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It Takes a Village - But You Have To Open Your Front Door First
Last week I received an email asking me about starting a group for Mothers of Teenagers. Later that week, I spoke with a friend who thanked me for my candor and honesty when I write about my teens and what is happening in our home. I was additionally approached by another mom who said that she no longer felt alone and she knew that she wasn’t crazy because I came out and told the stories of My Real Life Parenting. While feedback like this certainly encourages me to write and reach out to other parents, it also makes me feel sad.
At a local church there is a group called Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). It is a fairly common support group around the country. Dozens of women attend multiple meetings, discussions and play dates in an effort to lift each other’s spirits and encourage their fellow mother and friend during the preschool years. There is no stigma attached to this. No one is embarrassed to admit that they need help, support or encouragement.
Thousands of mommy bloggers and websites are crowding the internet with women willing to talk about breastfeeding, diaper rash, tantrums and sleeping arrangements. No one is ashamed to address toddlers who bite, wet the bed, eat too much candy or shout at their parents. It is a virtual free for all. You can Google most parenting issues of children in stages from newborn to preschool and there will be more than enough advice and sympathetic ears and voices to keep you afloat another day. But try to Google problems with teenagers and sites for juvenile services, drug rehabs, military schools and antidepressant medications fill the computer screen. Why would anyone want to come forward? Who wants their child to be categorized like that?
What I want to know is what the heck happens during the next parenting decade that when our children turn 13 and up, any stage that they may be in, problems that have arisen, trouble that has been revealed has suddenly become taboo. Even further – why does the adolescent stage suddenly mean that we have failed as the parent and that it is all a reflection upon the parent somehow?
It isn’t my fault when my two year old bites little Johnny in the sandbox. I told Johnny not to bite. He made a choice to do it. In fact, I can tell that story and have mommies come out of the woodwork to help me with that snafu. But I better not tell a friend that my teenager slammed the door on my face the other night and told me to shut up. Because clearly somehow I parented incorrectly over the past decade and it is my fault.
Let me guess: I bought him too many things so now he is spoiled and will never appreciate us. I neglected him and didn’t buy him enough so he feels completely abandoned. I didn’t spend enough time with him and he is scarred for life. I spent too much time with him and didn’t allow him to be independent enough and now he will never be a decent father. I should have let him use his words to tell me how unfair he felt I was when he was in elementary school. I obviously let him have too much say and should have just told him to shut his yap and do what I say. See the pattern? How about the fact that he is JUST a TEENAGER...there's a new concept.
Parenting teens is simply another stage in raising our children. Teenagers are still children. They are making choices every day. Good choices. Bad choices. I don’t recall that I was labeled worst mother of the year when I was called into preschool because my 3 year old didn’t want to pick up toys that he had not played with. Blame was placed on my child. His stubborn attitude. His tenaciousness. No one said, “Boy, Mom, you really blew it with this kid.”
I guarantee if you have a home with a teenager living inside of it – you have turmoil. I can’t guarantee the level of turmoil or the frequency that which it occurs – but if I’d be willing to bet my life that you’ve got troubles. Troubles that you don’t feel you can tell anyone – not even your best friend. Why? Because clearly your best friend’s teenager is perfect. How do you know this? Why she has told you so for goodness sakes. Moms of teenagers sugar coat it all. They talk GPA’s, parallel parking, college scholarships, volunteer time, sports talent and love of their Lord. But they will never be forthcoming that their teenager has been disrespectful, belligerent, failing to work up to their potential in school, failed the latest math test, had a physical fight with a sibling or demonstrated a complete emotional breakdown over a simple task. Nope. Not going to say a word about it. Because it is unacceptable.
Not only is it unacceptable, embarrassing and a reflection upon your parenting skills – every other mother in the world with children younger than yours is completely certain that they will NEVER have problems like that with their children – because they are DIFFERENT. It is so easy to pass judgment on others when you haven’t walked in their shoes one moment yet. But make no mistake, the young child will morph into a teenager and you will be faced with SOMETHING! Drugs. Sex. Alcohol. Failure. Depression. Pregnancy. Lying. Anger. Violence. Disrespect. Laziness. Despondence. Separation. Silence. Rejection. Rejection of your religion. Rejection of your rules. Rejection of your values. Rejection of your opinions. Rejection of your authority. Rejection of you. At least one of those things will cross your path while raising a teen.
We need to be able to be honest. We need to be able to look for help. We need to be able to turn to each other and lift each other up just like we did when they were young, parenthood was fresh and we felt so hopeful and optimistic. It’s time to speak up for ourselves and not be blamed. Know that you did the best that you could do at the time with what you had. Nobody is perfect. No matter how hard they try to make it look that way. Hiding it, stuffing deep down inside and pretending only makes things worse.
Find your local Mothers of Teenagers - they are living on your street. Open your doors. Come outside. Pick up the phone. Tell someone how you feel. You aren’t crazy. You aren’t a bad parent.
Remember it takes a village – it will never work if the village is held hostage behind their closed front door.
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