That is to say parenting a teenager.
I have my sister’s permission to post this.
I never intended to become a parent at a young age. And, really, barring things completely out of my control, there was really no way it was going to happen. I was a female bodied person who slept with female bodied people, who was (even with the “no physical means of reproduction” thing) obsessive about protection.
All of that, I thought, would prevent my ever having to do things like parent/teacher meetings, buying school supplies for anybody but myself, or being the responsible party in talking about uncomfy topics.
I am currently raising my younger sister – it’s been a few months now and I’m, shall we say… having a rough time with it all. I have full on custody and everything. This is an “until she’s 18 at least” thing, not a few month stint to see if things work out.
I am, in essence, the parent of a teenager.
We are really different people. That’s great and fabulous and expected. I’m big into the activist, feminist, queer, changing the world scene. She’s into… drinking and sex and doing the minimum in school to get a passing grade.
I’m being massively unfair.
That’s how I see her. That’s how she sees me.
We have a hard time having deep conversations with each other. We haven’t lived together in years and even when we did we weren’t that close. A lot of the past few months have been just getting to re-know each other and realizing that we are no longer the same people that we were over six years ago when I left home. She’s 16. I last knew her before she was a teenager. When she was in elementary school. When she really was just a kid. She’s not anymore. And she knew me in the throws of major depression, dealing with the after effects of sexual and physical and mental abuse. She knew me as sobbing uncontrollably a lot of the time. She knew me as hiding almost everything in my life from my entire family, including her.
Now we live together, and not really as siblings.
It’s hard. Things come up that I’m just not really prepared for. Things I never had to think about suddenly are coming up. She found one of my lesbian erotica books one time – found is the wrong word, it was on the book shelf in the living room. I had to make the decision whether or not to move it to my room or keep it out there. I left it out. One night I finally just said “Hey, there are safer sex supplies under the bathroom sink. You can ask me any questions you need to.” She blushed and mumbled and the next day under the bathroom sink had definitely been searched.
But we’re learning other things about each other, too. She’s learning to call me Andy instead of Angie. She’s learning that, yeah, most of my friends are some flavor of queer but they are still pretty nifty people. She knows how I like my coffee and I know that she doesn’t actually like coffee but she drinks it with her friends cos she feels silly ordering hot chocolate. I know that she likes to iron her jeans, but almost never does.
And there are things from our childhood that I’d forgotten I knew. Her best friend’s name from kindergarten. The fight she had with her stepmom a few years back. The brief stint in Brownies that she did and the annoying songs that came with that. We aren’t total strangers. We have a mutual past.
We don’t talk an awful lot, but from talking to parents of teenagers that’s not all that surprising. And today, when something pretty big happened, she did come to me. And we were able to have a good talk about it, she felt better after, and she gave me a hug.
We still fight. We still have vastly different opinions on things. I don’t understand how she doesn’t care about the implications of the waves of feminism and she doesn’t understand how on earth I don’t own a television. But we ARE learning. One night I asked her what movie she watched with a friend and she said “you wouldn’t like it, it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.” Another night I stopped by the video rental kiosk on my way home, remembered that she said she liked a certain actor I’d never heard of, and rented a movie with him in it for her. We are learning. It’s pretty painfully slow. But we’re learning.