The one lesson I’ve learned as a parent is not to take my kids’ moods personally. I watch them carefully, because I think teen depression is one of the scariest emotional states for a parent to deal with, but I know it’s not about me.
However, something I’ve said or done may trigger an icy mood. Like the Sunday after Halloween, during my youngest daughter’s candy-induced sugar crash, when I told her that yes, she had to go to school on Monday. She felt overwhelmed because we’d torn apart a corner of her room after her friends left on Sunday morning from their Halloween party. She was unable to mentally deal with the room, plus she had homework to finish for a Monday morning class.
Someone had to be the voice of reason and it’s usually me. Kids need to understand our jobs come first and we fit the rest of our tasks in as we have time; their job is school. For me, it was better to have her at school in a foul mood than be at home, not getting anything done because she was in a foul mood, then watch it snowball with missed school work.
When the kids got home from school, my youngest had a headache she claims was caused by dehydration, which it partly may have been, but I’m sure sugar withdrawal also contributed. I had a nice, healthy dinner ready for them and she was in a better mood at the table. I asked about her icy mood that morning and she told me she had hoped I’d bring it up and let her stay home.
I’m her mother. I know those times when she truly needs a mental break from school. Monday she was just being lazy and even though her statement “I just didn’t want to go to school” was partially so she could work on settling her bedroom, I was pretty sure she’d have slept off her sugar hangover instead.
However, I had noticed she’d been in a melancholy mood of late. I realized last week she hadn’t really taken ownership of her new room since she and her friend moved in there in July. I felt bad for her, because I know I feel paralyzed to accomplish anything when my space is in chaos. We tore apart that corner of the room so she could resolve those issues.
Again, being the voice of reason, I talked her into letting go of her beloved desk. It worked great in her little, cozy bedroom. But in the larger bonus room she now shares with our adopted middle daughter, it just took up space that would be better suited for storage. So we moved the desk out and bought three new shelves.
It was kind of an amazing phenomenon. As the room got neater, my daughter’s mood got lighter. I checked on her progress every so often to see the transformation; not just in the room, but also in my daughter. I was in my bedroom when I heard her tinkling of laughter in the hallway.
Although she’s not been a Sad Sack since July when they moved in to the room, I realized I hadn’t heard the relaxation in her voice for many weeks; maybe since school started. That was the giggle of a girl who felt like she was finally settled and in control with full ownership of her space.
It’s amazing what a few shelves will do.
Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. You can read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website livingwithgleigh.com, on Facebook at “Living with Gleigh.”or follow her on Twitter @livewithgleigh. Her column is available every week at maplevalleyreporter.com under the Lifestyles section.