I thought I was ready. There wasn't anything that my teens would do that I wouldn't be prepared for. Disappointed in - perhaps, but not ill-prepared.
I was well-versed in all things that go on in their world these days...including social media and cell phone sexting and of course the old time tested sex, drugs and alcohol. None of it "scared" me. Worried me perhaps about their choices and ramifications that might ensue. But I wasn't afraid. Why? Because I remember my own teen years and things that went on - friends that I had - choices that were made-- we all survived and turned out to be fairly decent human beings, god-loving people and productive citizens. No real harm done. After all, any parent that goes into adolescence thinking "not my kid" is just doing them self and their child a disservice. Don't ever think "not my kid" - Think - why not your kid?
What I was not prepared for was their perception. I know I must have seen things the same way when I was a teen - all teens must to some degree. Why can't I remember it? I remember everything else - why can't I remember what it was like to see the world through the foggy mind of a teenager? I'd give anything to be able to do that right now. But I guess, I've just been through too much, survived too much parenthood, broadened my horizons and my increased my worldly knowledge. Those things inhibit my ability to look through those eyes and think those thoughts - well at least not like an actual teen does. They completely believe that they know and understand the world so much better than any adult.
I thought frustration was chasing my toddler down the grocery store aisle praying that he would just stay with me while his baby brother was in the cart.
I thought frustration was watching my "potty-training" child sneak off behind the couch to go potty for the 3rd time that day in his big boy pants.
I thought frustration was sitting with 3 year old who refused to eat his dinner at the table and would vomit if you forced it.
I thought frustration was sitting outside my son's room crying while he was on the other side of a closed door screaming from his crib - for the 3rd week in a row.
I thought frustration was having to put 4 children into a mini-van and buckle each one into a car seat one at a time.
I clearly remember praying myself through moments - knowing that one day this would all be over and they would be doing things for themselves and not need me for everything.
Welp. Be careful what you pray for. Because that is what I got.
Do you know that I can sit across from my teenager and talk and literally every sentence that I say, he interprets a completely different way? I hear the words coming from my mouth but what he hears may as well be Chinese. I can try over and over to explain myself but he will not hear me.
Not until later - when he is older - when he has experienced some life - when the teenage fog has lifted - or even perhaps until he has children of his own.
THAT is frustration. In fact, it is the ultimate frustration.
I cannot convince him that I am not the enemy. Something inside of him whispers differently. Something inside of him doesn't allow him to fully trust me, or to think for a moment that I am or ever was anything other than his mother. Something inside of him is programmed to reject whatever I try to bring to him. He calls me "annoying" among other things and tells me that I make him incredibly angry all of the time.
I make him angry because I have expectations of him. I expect him to be kind. To follow rules. To be respectful. To work hard in school. To make good choices. I do not expect him to be mean, break rules, be disrespectful, to make bad choices or fail school. Therefore - I am the enemy. He wants to make his own decisions without having to worry what I will think, do or say. He basically wants to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it and I stand in the way of that lifestyle.
During yet another battle this weekend, he shouted how he wanted to get out of this house- how he couldn't stand being here with us. After he proceeded to tell me this several times in a myriad of ways - I finally spoke out.
"And I want you to be out of this house. I want you to be gone doing things with your friends, having a wonderful life. I want you to be out there doing your thing and living your life. But you keep making poor choices and ending up here with us."
"You are trying to keep me tied to your hip and you can't do that anymore. You need to let me go."
With that - I was enraged. His blurry teenage vision had him completely confused. This is where teens need to understand that that voice inside of them that tells them those things is a LIAR.
"Ok. You want truth? The LAST thing I want is you here with me....certainly not tied to my hip.
It is the normal progression of life for you to be gone on weekends with your friends at this time. Engaging in experiences and memories that you will have for a lifetime that will shape you as an individual. It is necessary for you to be away from me to develop your character. Your father and I are ready for that.
We are ready for you to be out on Friday and Saturday nights - we are ready for you to be getting in the car and heading out on a Saturday afternoon with a group of guys. Not only are we READY for it - we WANT it. Do you know why? Because you aren't the only one who gets something from that.
We've been together 20 years raising children - we are looking for our alone time too. Did you ever consider that? Everytime we ground you - we have punished ourselves - because we don't get what we want either. It's not all about you. We are ready for our new stage of life too."
Teenagers are so consumed with their own feelings and the selfishness doesn't allow them to see things as they are. My son really believes that I want him "tied to my hip"...
Teenagers - I am telling you this on behalf of all parents of the world - THAT IS NOT TRUE! We want you to move on. We are not trying to hold you back and keep you babies forever.
Babies are exhausting and with each stage a parent is ready for their child to advance to the next stage.
We can't wait for babies to walk because they are heavy to hold;
We can't wait for toddlers to go to preschool because chasing after them all day is hard work;
We can't wait for elementary school so that we can get some work around the house accomplished and get out to have lunch with a friend - maybe get Christmas shopping done alone;
We can't wait until middle school because we are bored with elementary school and ready to watch our children blossom with their talents and grow into young adolescents;
We are ready for high school because middle school is such an awkward time and frankly we sure could use another driver in the house -
It is the same thing with adolescence. It is exhausting and we are ready to advance to the next level. Contrary to what you might believe - your parents are ready for some alone time. They are looking forward to time spent together without children. Don't take it personally. We don't take it personally that you want to get out of the house. There is nothing wrong with that. It's a natural progression.
We want you to be successful human beings capable of leaving our home to go out into the world and make a wonderful, wonderful life for yourselves and any family you create! We love you with everything we are - no one on this earth wants your success more than we do.
But you are messing it up!! You are messing it up cause you don't get it....
....YOU HAVE TO HOLD UP YOUR END OF THINGS!.
Then I said to him,
"Your father and I hold up our end. Everyday we take care of you, keep you safe, help you with whatever you need. Money has been saved since your birth to prepare for your college education. We pay for a private high school to give you a better opportunity to do something with YOUR life. All you have to do is hold up your end and be a good student, a respectful son and kind sibling. Are you holding up your end? Thousands of dollars are sitting in the bank preparing for your independence - but what are you doing to SHOW us you're becoming independent. I HEAR the word a lot but I'm not seeing it. Stop telling me how independent you are - and show me...please!"
At the end of the conversation, my husband and I declared it over. We had gotten nowhere again. Angry teenager was still blaming us. In fact, it ended when he said something like:
I'll start doing those things when you start letting me do the things I want to do. When you make me happy, I'll do what you want me to do. But as long as you keep making me angry - I don't want to do anything for you.
And with that - we were at a complete impasse. Caught in the fog of teenage thinking where no one can move.
So we left him with this final thought:
"This is where you are lost. You are not doing it for US. You are doing it for YOU. For your own life. We have finished our educations, we have lived our lives, accomplished our own goals - what you do has nothing to do with us and everything to do with you. You are shooting yourself in the foot by refusing to do your schoolwork - and by treating your family poorly. Make decisions to do better so that you can help yourself."
Again the foggy world is heard from -
"You are doing this to me. It is your fault."
Another failed attempt.
I can't tell you how many times a conversation with one of my teenagers results in a complete assignment of blame to us. Over and over.
It is exhausting.
Just like nighttime feedings.
Just like changing diapers.
Just like pushing strollers.
Just like temper tantrums.
Just like packing lunches, helping with homework, driving the activity shuttle bus...
all of those things were exhausting - but before the next stage didn't have so much at stake.
With adolescence the next stage is adulthood - they move out- go away to college - they are on their own - there is no more time to try to "get it right" as a parent. I have gone to bed nearly every night for 17 years thinking, "It's okay. I'll do better tomorrow." But once they leave --
That was it. There are no do-overs.
So parents: How did you do?
Well - I don't think we really know until they have children of their own...
So teenagers: How did you do?
Well - I don't think we really know until they have children of their own..
Hmm. Looks like it eventually all ends up at the same place.
So I guess this is where we look at ourselves and our own parents.
...And I guess this is where that little saying comes from to begin with.