Momservation: The high stakes challenges of the teenage years makes a mother crave the days of guarding against sharp corners, uncovered outlets, and play dates with biters.
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I’m a wreck. I don’t know whether I’m going to cry, throw up, or burst into obscenities. I’m jumpy. I’m tense. I’m emotional. I just want it to be all over…
…the teenage years. With a 14 year-old high school freshmen and 13 year-old 8th grader the combustible danger around here is high.
One minute I’m calling them my little Schmoopies, offering to make their favorite lunch, watching their silly TV shows with them, trying to coerce awkward hugs out of them and spend quality time with them. Sometimes they let me and all is right with the world.
But then other times…
…their phones are constantly buzzing, set on vibrate and screens dimmed hoping I won’t notice how much they’re on it. And all the while I’m wondering: Who are they texting? Is it a boy or a girl? Is it someone I should be worried about? Are they a good influence? Is someone asking them to do something they shouldn’t do? Will they be tempted? Will they make the right choice?
…they’re hunkered down in their rooms with the door shut, headphones on, scanning social media on their phones. And all the while I’m worrying: Should I give them their privacy? What are they looking at behind closed doors? Are they taking and posting inappropriate selfies? Are they receiving or commenting on inappropriate selfies? What are they being exposed to on their Instagram and Twitter feeds that I can’t see on mine because of privacy settings? Should I be concerned about the amount of time they spend on social media?
…they increasingly interact on SnapChat. And all the while I’m second-guessing myself: Should I let them have a social media account I can’t monitor? Are they trying to hide something by choosing this forum to communicate? Can I still trust them? What are they sending through SnapChat? What are they putting out there that they think is private but can be screen-shotted? What image are they projecting? Will they do something stupid they can’t undo?
…they go off with their friends caring more about their opinion than mine. And all the while I’m hoping: Can I trust these kids? Will they make good choices? Will they not do something stupid with a pack mentality, egged on by a group? Will they just say no? Will they be the voice that has the courage to speak up for what’s right or wrong? Will they set a good example? Do they like who they are when they’re with these people?
…I know they’re exposed to sex, smoking, foul language, drugs, drinking, and poor choices in the larger social setting of middle and high school. And all the while I’m panicking: Have I given them a good enough foundation to rise above the curiosities and temptations? Are they able recognize a bad situation before they step into it? Do they trust that they can talk to me when they’re problems seem too overwhelming to handle on their own? Do they understand that I can be a resource on how to proceed—that I was young once too and probably faced these same issues? Do they believe I won’t judge or punish them if they call home in desperate need to leave a bad situation?
Of course, these are the anxieties that reside on the flip side of the coin that are the teenage years—the thoughts that are robbers of sleep, the sand in the sheets that keeps me flipping and flopping. They are the concerns that make me long for the aching sleep-deprivation of infancy, the simple anxieties of keeping a human being alive.
The truth is, I have good kids. They make good choices. They have good friends. They operate in the parameters I have set for them until they are fully formed to fly free. They are likable, lovable, they’re fun and funny, and we enjoy each other’s company. The coin has landed heads side up and I’ve called heads.
And therein really lies my anxiety. Will it stay this way? These kids giving me so much joy and pride. Do I trust myself? That I’ve done a good job raising my kids. Do I believe in myself? That I’ve done all I can to reinforce good values. Can I rely on myself to be non-judgmental and understanding when they have failures? Because they will have failures. Everyone makes mistakes.
I am a wreck because my parenting is being put the test that is the teenage years—when a poor decision can be life altering.
So I just need to take a deep breath. Trust that I’ve put in the work to watch my kids succeed. Believe that they know I’m here for them if they stumble. And now it’s time for me to back off and let my kids put my number one rule to the test, the rule that makes all the other rules redundant:
First, and foremost, respect yourself.
Did you read my mind or something? I was just having this conversation with my BFF this weekend. Acknowledging that we operate from a base of fear, all the while forgetting that we have been raising good kids – it’s so hard to let them go even a little bit. It’s just too scary. On the other hand, my kid hasn’t done anything (yet) to cause me not to trust her and we’ve been working hard to raise our girls with confidence, good character, and the ability to make good moral judgements. Still, that’s all easy enough to say but terrifying to test in the real waters of the big, bad world.
No doubt about it – this parenting phase is the hardest one yet and probably the most crucial. Hopefully, we’ll be able to let go when we need to and they’ll know we’ll be there if they need us.
And with that, I just sprouted another gray hair. 😉
I love your thoughts, Elise – thank you for sharing them. This is what’s getting me through this test…holding the hands of my fellow mothers and friends and jumping together, having faith. I needed to hear them, thank you for validating my fears and bolstering my conviction to land this helicopter!
Now let’s go have a hair dying party… 😉
To my newbe teenaged kids’ mommy, look into your mirror – if you like who you see, so will your kids.
Upon further reflection, guiding and nurturing teenagers to adulthood is a job fraught with peril and pitfall, which should be attempted only by those with experience in the task. To that end, I think my grand kids should come live with their grandpa. I have more bandwidth.
Thanks for the expert advice Dad/Granpa. Because of your close proximity I suspect the kids are already pirating your wi-fi when they retreat to the backyard…