Comforting an 18 Year Old

I realize the situation is different, very different, but there are times, inconvenient, unexpected, annoying little times when I forget it is different.

There are times the hurt 18 year old in me still kicks herself to the surface of my skin to be seen, heard and acknowledged. There are times when she (and yeah, I, since we share the same body much like Melanie Stryder and Wanderer do in Stephanie Myers book The Host) she demands attention. I give it to her. For even if the situation that provoked her does not positively correlate to what we are feeling, we are feeling something and it must be acknowledged.

The latest emotional kickboxing match happened a week or so ago with my mother. My fabulous amazing niece (born a few short years after my daughter — out of wedlock —  and acknowledged in the family as the FIRST grandchild, cough cough) is moving across the country. She graduated college last spring with her Bachelors in Fashion Merchandising. Since graduation she has been hunting for a job in her field locally and has been unsuccessful.  She is working (this woman works many jobs, put herself through college and is an all around amazing, independent, mature young lady) but not where she wants to be.

A few weeks ago she was offered the opportunity to work for an upscale national department store chain at their corporate headquarters. The company was listed on the Forbes Top 100 Companies to work for and has offered my niece a job in the field she studied to work in.  One might be prompted to utter a squeal of delight, right? Do a happy dance for her, slap her a high five, and holler “way to gooooo girlfriend!”.

I did.

But other members of the family did not.

Why not, you ask? Why wouldn’t her family be happy for her?

The job requires her to relocate 3K miles away from us to the employers headquarters located in Seattle, WA.

The family was not happy.

As the young woman attempted to make the decision to accept the job, looking into costs of moving, deciding to fly or drive, discussing apartments, she reached out to her loved ones for guidance.  Nearly everywhere she turned she was met with barriers, discouraging messages and negative emotions.

It infuriated me, for two reasons.

First, the adult me reason,  speaking as her aunt, my niece is amazing. She is doing exactly what she has been groomed to do, what she worked so hard for during her four years of college, semesters in Paris, internships in NYC at Bendels and more. She is bright, ambitious, focused, forward moving. Why would ANYONE that loves her NOT support her? How do you look a 20 something year old young lady in the face and refuse to answer her questions, refuse to help her?  How do you answer her questions with negative responses? I don’t get it.

My mother and I bickered about it. I told my mother I disagreed with her behavior (and that of other family members). If they love niece, and I know they do, deeply, they should be supporting her. I realize they speak from a place of love (they will miss her, wish she found a job more local) but sometimes we need to put our own selfish desires aside and HELP people.  I cut the conversation with my mother short as I knew it was going  nowhere good.   Yet, inside myself, the bickering continued and managed to get to a slow burn.

When the slow burn started I found myself a bit startled at its intensity and took to my usual self reflection.

Here comes the 18 year old.

My mother, my family, had NO PROBLEM putting a pregnant eighteen year old member of the family on a plane to IL (yeah, only 1000 miles away) to give birth among strangers. No problems abandoning her and encouraging her to abandon her first born.  I realized my slow burn was rooted here.

They throw up barriers and roadblocks and hang onto darling 22 yo niece that is fully equipped to take care of herself, college educated, employed, has friends in Seattle and yet they were able to easily put ME on a plane to Chicago to strangers?

It hurts me, even all these years later, it stings.  Sandpaper dragged across my heart.  Me and my inner 18 year old? We are kinda pissed off about it.

Where was all that love and clinging family nature in 1985?

Yes, different situation, different person, I know that. I do.

I am working on educating the 18 year old mother to that fact.

9 Thoughts.

  1. You are such an amazing person with so much personal insight and the generosity to share it. You blow my mind. {hugs}

  2. I completely understand why you & your inner self are pissed off. I’m glad that you were able to figure out the connection. What a sad, but so very true connection.

    Your niece is lucky to have you in her life ~ at least she has a cheerleader in you (and your 18 y/o inner self!).

    • Elizabeth – I may be inclined to agree with you on the root cause. We may differ on the cure statement. At this juncture I dont believe I can stop those triggers from slaying me every now and then, but I believe my awareness allows me to choose how deeply they cut me, how dysfunctional they make me, how much they cause me to act out, be difficult, and alienate myself from others when I am in pain. For me, awareness has been key and now I work on my own form of cognitive behavior therapy. (For example, a younger version of myself would have seriously lashed out at my mom, my family, all around me. It woulda gotten ugly and in the end, for me, even worse).

      At least thats the current theory and approach. Always subject to change.

      • Oh I agree completely with what you said above. Cure,no, but managed, yes. I should have elaborated, sorry!

  3. Suz, Thanks for this insight. I’ve suffered “rages out of nowhere” from time to time, and usually can find the root in my child-teen-young adult self, much of it from how I was treated during and after my pregnancy. Sometimes even from my early reunion, when my parents rejected my son. We do have to take care of that young girl inside us, and I agree that doing so can go a long way toward healing.

    Hugs to you, best to your niece. She’ll get where she’s going.

  4. It’s different… but it is still hypocritical. And, it’s still not supporting you (or your niece) with doing what either of you WANT(ED) to do. They are trying to continue to control the situation by not being supportive and trying to control the situation with their lack of support.

  5. My family’s nephew was born into a similar circumstance that paralleled my own birth. Yet he is permitted to stay with *his* family.

    I get the triggers.

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