Once upon a time there was a young woman who became a Mom. Her firstborn son began challenging her when he was 14 months old and since then, life has never been the same.
Fast forward 15 years and here I am, a seasoned Mom with two teenagers, one tween, and two babies (ages seven and nine years old who will be teenagers really soon!). I think I’ve learned a lot these past 15.5 years.
But…kids change so quickly. And I’m supposed to be prepared for everything. Right?!
In truth, I rarely feel prepared. I don’t know if it’s because I’m in denial that they’re growing up so quickly and they won’t always need me. I’ll be left an empty-nester and I won’t know what to do with my time. Ha ha.
Or maybe it’s because this parenting thing is hard. Harder than you can imagine.
Remember when you were pregnant and you could hardly wait to hold your darling baby in your arms? You were willing to give up everything not realizing you’d also be required to give up your sanity as well.
You were prepared for the toddler temper tantrums but you never thought you’d see the day that you’d have teenagers.
Did you? I didn’t!
I have this love hate relationship with teenagers. Not mine specifically, just the general idea of children who happen to also be…Teenagers.
I used to be scared of teenagers.
So many teens display this attitude of being too cool, super independent, better than everyone else, and often doing dumb, ie. dangerous, stuff. If they don’t like you, they have no fear of telling you to your face. Teenagers have their rights and they’re not afraid to demand them. Loud and clear.
But I’ve learned that not all teenagers are like this. Well, not deep down inside.
I’ve witnessed the entire lives of my 14 and 15 year old boys and I know their weak spots and their soft spots. I remember when they used to need their stuffies — ALL of them — in their beds in order to sleep. I’ve cleaned up their puke and wiped their butts. I’ve seen them cry and I’ve hugged them when they skinned their knees. I’ve taken them to the doctor’s office and I’ve counselled them on how to handle the difficult people in their young lives.
I used to be nervous about my boys as they evolved into teenagers, but then I learned a few things.
Let’s start with the good stuff.
Their Increasing Independence
Honestly, this is both exciting and scary at the same time. Letting them take the bus, leaving them home alone, and buying them cell phones can be moments of anxiety for some Moms.
I’m not saying it was easy for me. I am a worrier after all. But, I knew I had raised smart kids who would know how to get help if they needed to. I had to learn to let go and trust them. Not easy, but as they began to prove themselves responsible, I slowly began to relax.
Give your young teenagers the opportunity to prove themselves even if it scares the crap out of you.
I’m Still An Important Part of their Lives
That’s right, I’m still needed. It’s very clear I’m still needed in my teenagers lives. They’re slowly becoming adults and my relationship with each of them is morphing into something new practically by the day.
And yet they still seek out my opinions. They value my input. And in return, I make sure they know they’re a valued part of the family, even thought they often drive me crazy.
On Friday, I got to go paintballing with my three oldest boys and four of their teenage friends. I know some boys wouldn’t want their Moms anywhere near them and their friends, but my boys didn’t object (I watched their faces closely) when I said I’d take the eighth spot when one boy after another couldn’t make it.
Later on when I took them out to eat, one of my boys came up on me and talked to me. In the presence of his friends. If that isn’t a great relationship, I don’t know what is. Ha!
If you take their negative comments personally, you lose.
My Goal? To Be Better.
I didn’t have the best relationship with my parents and my teenage years were spent avoiding most conversations with them because they turned into lectures. My parents treated me like a child they couldn’t trust. I had a 10 pm curfew in grade 12. I had very little freedom. I couldn’t have honest, open conversations with my Mom. They hated my boyfriend.
I knew my parents loved me but they had a weird way of showing it. And I’m not saying they sucked as parents. I know they did the best they could and I love them for it. Now. Now that I’m a parent.
Even if you had a less than ideal relationship with your parents, you can learn from your experience as a teenager.
What I’ve Learned as a Mom of Teenagers
Honestly, it’s taken me a while to learn some of these things and I know I’ll never know everything I need to. But these are a few things that I’m proud of figuring out before my kids have disowned me and moved out.
Big Kids in Growing Bodies
Teenagers are just big kids. They want you to think they know it all but they don’t.
You need to take everything they say and do with a
grain of salt cup of sugar. I remember how I felt. Even though things with my parents weren’t great, I would have given anything for them to take me out for coffee, give me a hug, and ask me how life was going. That’s what your kids need even if they’re trying to push you away.
Show genuine interest in your teenager’s life.
Create a Safe Place
They need to feel like they belong. At home.
Make sure your home is always welcoming to them, unless they’re doing really stupid stuff. Sometimes you need to practice tough love. I haven’t reached that point with my teens and I hope I never do.
But my point is this – they’ll be rude, they won’t talk to you all day long, and they won’t want to be seen walking with you.
But at the end of the day, they want to know that they matter to you and you want them in your family.
If they feel that, they’re a lot less likely to go looking for acceptance somewhere else. You know what I mean.
Take Care of Yourself
Teach them that their bodies are not a science experiment.
Seriously, why do you need to prove that you can live on pop and bacon?! Kid, you only have one body and this is it! Learn to take care of it. This also includes showering, using deodorant, brushing teeth, and putting on clean clothes. Preferably every day.
Be an example. Take care of your own body.
When these kinds of things come up, especially the eating of the crap food thing, I ask them, “How does that make you feel?”
I’d rather have an open discussion about their food choices than tell them, “This is what you should eat. Period. The End. I know better than you.”
I’m not their drill sergeant. I’m taking an opportunity to show I can talk about the little things so that it greatly increases the chance that they’ll come to me about the big things.
Feed them food. Have good food in your house all the time. Just like babies learning to eat, offer them veggies all the time. Eventually they’ll come back to them.
Teenagers are a riot. One day they’ll call you their best friend (take my advice, be suspicious when they do this but enjoy the brief five minutes of ignorant bliss before they tell you what happened in school). The next day, they won’t talk to you and you’ll wonder what you did wrong. Don’t ask if you did anything wrong, because they’ll tell you and you’ll just want to argue with them. Resist the urge.
If you can manage to not completely screw up these years, you’ll be forging a strong bond for the years to come.