Such well-meaning intentions we parents have! So many good ideas, effective, tried and true recommendations, and plenty of sound unsolicited advice. Why, then, are these conversations with our teenagers so unbelievably painful? Beautiful solutions shot down from the sky with the largest missiles in an adolescent’s arsenal. Heartbreaking. And, apparently, irritating and annoying.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, worries, and problems with me – young, hardworking son of mine. I am always grateful that you talk to your father and me. As parents, we know that many teenagers choose to keep all that angst to themselves, or at times, among a select group of worthy friends. You talking to me makes me feel validated! I’m a good mom.
Wait. What? You don’t actually want my advice? You take it as an affront to your independence that I don’t agree with you, or may actually have a better idea than you? Of course not! Hold on, Mom. How could I not see it? He has to walk this path himself sometimes. He has to find out how to manage and maneuver through this world on his own. After all, we’re not always going to be here to offer our wisdom to our children.
The kicker here is that I know this. I know this in my heart, in my soul, and in my bones. I’ve been there. I’ve lived these moments too. We all have. I even work with other parents to help guide them through this very maze. But as the parent, we are blinded by love and emotion. Sometimes logic goes out the window as often as it does for our adolescents. Are we actually like them in a way? Driven by emotion, feelings and gut reactions?
How can that be? We are adults. We are mature, logical, have great life experience, and certainly know more than our children. Oh, right. It’s because while we may be able to handle and manage many things in our adult world whether they may or may not be enjoyable (bills, schedules, appointments, family demands, making time for friends, exercising, going to work on time and doing our jobs), adolescents are a slippery bunch.
They are unpredictable! All those hormones and ongoing brain development continually challenge our (and their) experience and well thought-out decision making. What made sense an hour ago is now questionable. That young person who was just happy is now angry. And there’s nothing we can do about it. Not now, anyway.
So, how then, do we remember the joy of parenting so that we don’t lose it in all this exasperation? Because these uncontrollable, erratic, impulsive teenagers are doing just exactly what they are supposed to be doing. Figuring it out. Without us. Until they ask us for our help.
That is the lesson I learned (or retaught myself) today. I am now officially on the periphery; a “consultant” to his world. I also have to remember that there are multiple consultants in an adolescent’s world, and that I will be consulted when it is deemed appropriate and necessary by the CEO of his life – him. I must also remember that this is a sign of good parenting; that he is thinking for himself, making his own mistakes, and making his own successes. I am here when he needs me. I am always his biggest fan. His biggest cheerleader. I guess I just still want to be part of it.
So I embrace the moments I get like this afternoon - a typical ride in the car to a regularly scheduled activity. He turns on the radio, scans through the stations and settles on a song he likes. I like it too. I even know some of the words. He starts telling me about a story from his day. Then we pause to sing the chorus. He returns to his story and I listen, taking it all in. I realize that this is joy, a moment of open adolescent sharing that I cherish with all my heart. I know that shortly the tide will turn and the sharing will pause yet again. But this too shall pass. Adolescence is a bumpy road for all of us, but it is lined with lots of beautiful scenery. Take time to stop and take it in. And spread the joy.