Bittersweet 16

 

Dear Dr. Darcy:

I'm a 16 year old lesbian. I am in the 11th grade currently taking honor/12th grade/ AP classes. I am in the top of my class. Basically I’m an overall good kid. Everyone can see that, my teachers, girlfriend, friends etc. Everyone except my mother, that is.

It’s been technically 4 years since she’s known I was into girls.  I have this amazing girlfriend. She is everything I could ever ask for and her and I plan to get married.

Long story short, I got suspended because I didn’t want to give a teacher my phone. Keep in mind this is the first time I have had OSS [out of school suspension] during my high school years.  My mother is being a total jerk.  She’s telling me to move out if I don’t like her rules or whatever.

Her and I growing up have never had a relationship whatsoever. I came into contact with my father again and he’s stationed in Iraq.  For about 9 years she cut off contact with him just because she didn’t like him for whatever reason.  He comes back to the US in November.

I'm highly considering moving in with him (he lives in California and I live in South Carolina).  He accepts the fact that I’m a lesbian. He is ecstatic that I found someone who makes me happy, he wants to meet my girlfriend, and he is always boasting to his friends about me academically wise. Btw, my mother has no idea that I’ve been in contact with him.

Should I move in with my father? The benefits are less hostility, tears, drama, anger, discrimination etc in my life. I just want to know your thoughts on this and I would really, really appreciate it.

ANSWER

I hear you loud and clear.  You’re a really good kid who gets stellar grades, who has a nice girlfriend and who any parent would be thrilled to have.  You’ve managed to get through most of high school without any behavioral problems, and you’re pissed off that the moment you behave like a teenager and have a power struggle in school, your mother flips out on you, chanting the Parental National Anthem:  If you don’t like the rules, move out.

Teens have been hearing this threat since the beginning of time.  The problem with this particular threat is that it taps into the teenage developmental need to rebel, and it essentially dares the teenager push back, i.e., run away.  At any other time in one’s life, this stupid threat might roll off a person’s back, but as a teenager, it’s often just what a kid needs to hear to provoke them to take their rebellion to the next level.  Parents, I hope you’re paying attention.

It sounds like you feel underappreciated by your mother.  It also sounds like you resent your mother for keeping you and your father apart for 9 years.  I hear you, sister.  I wasn’t connected to my biological father until I was 19, and I harbored resentment over that for a long time.  I was a little older than you and so connecting with my father was more on my terms: I simply transferred to a college close to where he lived and we spent a year bonding.

But I’ll tell you this:  My mother was still my mother, the one who was there for me for the first 19 years of my life.  And when I stumbled once or twice while living in my father’s town, he didn’t have a clue about how to handle me, and he immediately deferred to my mother, all the while expressing judgment about how I was raised.

He and I stayed connected until he died a few years ago and I’m very grateful for having had that time with him, but I’m glad I did it when I was in college; when it wasn’t overlapping with my teenage years so that my mother couldn't confuse my need to bond with him as a rejection of her.  If you move in with your father during your senior year of high school, your need to bond with him will be lost to your mother – all she’ll see is a big fat middle finger being held up to her.

Don’t confuse the two issues:  One, you and your mother have hit a particularly rocky patch.  You guys need to work that out.  If she’s open to going to counseling with you, that’s the route I’d take.  Two, you’ve reconnected with your father which is great but which is no solution to the issues between your mother and you.  Stay connected with him, build a relationship with him and when it’s time to go to college, maybe you’ll pick a school in his area.  But jumping from one parent to the other is a recipe for your head to explode.  Believe me.  It’s a short-term solution that will promote a long-term need for therapy.  You sound like you’ve got your head on straight.  Keep it that way.