her neurodivergent gifts and to navigate challenges.

Dyspraxia was suggested for her when she was about 3 years old. I'd be very surprised if she met diagnostic criteria now. She is also dyslexic, dyscalculic, and autistic. And she has a ton of strategies.

After about 3.6 seconds of feeling hurt by her comments and making it be all about me. I was hit by a wave of pride.

I'm so proud of her. I'm so proud of all her work. I'm so proud of her strategies. I'm so proud that she is becoming her own person. I'm so proud of her that she is better than me at stuff.

I'm not in competition with my own child. I don't have to be a super hero to her. I'm a normal, ordinary, flawed human person and that is completely healthy.

Readers of previous blogs will know that Em missed two and a half years of school due to unmet sensory and mental health needs. For her to have this level of confidence and self belief was unthinkable not so long ago.

On the flight over, we observed a fascinating interaction. The man, in the couple, in front of us got very angry with another man who almost accidentally hit the angry man's partner with an item of luggage he was retrieving from the overhead locker.

The man who had upset the angry man appeared to be guilty only of poor spatial skills. When the angry man brought it to his attention through a series of effs and jeffs, he apologised immediately and unreservedly. The angry man could not be placated. The woman he was with looked very embarrassed and was saying to the angry man, 'It's okay, he's said sorry'.

Before and after this interaction the woman was constantly pacifying, anticipating his needs, offering him food, and calling him 'babe'.

It felt familiar. Only rather than an adult partner, the dynamic reminded me of trying to manage an unexploded toddler - give them whatever they want until we're somewhere suitable for a meltdown so we're not mortified with embarrassment.

On the surface the angry man appeared to be motivated out of wanting to protect his partner from being clonked on the head with a piece of luggage. It seemed maybe that this was not his motivation when he continued to be verbally aggressive after the man with the poor spatial skills had apologised.

I cannot second guess what was going on for the angry man. We know that when our amygdala is activated our logical brain goes offline and that it takes approximately 40 minutes until our cortisol levels return to a more normal, manageable level.

Maybe he just couldn't process the apology or access his logical brain.

I felt concerned for his partner.

Afterwards, my 14 year old asked me, 'Is that an abusive relationship? Do you think that lady is safe?' And we chatted about what we had seen.

I am so proud of her observation skills. I'm so proud of her emotional radar. I'm so proud that she recognises red flags.

So, on balance, I can cope with her expressing exasperation on holiday with her slightly chaotic, dyspraxic mum.

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