Wednesday, August 7, 2013
This morning I woke up to this email in my inbox. For the better part of the last year I have NOT been writing with the discipline nor the consistency I was a year ago. So why today?
Last night I experienced something that I haven't in a very long time. True insomnia.
The beauty and the curse of insomnia is your thoughts wander, truths reveal themselves and ideas percolate. One of these things that blossomed and began nagging at me was something that I'm going to attempt to articulate in a way that I hope makes some sense. What I am writing here is simply an observation and thought that has crawled out of the cobwebs of my sleeplessness.
Here is my observation: When my children were little, and misbehaving, cavorting, or other wise being disruptive, people would go out of their way to comment in a way that was more often than not, kind and gentle. Mostly, I would guess their way of trying to impart their experience or to show support to help a young mum struggling with the antics of a child while trying to exist in a grown up world. More often than not, the advice was NOT actually helpful, or useful, or in anyway a tool to get through that moment. But that advice was usually accepted with a gracious smile and acknowledged with kindness reflected back. As a young mum I would often internally shake my head and at times roll my eyes, and carry on.
I now fast forward to a new time in my life, where the expectations of children into young adulthood has changed dramatically from toddlerhood. And to something I observed between two women a few nights ago, and is what I was mulling about in the wee hours of this morning.
On a recent excursion to the grocery store a teenage boy, who I'd approximate to be around 14, was overtly rude to his mother in his tone of voice, as she was greeting someone who appeared to be not much more than an acquaintance. As a mother of teens, I winced on her behalf, because I've been there in her shoes. That moment when you want appear to be a Norman Rockwell family, but instead you come off as the Simpsons? Yeah, THAT moment.
The acquaintance (and please understand, these are my presumptions based upon a very short and casual exchange in the produce area primarily observed out of the corner of my eye), proceeded to look at her son as he slouched off with utter distain, drenched in teenage angst, and say to the mother "well THAT boy sure could use some discipline!" (cavet here: the actual words she used were much ruder and way more judgemental) Again I winced, but I carried on. I really hadn't given it much thought until a sleep deprived moment revealed that on some level for the last several days, have been struggling with what I saw and how it made me feel.
Here's the thing, he's a teenager and what that mom needed was some encouragement that went beyond what I would consider the closest thing a parent of teens gets, which is usually along the lines of "someday they'll grow up and you'll be grateful you survived this phase!" What that mom needed was another mom to say "it's really hard isn't it?" or "you're not the only mom feeling like this right now. It's ok to feel like you do!" or "you truly don't suck as a parent, remember that he still needs you, you're still his mom."
Being a parent is so hard and not a day goes by that I don't feel like I'm failing my kids or failing as a parent. My bar of measurement for even a modicum of success is simply looking at other parents who are going through even worse and breathing a sigh of relief that my kid isn't doing THAT particular thing. Which might actually make me a bad person.
But the real issue, the thing that has been so deeply bothering me, is WHY do we as adults look at these teens who are not yet actually adults and expect them to be so? WHY do we offer less to a parent of a teenager than we do to the parent of a toddler? Toddlers have issues we can fix with a time out, a band aid or a kissing away of tears. Teenagers are dealing with crap we never saw in our teen years which took place (thank you GOD!) pre social media, smart phones, internet, and reality TV. Even with out all those things, I remember being a teenager and it was hard, and it sucked, and I felt so damn alone.
So my reality check for the moment is this: When I truly take a moment to look at my kids, putting all MY priorities aside, focusing on them, I can actually see every hope, dream and wish that I kissed on to their cherubic cheeks as babies. In those moments I weep inside for the babe I cannot protect who is trying to navigate a world that is so much harsher than they deserve. I wish for them things I cannot give them, hopes I have no control over, dreams that are not theirs. In those moments I weep for them because, like every other mother of teenagers out there, I have no clue what I'm doing and it scares me to death. I think the phrase "it takes a village to raise a child" was coined by a mom desperate to have someone to share the hiccups of pre-adulthood so she could share the blame.
For what its worth, no matter how awful, disrespectful, sassy, boundary pushing, rude, moody, distant, or teenagy my children are in their horridly bumpy road to adulthood, I'm their person. They cannot do anything that will make me stop loving them for even a second of their life. And every mom out there know this is the truth. We may not like our kids some days, but we only fail them when we forget that we are their person.
To the mom's of teenagers, who, in my young mom rookie arrogance, thought life was hard then when I could actually FIX problems for my kids, I would like to extend a deep and sincere apology for the time when I may or may not have verbally more than once commented in the vein of "my child will NEVER treat ME like THAT!" I was arrogant. I was and idiot. I was still a child myself in too many ways and, for that, I am genuinely sorry.