Raising Teens: Not an Easy Feat

These are my four wonderful children just yesterday, on the steps of the Toledo Museum of Art. I love them deeply. And I hope to do right by them.
These are my four wonderful children just yesterday, on the steps of the Toledo Museum of Art. I love them deeply. And I hope to do right by them.

I woke up this morning feeling like a mom who just can’t win.

Wait. I feel that way at least once a day.

Unless the kids aren’t here, and then I feel like a great mom and like we are close and always will be. And that’s only because when they’re with the other parent, the one they’re missing seems larger than life and fantastic.

So it’s an illusion.

The thing about parenting teenagers is that you have to do it without seeming to do it.

Offer guidance subtly, so they can still believe they know everything and you are supremely uncool.

Be their rock in the storm rather than rock their boat.

I get it. I just don’t get it.

It’s clear to me that I have not perfected the art of parenting teenagers yet. Perhaps that’s ok, as my eldest is only 13 and my second is a mere 12, though in fairness I believe she’s been in teen mode for a long time.

I get a lot of “you don’t understand!” and “Relax, Mom!” Ugh. I hate it when I hear those. I think of my own years in therapy, complaining about how I was not understood by the parental figures, or anyone really, and how who I am at the core was just not good enough for anyone else.

And I grew up eager to become a mother myself with a huge desire to make sure that my children would be parented in such a way that they always felt loved for exactly who they are, accepted, and wonderful. I vowed not to shame them based on personality traits, promised myself I would never arm them with the feeling that they were “bossy” and had a “big mouth” as I inherited.

I don’t think I’m succeeding.

I haven’t used the words bossy or big mouth, but there have been other words.

To be fair, and it’s been a long time, I’m not certain it was my parents who called me bossy or said I had a big mouth. It just seems like the childhood consensus about me when I look back that long dark tunnel to all those years ago.

I know distinctly that the people who claimed to love me most seemed not to know what to do with me or how to handle me. I seemed to be their constant conundrum and I recall distinctly that when I was upset about things and wanted to talk, no one wanted to listen.

This is my first official teenager. He has to approve all social media posts and photos. He’s a great kid. I hope I’m parenting him the best way for him.
At 12 and 11, my girls are on the verge of teendom, though I feel like they’re already there. They, too, require approval before I keep a photo and definitely before I post one.

I had too much feeling. I felt things too deeply. I was, as they said, “too sensitive.” That, I can pin on specific people.

I wonder if anyone ever feels understood and accepted for the core of their being.

I recall my own inner conversations and meanderings and know that everything I yearned for was kept close to the heart.

And so my lovely children, and they are wonderful, what battles am I arming them with? Or is it me at all? Is this just a rite of passage, a thing that happens when the kids turn toward teendom and later, adolescence, and in not that many years, leave the nest for their own lives?

Is this the way they do it? Pull away and separate so they can be distinct and clear, and know where the dividing lines lay?

When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew somewhere that this time would come, but I really didn’t see it clearly. All I saw was the tiny creature kicking inside me and couldn’t wait to see his face.

Those first, let’s say 11 or 12 years, I was his everything, the sun in his solar system, and I couldn’t imagine that would ever change. I even had visions of my eldest – all my children, really – growing up and staying close forever.

I realize now I was dreaming. It’s what we wish for, in a way, but I can honestly say that there is not always value in staying too close. You have to stretch your wings and fly, see what landscapes vary below your course.

I do hope my kids eventually land not too far from me, so I can enjoy them all the days of our lives. But I know why they try to pull away and stand tall on their own.

I just hope I can send them on their way with grace, rather than stern finger-wagging. I’ll do my best. It’s just not easy.

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