That Time Our Daughter Was a Walking Meme.
When I first met Lee she reminded me of a girl I was working with in the high school.
Name change, flippant attitude, know it all, anime, tiktok, no boundaries, feeling alone, tech overdosing, but anxious and scared.
In the high school, this girl was a handful. In fact, I knew her in primary school… and she ran rings around the adults well before 10. Manipulating, getting whatever she wants, skirting rules, laughing at boundary lines, a law unto herself.
As she grew, the games got more sophisticated and the realities began to set in. By year 9 she was becoming an isolated mess. Remembering her name I was sure to walk past and say hi on her first day, but she decided to screech at me.
An interesting girl.
Instantly when meeting I got those same vibes.
This could be a handful.
And Sheridan had decided to take all of her boundaries away when she moved them.
This girl was a law unto herself, no doubt.
As time went on Lee and I started spending time together. I had told her from the beginning that if she had ANYTHING to ask me, I would do my best to answer and would be completely open and honest. This meant that at any time she could hit me with any type of question.
Then I just continued to spend time talking with her, being curious.
During the *cough-cough* I would help out and watch her through the days. We would talk about her school work, get her into routine slowly, laying down clear expectations.
This also meant some cheeky morning runs to McDonalds, getting her to have breaks and create something and some lazy-day fun.
At one point we were in the tiny apartment back yard shooting bows. If I was working out Lee would come down and join in sometimes. But a lot of our time was just spent getting to know each other.
There were things from the beginning that I was concerned about.
No tech limits, no real routines, no blocks for netflix or any devices.
At times I would hear some of the conversations on the phone to her friends, talking all kinds of things I wouldn’t want to hear from a 13 year old. But I was patient, biding my time. Anything I would notice would just be added a “mental maybe list”
As we continued to get to know each other some of the things on the list would pop back up.
I noticed her attitude to her mother EXTREMELY quickly.
There was a weird dynamic going on. More like a competitive sisterly thing.
On one side, Sheridan would reward herself whenever we bought Lee a present.
From Lee there was a disdain and ways that she could just run over her mother, getting whatever she wanted virtually.
So, I continued to watch. Waiting to see what else could be at work.
All of the tech, the tiktoks, the tv shows, the movies. Actually, Lee had fairly recently started watching horror movies, and had also started to face some pretty severe anxiety. With no limits in place she could be watching literally all day at times, and well in to the night. This also meant that Lee was basically in charge of the lounge room. The lounge-room-takeover was only possible because Sheridan would sit on her phone in the bedroom, emerging basically to have dinner after a little small talk.
Lee was CLEARLY disconnected, discontent, distracted and disengaged.
Like and ai programmed by tween tv and tiktok, droning random opinions all day long.
When I would watch her try to do things she would be “saved” from them, unable to grow, explore and learn. Almost as if the motto was no mistakes allowed.
At one point I bought her a chia pet, to see if she could take care of it. Well as soon as the box was opened it was as if it wasn’t her pet, but Sheridan’s. Eyes widened, directions were flying, and more and more was just being done FOR Lee.
No surprise, the pet sat on the window and may have been watered thrice. . .
All of these bits and pieces (and maaany more) added up to a flat personality, no confidence, eating issues, self-love issues, a harsh mindset and depression.
The things that Lee was using to escape were damaging her.
Sheridan trying to do her best and give Lee space CREATED a bigger issue.
Boundaries actually drew Lee closer to us!
We started with tech, none in the room.
So the phone came out, the computer (which was being used to discord calls during all hours of the night) and any tablets were banned from the room. If found in the they would be taken for a few days or locked.
This was all discussed and just made sense, so Lee was mostly fine with it.
Next I went for tiktok and socials. Straight up banning them, as Lee has enough people and things telling her how and what to think. Society seems to be throwing more and more at children and expecting everything to be fine. So we drew a line and decided to protect her from certain ideas and opinions, to feed her options and see her grow into her own person. We want her to research, we want her to push back, we want her to disagree, we need her to think for herself. How else will she be safe without us, and making good decisions?
Taking these away was bigger, especially for a teenager who had just been given and iphone…
But, again with explanations, long talks and discussing our thoughts behind it Lee began to understand. We even changed the iphone for an android and installed a program called MMGuardian to be able to lock different apps in the phone easier. All of this was taken well and became normal quickly. AND EACH TIME WE DID SOMETHING LIKE THIS THE RELATIONSHIP JUST GOT BETTER!!!
She was transitioning from a walking meme into a bright intelligent and aware human being!
Programming. The name of the television playlist.
Our next mountain, changing the viewing habits.
We put accounts on netflix, banned youtube, changed the apps on the tv and made sure all of the filtering and tracking software was working. This was all done to keep the more adult things away from our 13 year old, and to give her a chance to remain a little more innocent (as opposed to being jaded with the world).
We also brought in a simple routine, and a list of tasks. To earn tv time we requested 3 tasks be completed, which would take 20 minutes or more each to complete. Lee responded really well! Of course there was grumbling and complaining, but once that standard was expected there was no drama. In a short amount of time she was more confident and comfortable in her own skin. It was as if the tasks had shown that she could achieve something. She could create, learn, grow as a person. A much better way to spend our time than getting taco neck watching some screen!
On the tv we added nebulu, a service filled with documentaries and educational content.
Shopping spree for art supplies was well up on the list.
Walks on the beach with her mom were starting to happen.
Changing these things took away some fairly extreme behaviours that we might go into another time.
Just being there, genuinely caring, and crafting a flexible plan along the way.
We were able to see our anxious walking meme turn into a confident caring human.
Good job Lee! You’re the one who decided to do it!
What issues are You going through with Your Children?
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