For most parents, the teen years are quite tumultuous.
Maybe even a bit traumatic.
A constant push and pull. Your teens push for freedom. Your desire to pull them in and keep them protected.
Even though my daughter has limited verbal skills, she still displays typical teenage antics.
She uses a mix of sign and a few spoken words - the rest… well her body language tells all.
I often notice her scanning my face, gauging my reaction…searching for my response.
Today, however, she didn’t care about my reaction.
While I was getting dressed on this particular morning, she walked into my closet and found something under one of the shelves - a dusty pink Bass Pro hat that I saved in case of hair emergencies.
After getting dressed, I walked into the kitchen to fix my favorite cup of coffee and turned around to my 16-year-old donning my emergency-use hat. She had it placed at a 95-degree angle on her head.
And the Push/Pull Battle began.
During Round 1, I gently explained that it was a normal school day and that hats were definitely not part of her school’s dress code.
I then helped her take the hat off and turned around to grab my coffee.
She gently tossed her hair and placed the hat back ON her head.
I again explained, “we don’t wear hats to school” - and took the hat off. She then proceeded to place the cap back on her head - just as coyly as before, except this time, she placed it with the bib on the side.
We continued back and forth like this for about 4 more rounds
And finally I gave up.
I sent a text to her teacher and explained the situation. Her teacher found it quite funny, remarked that Tayler had been rather “sassy” lately, and my daughter proudly wore that hat the entire day.
Secretly, while this battle ensued, I was cheering on the inside. I think sometimes parents don’t understand, especially those parents who have “neurotypical” children.
As a mom of a complex child, there’s a certain yearning. A desire to connect with my daughter through language- because over the years it has been quite rare for her to speak, and so at that very moment- that yearning was slightly fulfilled.
The constant wondering. Wondering what she is feeling and what she is thinking.
Is she happy? Is she in pain? What does she want for her birthday? Is she fearful or afraid?
And so this simple act of defiance - was a tiny miracle in itself.
A personal declaration that said “I know what I want - and here’s what is going to happen.”
And isn’t that what most parents want for their daughters after all?
To train strong girls to become strong women with the skills to deflect derogatory, negative, misogynistic beliefs and/or behaviors, and stand confidently in their own skin.
Call it “strong-willed”, “Type A”, or just plain bossy…
Defiance is a huge sign of the need and desire for independence…. another sign of maturity.
My daughter can’t always express herself in the manner she wants to- but she CAN express herself in standing up for what she wants.
Maybe instead of viewing and enduring the teenage years with dread, we should look at it as a milestone.
A sign of our teens’ ability to make decisions (however bad they may be).
A sign of the gift of making choices (some people are unable to).
A sign that she is developing the skills to function in a world that is often cruel and lonely.
A sign of increasing self-confidence.
A sign that she will have ways to make her voice heard no matter where she is.
A sign that one day, she will put her foot down, show defiance, and stand up for what she believes in.
And today she believed in this hat.