Today‘s blog will be about my daughters and provide some insight into the challenges of fatherhood and the responsibilities of parenting. It is a personal story that illustrates the joy and challenges of family, regardless of the love, support, guidance and environment that you provide. As a father of three wonderful and beautiful daughters, and as a person/father that likes to “fix” any and all negative situations for them, I have been both amazed and humbled over the past couple of years by the challenges of teenage daughters and the rapidly changing technology enabled social world that can either be an incredible enabler of social success or a huge detriment.
Early in their lives I was a firm believer that they were “Born This Way” (A small Lady Gaga reference for the music lovers out there); that their respective constitutions were developed in the womb. This of course is true; as we see them develop we can trace back many of their behaviors to when they were children. Were they happy, pensive, calm, emotional; did they sleep well, did they enjoy other children, were they introverted or extroverted, did they walk early or later, did they speak early or later. As parents, we remember many of these traits, especially as we see our children grow into young adults. We can recognize many of their basic traits today and are easily reminded of their childhood. However, until recently, I did not truly understand the impact of the family environment, the interactive between siblings and parents and how it can impact or influence a child’s behavior, attitude or personality. Not that I fully understand this now, but my perspective has been radically altered.
I have an older daughter that is a junior in college and twin daughters that are high school sophomores. Two of them are very much like me in their thoughts, perspectives, approach to life, stubbornness, attitude and opinions. They are very strong willed and once they overcome their initial fears of a new situation, adapt and thrive. My other daughter is wired differently; she is very sensitive, emotional, insecure and has a high level of anxiety. This coupled with being a twin, a teenage girl, being socially uncomfortable and lacking the belief and confidence in herself has unfortunately resulted in a current situation of depression and anxiety that precludes her from being the great person that she is.
I am learning as we go along but it is extremely difficult at times. My constitution is one that, regardless of the situation, I get up to tackle it everyday and work as hard as possible to improve it. My expectation is that if that is the way I do it, that is how it should be done (Pretty old school I guess). Until recently I did not understand just how debilitating depression and anxiety can be. Right now my wonderful daughter is struggling so much that she cannot take on the basic challenges of life. She is unable to go to school; she interprets discussions as arguments; she is challenged to help herself; she must rest a good portion of the day as her anxiety is exhausting her. She has become more secretive, at times her behavior is compulsive, she avoids any type of conflict and right now everyday is like walking on egg shells. She is desperately seeking joy but right now it is not to be found.
When we reflect on the current situation it is now easy to understand when things began to change. She is an excellent student, a strong athlete, creative, fun, witty and a pleasure to be with. A couple of years ago, we started to see some changes in her behavior. Individually they did not stand out, but upon reflection, collectively they were all a huge cry for help. She stopped playing sports because she convinced herself that she only made teams because her twin sister did (Her sister is athletically gifted), she wanted to distance herself from her twin and establish her own life, no longer being compared. She took it upon herself to apply to private school, to take the tests, complete the applications, interview and was accepted to one of the best private schools in New England. Unfortunately because of her health situation, she was unable to attend. She became very focused on her older sister and did whatever she could to get as close to her as possible. In hindsight, this was an indication of her own lack of confidence and her desire to bring joy to others, thinking that it would bring her joy.
She has a support network that is committed to helping her overcome these obstacles. Depression is a disease that sucks the life out of people. I did not understand this but I do now. I have learned that there is no easy answer and that it will take time to hopefully resolve so that she can live the great life she is supposed to lead. As a father, it is just heartbreaking to see your daughter struggle with anything. As a fixer, all I want to do is fix it and I cannot. I have tried many different approaches that in my logical mind should work. But they did not. Why, because their is nothing logical or rational about this. We all believe in her; right now all we can do is love her more than ever, support her in every way possible, really listen to what she is saying and help her take small baby steps everyday on the road of life.
We are all here for you. There will be a day very soon when you will say to me, “Daddy, I am very proud of myself and who I am.” I cannot wait for that day to come 🙂 Today will be a better day. With all my love, support and understanding………
Thanks for listening.