Our niece has been living with Jackie and I for a month now. She goes to school where Jackie teaches, and has taken true ownership of our second bedroom. I must admit that all my expectations of living with a teen have turned into one big disappointment!
Where to begin?
I’ll start with my biggest problem. She’s a good kid. Where are all the fights? Where’s the drama? Where are the slamming doors? Shouts of “I hate you!” followed by more slamming doors? Where are the tears? The threats? The emotional wailings of immaturity? I’ve been cheated out of the high entertainment potential of teen guardianship. She’s polite. She adjusts quickly when plans change. It’s quite frustrating.
And another thing! She’s smart. When I learned an impressionable young mind would be stumbling through time and space at my house, hungry for any morsel of learning she could find, I delighted with plans to teach and coach her using my vast life experience and breadth of knowledge. No need. In fact, she’s so wise for her age, when I do try to spout out some life-changing brilliance, she doesn’t protest. Instead, she knows it’s much easier to listen politely, and thank me. But, that’s when I notice the look in her eyes that says, “Poor Uncle Dan. He tries so hard. At least he means well.” She doesn’t even have the decency to call me out and school me on my lame attempts to make a difference in a young person’s life! Talk about ungrateful.
Finally, what makes all this even more excruciating: even if I could instigate some sort of dramatic behavior, I couldn’t blog about it. After all, how could I put any of her ups and downs out in the public? It would be a violation of her privacy.
My wife and I are left with only one technique that seems to work in affecting our niece. This surprisingly easy method consists of doing what we were already doing before she showed up at the airport. In other words, we can model for her. I’m proud of how my wife and I relate and negotiate through our daily life. In that respect, being a teen guardian has been eerily simple.
Of course, as we get to know her better, and spend more day-to-day time in the same house, we’re bound to run into some challenges. But, I’m confident that we have a uniquely strong position as the aunt and uncle – close enough to help, but not so close that we use each others’ issues as weapons to dig each other into a ditch of endless emotional distress.
In other words, the promise of the melodramatic teen-in-residence rollercoaster remains a wonderfully huge disappointment.