I think the honeymoon is over for Rebekah with Aisling. I knew it would happen. I've been waiting for it. I worried about how it might manifest. I had ideas about how to deal with it. I just didn't know what would precipitate it -- jealousy? crowding? insecurity? boredom?
It turned out to be none of the above. What's bothering Rebekah, what's really, really, REALLY bothering her about Aisling is that, to Rebekah's way of thinking, Aisling is not treating her step-father and me properly.
Isn't that wonderful?
Now, let me make very clear here. I am having no problems with Aising's behaviour or attitude. So far, she's been a perfectly delightful kid to have around. She's following house rules, she's communicating reasonably well (better all the time), she's polite, she's cheerful, she does the dishes when she's asked. All this seems pretty good, no? Not a lot for a parent to complain about.
BUT, and Rebekah has complained of this any number of times, the things she says to our faces are NOT the things she's saying to Rebekah.
"She doesn't appreciate what you're doing!"
"She complains about you!"
"She's taking advantage of you guys!"
She's not done anything, in other words, that Rebekah (and her siblings before her) haven't done a gazillion times before. Aisling's behaviour is absolutely typical adolescent self-absorption. Nothing more, nothing less.
It's wonderful, I tell you!
See, Rebekah is annoyed by this. It's really irking her that Aisling's not more grateful, that Aisling is less than 100% honest with us, that Aisling doesn't fully appreciate all that's been done for her.
Rebekah, in other words, is seeing adolescent behaviour objectively. And she is OFFENDED.
I am less so. "I know that she says stuff to you about us. But you know, I'm pretty sure that sometimes," I raise my eyebrows and grin at her, "at least once in a while, you've griped to Aisling about us."
"Noooo, I hav..." She can't finish the sentence we both know would be a lie. She looks appropriately sheepish.
"It's normal, sweetie."
"But she only notices what you don't do, what you say no to. She totally takes it for granted that you painted her room, that you bought her a comforter and sheets and those shelves, but she got mad when you wouldn't pay for the TV stand, too!"
"But doesn't that BUG you?"
"Not as much as it's bugging you! Probably because, after eight kids, I'm used to it by now. She'll outgrow it, sooner or later." It took a minute, but I could see the wheels turn and the penny drop. Aisling is normal. Aisling is doing what teens do... which means that... [clink!] ...I do it, too!
And THAT conversation (yesterday) is probably why THIS conversation (today) went like it did.
"Mum, I was wondering about Driver's Ed."
"When were you thinking of taking it?"
"Well." Looong pause, as I consider how to present what will be unwelcome news. "Here's the thing. I'm totally in support of you taking Driver's Ed. It'll make you a better driver, and it will decrease your insurance."
"And you paid for it for Sarah."
"Yes, I did. But there's your humungo cell phone bill."
She absorbs that for a beat. "Oh, yeah... Which is probably about as much as Driver's Ed would cost, right?"
'Fraid so. I explain the one or two other financial issues pertinent at the moment, which make it very difficult for me to stretch the budget that far this month.
"Well. I guess I don't have to do it this summer. I can wait a month or two."
"I think it might have to be at least a couple of months."
"Maybe in the fall?"
"As long as everything falls into place as I think it will? Yes, the fall."
Pretty good, huh? I tell my just-turned-sixteen daughter she can't have the Driver's Ed her heart desires, the Driver's Ed we'd long ago agreed I would pay for, the Driver's Ed she's been looking forward to for, oh, about a year at least... and she takes it on the chin. Without whining, without pouting, without sneering, without flouncing. She just takes it. I am SO proud.
AND IT GETS BETTER!
Two hours later, while I am preparing dinner, the girl appears in the kitchen with a piece of paper and a calculator. She wants to prepare a budget and a schedule for repayment of the phone bill. (!!!!)
AND EVEN BETTER!
After our budget-planning quarter-hour:
"For not freaking out when you saw the bill, and for paying it for me, and for helping me figure out how to pay you back. Oh, and for not just taking my cell phone away, because you totally could have."
You know, when we agreed to take Aisling in, I thought we were helping out a kid in a difficult situation. I thought we were putting our parenting beliefs into practice, giving from the heart and in our own home. I worried how this might affect my relationship with Rebekah, if it might shift the household balance to the Dark Side, two best friends shoulder to shoulder against The Oppressor.
I had NO IDEA we were bringing in an agent for maturity, a 24-7 object lesson in appreciation, responsibility, and self-reliance.
I am speechless with gratitude.