America woke today to the horrific tale of Julie Powers Schenecker, a mom charged with murdering her two kids in cold blood because they were "mouthy." But it's the story of Calyx Schenecker, the 16-year-old daughter killed at home that makes my blood run cold.
Why? Because I'm the mother of a daughter. And ever since I got pregnant, the one thing I feared most was giving birth to a girl and then facing the same tumultuous teenage relationship with my mother.
The teen years were made up of fight after fight, some of them my fault, some of them her fault. Looking back, I can admit I was no angel. But I was no terror either. I got straight As, had the opportunity to graduate two years early and got into one of the nation's top college. I wasn't promiscuous or a drug user, and I never once had a brush up with the law.
In essence, I was your prototypical good kid who still managed to drive her mother crazy. And what struck me about stories of Calyx that have come out today was how strikingly similar the 16-year-old was to a 16-year-old me.
Her high school principal said Calyx was "probably the perfect little child." For my part, I was voted "class angel" in the senior yearbook (along with most likely to succeed). Based on her dad, Parker's Facebook, she was involved in extra-curricular activities (cross country) as was I (yearbook, karate, etc.). She had a sweet smile and wore just a hint of make-up in her high school yearbook photo: no rebellious teen with a crazy look. She was achingly, refreshingly normal.
Moms, listen up, this is important. Teenagers will drive you crazy. That's their job. But most of them are still good to the core. With my daughter on the path to teenagehood (she's still just 5 1/2), I've made it a point to study other mothers and how they interact with their teenage daughters. Anecdotally, those who have the best relationships, I've found, are those where the father is distant or out of the picture. That's bad news in our house where my husband is fortunately a very involved father.
They're also marked by mothers who are able to appreciate just how lucky they have it, how smart, well-behaved and well adjusted their daughters are. They take the attitude in stride, and nip it in the bud. But they mete out doses of love that tend to help keep the teen angst from boiling over. It sounds like Julie Powers Schenecker was so caught up in what her kids were doing wrong that she forgot to look at what they were doing right.
It's easy to fall into that, to want to tear your hair out, to blame your kids for any negative changes that have happened in your life since they were born. But the fact is, when you start thinking "I brought them into this world, I can take them out of this world" -- a threat that always makes me shudder when I hear it out of a mom's mouth -- you have to stop and think about why. Why you brought them into this world. Why you wanted children. Why you thought you were suited to helping shape their young minds all the way to adulthood.
Calyx Schenecker was just a kid, and so was her little brother Beau. "Mouthy" or not, they didn't deserve this. Do you sometimes forget how great your kids are because you're too caught up in how angry they make you feel?
Image via PinkStock Photos/Flickr