In my tour around blogland I often look for blogs of other mothers who are on the same parenting path that I am on. It’s very unusual to find blogs by mothers parenting teenagers. Most of the time I have found if they have teenagers they also have younger children and spend most of their blogging time writing about the journey in parenting those younger children. I can sort of understand that. Parenting young children is hard and exhausting. Any support a mother of young children can find is greatly necessary. However, I find that parenting teenagers is a whole other world. And help and support for those of us on THIS path is needed as well. It just doesn’t seem to be voiced as much. When I decided to revive my blog one of my goals was to be a contact for those in this phase of life.
I’m not sure when it happened actually – seriously. People say that. It sounds cliche. But actually it is very very true. One day you go to bed with sweet loveable children who like hugging you, kissing you, laughing with you, spending time with you and talking to you. The next morning you wake up and at some point in the night someone came in and switched THAT child with a sullen, grumpy, eye-rolling, quiet alien. TRULY – that is EXACTLY what it is like. If there was some kind of gradual movement into this stage of life then it would make it less challenging and shocking. Unfortunately that isn’t how it happens. It’s more like a bucket of ice water thrown on you while you are sleeping in your bed dreaming of warm beaches and glorious sunshine. I think at first a parent just kind of walks around in a daze wondering just what happened. Kind of in shock. You don’t remember a UFO landing in your backyard and exchanging your children. You wrack your brain trying to figure out what you did to make them so angry all of a sudden. I remember just sort of staring mindlessly at the wall going through everything of recent days trying to decide what went wrong when.
When they are pre-teens you hear a phrase similar to “you can’t be your child’s friend. you have to be their parent”. But you ignorantly think that doesn’t pertain to you because you and your child/ren have a wonderfully close relationship. Then the invasion happens and you are suddenly downgraded from friend to enemy overnight. After about two weeks you realize that you have moved into the teenage stage. You decide that changing them is not gonna happen. So you are gonna have to change your parenting method. There is the baby parenting stage, the toddler parenting stage, the elementary parenting stage and then the teenage parenting stage. Each of the previous stages kind of flow naturally into one another and your journey through parenting is going along smoothly. But when you hit the teen years you find it’s like starting all over. Prior to that you think you just know everything there is to know about parenting. You could write a book and tell other parents how to parent successfully. YOU GOT THIS!! Then that invasion happens and you think about how little you actually do know about the process.
It’s a long adjustment. Our son Michael is 17 and fairly easy to parent. He has his issues. But honestly parenting him in the 17th year is pretty much the same as parenting him as an 8 year old. His issues are the same. He has really only matured. But then there is Lauren. She will be 16 next month. She was always the one I was closest to. Michael is a private person and holds his emotions in most of the time. That is the complete opposite of me. Lauren, however, has always been exactly like me. You NEVER ever ever have to wonder what kind of mood she is in. It follows her around like ghost haunting those who love her. From the early days until the day of the invasion she was constantly glued to me. She was always sitting up next to me, holding my hand, hugging me or laying on me. As a toddler I HAD to constantly be holding her hand in the car – even if I was driving. After the invasion, I didn’t exist. Night and day – black and white – human and alien – friend and stranger….and any other contradictory terms you could come up with. We have been on quite the journey.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes with both of them. But I have found that it is possible to be your child/ren’s parent AND their friend. That is the relationship I have settled into for now. I have made myself available to them and their friends (which I think Lauren appreciates even more). It’s not easy to learn how to be your teenager’s friend. At least that is how I feel today. Who knows how things will be tomorrow. It’s a very delicate balance though. You can’t be MORE friend than parent. And you can’t be MORE parent than friend. You have to find the perfect line to walk for each child. I’ve found if you are their friend then they feel respected. If you do it right, and I always haven’t, you can influence them on their level and still be their parent. There are times that I have to be more parent than friend. Those are the tough times. But being honest and talking openly with them helps enormously.
Anyway, this topic is one that I could go on and on about. I hope to share more about our parenting journey with teenagers in the future because an alien invasion is not easy to navigate through. It takes support and help – and a whole boatload of patience.