This morning my darling said to me, “I hope you have a terrible day.” So this is pushback from her. She’s 17. She’s doing year 12. She’s got some demands. And I say demands because I really mean that, not requests.

So I’ve put some boundaries in place for her,  one of which was you can do one sleepover a month. The pushback was, “Are you kidding?”

This is just after I’ve handed her her homemade lunch full of nutritious, organic ingredients, and she scowls and then she looks at me, “I hope you have a terrible day.”

In the past, this would have sent me into an internal turmoil dialogue, ranting inside, “How dare she say this? I’ve just made her lunch. I just got up early. I’ve paid for food. I’m paying for her school fees.” All of this sort of stuff would have been going on. You know, “All I’m doing is trying to help her. Aargh, aargh, aargh.”

So a big battle in my head, which would have made me pretty distressed because you know, it’s a bit hard, isn’t it, when someone says to you, “I hope you have a terrible day.” It’s pretty personal. But I also know the beauty of metacognition. So metacognition is when you can think about your thoughts. Okay? Remember our thoughts are just connections between two neurons. That’s all they are. Some of them are true. Some of them aren’t. What we have with metacognition is look at our thoughts objectively.

So that dialogue started with, particularly as I’ve just made her lunch, and I’m now I’m running late for work. So it started with, “Oh, I’ve just made you lunch and I’m running late for work. And you now said this to me.” 

And then my brain goes, “Hang on. So she’s 17. It is her job as a 17-year-old to be exploring the boundaries.”

Now, we’ve been really lucky. Both our girls have been really pretty diligent, reasonable kids. We haven’t had to do a lot of pushback. So she’s never really had many occasions where we’ve said no. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been saying no quite a lot to her.

So of course in her mind, she thinks I’m just the devil. But in my mind, I know that I am helping her. Because there is no point in enabling her to do everything she wants in the hope that that transaction will be exchanged for just a pleasant life. 

Does that make sense? So I’m prepared to put up with a little bit of conflict to enforce that boundary.

What I’m now doing, and it’s not perfect. It could be a bit better. But what I’m doing is taking the emotion out of it. So when she says to me, “I hope you have a terrible day,” it’s not actually personal. It’s her venting against the decisions that I’ve made in the only way she can. Because as a 17-year-old, she doesn’t have a lot of power. She’s got no money. She can’t drive. She really has no ability to be able to assert her independence. So she just pushes back with that raging statement.

So the good thing… The reason I’m telling you this  is that in the past, I would have hated this and gone, “Oh, stop it. I’m going to go and have chocolate. I’m going to have cake. There’s biscuits at morning tea. Bugger it. I’ve done all of this for you, and this is what’s happening.” And ranting in that uncomfortable feeling that I had, I would have fixed that feeling with food.

So two things that I’m happy with myself about. 

One is, I already know I don’t need food to fix that uncomfortable  feeling. 

Two is, I already know that I don’t need to engage in that dialogue with her. That this is just a normal teenage behaviour. And as a normal teenager, I’m expecting her to do that. So when I’m expecting it, it changes the paradigm, if you like.  I’m ready and waiting for her to push back, well, then it’s like, “Oh, right, okay. Well, this is her just pushing back. It’s fine. I don’t need to worry. I don’t need to do anything. I don’t need to even engage in it. She’s just venting. It’s not about me.”

When that happens, the whole episode just gets diffused. It’s now a nothing episode. “I hope you have a terrible day,”  is not about me. Not about me at all, and I don’t need to make it about me.

So my loves, I am going to have a super day. I often have super days. I really do. Some days my days are long. Sometimes they’re tiring. But I am going to have a super day because at the end of the day, the only person that gets to determine how I feel about my day is me.

I am in charge. I’ve got the power. I am a superwoman because I am in charge of my emotions. Now my darling 17-year-old isn’t yet. And again, part of that is her brain still developing. She doesn’t have a great amount of control about her emotions. They  just sort of vomit out of her like a volcano. But I do. I have control, I’m a grownup. And I know that the only person who can determine how my day goes is me.

So my loves, have a wonderful day. 

Dr Lucy

Real Life Medicine