Sweet 15: Life With a Teenage Special Needs Child

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"I hate you. I hate you. I hate you."

I heard my soon to be 15-year-old daughter sing my praises from the back seat of our mini-van as I pulled into our driveway the other day.

"Well, you know Liz, I'm not that fond of you right now either." The car was now safely parked, and I heard the swish of her door open.

"I hate you, and that's all there is to it."

My dear daughter said this in a voice loud enough for our neighbor across the street to hear as she pulled up her trash can. She looked up and I gave a pitiful wave and then through clenched teeth told my daughter to get her butt into the house. This minute.

After having gone through this delightful age with her brother three years before, I'm well aware that sometime, on or around their 15th birthday, children are abducted by aliens and replaced by people no parent could possibly have had any part in raising. This isn't my first time around the teen raising block.

I just didn't think I would have to deal with this with Lizzy.

My daughter has had to deal with a variety of special needs stemming from a brain disorder. Despite five MRIs and a visits to a host of medical specialists, her condition has never been named. But it wreaks havoc on every aspect of her development. She attends a special needs school and cognitively has more in common with a child of three or four than the 5'8" teen that towers over me.

In fact the reason why we were home without my two sons was because she had decided that emptying out a full bottle of hand soap and decorating my parents downstairs bathroom with soap suds was a good idea.

I'm not going to say they kicked her out of their house, but our leaving wasn't seen as a tragedy either. Since my sons were in the middle of watching a movie with my dad, it was decided that they would stay, and I would take the soap artist home with me.

Lizzy continued to protest her banishment as she went into her room and started to blast the heavy metal music she now prefers to one of the Disney Princess soundtracks she used to love to the exclusion of everything else just a few months ago.

"Elizabeth Maria we are home because of what you did to grandma's bathroom. Do you understand that?"

With that the bratty teen disappeared, and she started to sob loudly. Then she began to talk in the disconnected way she usually does. But she ended her word salad by asking me if I still loved her.

My heart breaks for her. But I'm at a loss as to how to deal with this new Lizzy. One minute she is a sweet girl that I have to help with everything from changing her clothes to brushing her teeth, the next she is a teen telling her brothers she doesn't give a f***** damn.

Once again I'm left feeling I have a job that is way beyond my pay grade. Motherhood is a tough job in the best of circumstances, but add special needs to the mix and I'm left feeling like a failure.

Yet I must admit, that even in the darkest moments with Lizzy I have to take solace in the fact that she is growing up. She does want more than being a little girl who loves princess crowns and Barbies. She wants to spread her wings and try out the things that typical girls her age do. I just don't know how to do that. How do I let her go as far as she can yet keep her safe?

I feel outmatched and over my head.

I guess in some ways that makes me like every other mother to a teenage girl. And there's something beautiful about that.

This piece was previously published on Kathy's site, My Dishwasher's Possessed!