First comes love … then comes marriage … then comes a house full of hungry teenagers …

13 May

ImageAwhile ago some friends were chatting on Facebook about how there just around blogs and forums addressing moms of teenagers.  If you are a young mom with infants, toddlers or even young elementary students there is blog after blog about the ups and downs of daily life.  You are surrounded by people to commiserate with and to share your adorable moments.  When you hit middle school the echos of voices lingering in random corners is all that is left.  By the time high school arrives, it is a crazed conversation you are having by yourself in the shower.

Why is that?  Why do we rally around new moms, toddler moms and moms of young school children.  Why do they seek out one another and share and build communities, but teen moms sit quietly alone.  The biggest reason I suppose?  The biggest reason I think is because our teenagers can read, and there will likely be consequences that come with disclosure.  I think we also respect our young adults privacy.  Our three year old stripping in the front yard is embarrassing while simultaneously adorable.  We share the story, the three year old is never the wiser, and no one will judge our bitty person for this serious social faux pas.  However, if our teen does something that doesn’t involve medals, scholarships or positive recognition of one kind or another, we stash it.  If we were to share about a child’s expulsion from school, we’d humiliate our child, we’d embarrass our selves and people would judge our teen unfairly.

The frustrating thing is that I suspect I need more of a community now than I ever did when the kids were in preschool.  I know I needed support through baby years, and probably through toddlerhood, but goodness gracious those have nothing on teenage life.  Most days i spend in a confused haze, second-guessing every decision.  Should I take the computer away, or is that their only lifeline to friends that they need to help them through.  Should I crack the whip, or has the world already smacked them around enough that I need to handle them more gently.  Should I invest in what seems like fruitless pursuits at the expense of what seems like their hope for a future?  It is a tough business, and I do it alone.

Even in light of this post shared in the spirit of disclosure, you aren’t going to know everything.  But I need to let you know that if you are overwhelmed by the waves of seemingly critical, maybe even life or death, decisions – you aren’t alone.

I fluctuate from feeling that God has blessed me with the most perfect, most beautiful, most … (keep plugging in fabulous adjectives preceded by “most” and you get the idea) … to what the heck kind of mental illness does this kid have that makes him so insensitive, maybe even cruel, and dressed like that.  Clearly their father is harboring some seriously questionable genes.

I cry because they hurt me …

i scream because I … because I … because I am just so confused and frustrated …

I sit quietly for fear of doing or saying anything wrong …

I look for answers …

I pray.

God in his wisdom decided I should be blessed with three teenagers at any given moment.  While one is aging out of teenagedom, I have one that just turned twelve and is getting ready to kick it off.  Meanwhile I have two in the middle.  To ensure that things stay lively, no two kids are ever alike … similar enough to make you over confident, but not enough to ensure that you have any real solutions.

God has blessed me with boys and girls, so I can be sure to have a well rounded perspective.

I don’t know what other people’s teens are like, but mine (at least some of them) seem to suffer a lot.  Despite their amazing minds, their generous hearts, their strong and beautiful bodies, they think they are inadequate.  They withdraw and hate the world before it can hate them.  I count myself blessed to have these children in my life, but it is exhausting to mom these introspective children.  There is nothing you say that is valid, yet you cannot sit and say nothing.

Experience tells me each of them will likely pass through this stage, and they will eventually pass out of it.  But the fear lingers, what if they don’t … What if they never get happy again.

Looking at photo albums filled with pictures of 8 year olds with silly grins, little girls in princess dresses, wide-eyed babies and little people filled with hope and joy can be so difficult when held up against the darkness of teen anxiety and self loathing.  I yearn for just one of those days, and every so often there is a momentary glimpse of it.  You will hear a stray laugh in the front yard, or a teen who forgets to dismiss you hops in bed to tell you the cool thing they just learned.

Just this last fall, I sat so still while my nineteen year old fell asleep in my bed while I was studying.  It was my birthday.  He had done little to acknowledge it.  In fact, he spent a good part of it at a friend’s house.  That moment though … I would cash in every card, every washed dish and every considerate notion that I could have had that day … for that moment.

Raising teenagers is not for the faint of heart.  It requires you to be more grown-up than ever.  And in light of this moderate attempt at full disclosure, I frequently fail on the grown-up bit.  They have the maturity to hurt you more than they ever have before.  Their eyes are so focused on their budding world on the horizon, you are often forgotten.  They are almost as self-absorbed as a two year old.  You though, need to keep perspective and not allow yourself to be swept away in the current of hurt.

Despite all of this, the amazing thing that happens is that they become really cool people.  They are fun to listen to.  They have ideas that are profound.  They challenge you to consider things in ways you never have.  They make you so proud that your heart bubbles over.  You will find yourself gasping when you notice the beautiful young woman or man they are becoming.  You will look over and realize that you are living with a not quite done adult.

What i would give for some assurance that all will work out.  I want to see the sparkling eyes and know that they will always sparkle with joy and that the glistening tears are only temporary.  I hate seeing troubles too grown-up for band-aids or hugs, and having to sit on the sideline waiting to be called in.

I apologize for assaulting you with my stream of consciousness writing … but to polish it … well, that would be dishonest … this is the mind of a mother of teens.

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