I’m a mother to two beautiful humans. My 11 year-old son is in the throes of growing armpit hair and could probably stand to shower three times a day, given the rate of sweating he’s prone to do on a daily basis. My 15 year-old daughter is solidly finishing up her first year in high school, has indentations on the sides of her face from the Beats headphones permanently planted there, and is spending approximately 23 hours a day in her bedroom.
And while there are occasional struggles with the puberty-ridden man child stomping around my house, my momma’s heart has been laser focused on the teenager as of late. You see, it has recently come to my attention that I am actually raising a future adult. I know. Mind blowing. Someone decided it was a good idea to drop a living, breathing human into my clutches with the following instructions: “Feed it and stuff.” And, yes, I realize I have two future adults in this home but I’ve got slightly more time left with the man child and his debut as a grownup isn’t as impending as the teenager. Thank God. Because I feel like his basic tutelage on human needs like soap isn’t near complete yet.
Full disclosure – in the grand scheme of teenager complaints, I’ve been pretty darn lucky. I’ve heard some horror stories from folks that make Lizzie Borden look like Cindy Brady (not the annoying getting-way-too-old-for-pigtails Cindy…the cherubic one who asked Santa for her mom’s voice back so she could sing at church.) .
Behavior aside, I think some of the struggles of raising teenagers are experienced across the board.
- Sudden and ill-prepared attitude shifts – “I’m sooo hungry/Why are you always trying to shove food down my throat?!”;
- Apparent super hero-like wisdom with approximately zero life experience;
- A mysterious inability to appreciate any effort that doesn’t somehow directly benefit them;
- The tendency to revert back to incapable toddlers when the subject of cooking/cleaning/folding/
- Any eye roll or conversation that starts with “Oh my God, you are so embarassing…”.
For myself, realizing that the time has come to relinquish some control and allow these kids to start making independent decisions has probably represented the biggest struggle of all. Trusting that we have instilled in our teens the right amount of morals, ethics and rational thinking in order to be able to be handle situations that require snap judgment carries enough fear to keep me up at night.
But even more fear-inducing is the realization that they are going to screw up. In a world where there is virtually no guarantee of anything, you can pretty much bet the farm that these kids will make a wrong choice. More than once, even. As their parents we also have to remember that those wrong choices can have a farther reach than consequences in the moment. Those wrong choices can also teach a valuable lesson for the next time a judgment needs to be made. Or even the next time after that.
While commiserating over parenting with my bestie, Camille, she shared with me some beyond wise words from Dr. James Dobson. He has compared parenting teenagers to a wild ride down the rapids. “Your job as a parent is to GET THROUGH, trying your best to guide them and keep them safe, all the while knowing it’s rough and dangerous and scary, but you WILL get to calmer waters. Just get through the rapids.”
No truer words. And while my instinct is to strap on fourteen life jackets and fit a life preserver around her teeny little waist, I know that at the end of the day, we are doing our best.
Stay tuned for a blog post on how I plan to implant Speed Stick into my son’s armpits.