I used to write articles about finding peace during the toddler years. I kind of miss that advice because the put them down for a nap and take a bit to catch your breath again advice just doesn’t work with a seventeen year old. Sure you can ground them, but that is the opposite of peace.
Sometimes I’ll read articles about surviving the teen years written by others whose oldest aren’t even teens. Bless them, but until you come face to face with a slammed door or college applications or sitting up late at night or dealing with boyfriends or girlfriends or parties or all of it, you just don’t get it. Teenage years can be lonely, hard and challenging for the heart. So before you worry that this is just another article of hypotheticals let me let you know that my oldest two are in their twenties and now, in my house I have three other teenagers.
I had to catch my breath just reading what I wrote. Three teenagers. So understand that I get it. No phony stuff here. In fact, I see you, I know you want to do your best, I know it’s hard. I see how hard you try and know that you just need a friend. That’s why I’m sharing with you what I’ve learned.
- You need a village. If you don’t have one, find one, create one. If you think you can’t find one search facebook and join a group. Parenting teens isn’t for the faint of heart and so often it feels isolating and lonely and there are moments where you think am I the only one who doesn’t have a clue what to do next? and the village will tell you nope, sister, join us. Now, listen, the village has to be full of real friends, no phonies, because this is not the time to make your life will look perfect. And this village needs to be full of truth tellers. It is not the time to compare and try to make your life look perfect. Teenagers will suck the perfect out of your life at times. Even if they are GREAT and easy to deal with. They are still independent humans trying to figure things out. In fact, that’s why this is titled I see you, because so often parenting teens feels like trying to tread water and change the world and make dinner and be completely exhausted and no one even knows.
- Try desperately to remember being a teen. This one is so hard for me. Because my teens often think I’m weird or out-of-it or certainly not the coolest. And sometimes I want to be their friend because I think they’re cool. And now that I don’t have to cut their grapes or explain that we don’t touch hot stoves there is this cool space where I see them as well, mini awesome adults who do cool things or have opinions on life. But, despite me believing I’m just as in as them, I’m not. So I try to remember those years when my parents, in my head, were embarrassing or annoying or without a clue and I remember – this is just a season. And trust me, when they turn twenty all of a sudden us parents might know a thing or two again. Oh yes, one other thing, remember how confusing this time was for you too – and that memory – can give grace. I will say that when they ask to do something with me, this is the time when I jump at the opportunity to make it happen. And I try to act chill when we’re out, even though I’m giddy inside, but it goes back that remembering of my own story.
- Don’t tell parents with young kids just wait until they’re teenagers. Just like it is best to remember what it was like being a teenager it is also always good to remember what it was like when you only had young kids. It’s overwhelming. And that whole phrase of just wait – even though now instead of trying to get them to stay in bed at night you have to try to get them to wake in school or you’re up waiting for them to get home is so different – us moms (and dads) need love and support for the season we are actually in. That just wait phrase minimizes that moment. Unless it’s about just wait until you go on the vacation that you’ve already booked where you can sleep for three days. That’s cool. In fact, let’s just not use just wait to any parent, because no matter what season you are in you don’t need someone else telling you that the season you are in is easy compared to this one.
- You can’t make everything perfect and they will make mistakes. I kind of hate this one. But it’s the true. Our kids (if we can think back to our teenage years) are under so much pressure. Can you imagine being asked almost all the time What are you going to do in the future? Where are you going to study? What are you going to be? Let’s face it – I’m 44 (gasp) and there are many days where I can’t figure out what I’m going to do tomorrow and the to-do list for today is overwhelming. And I have many years on my teens. I often will step in and save them from those moments, especially when they are still trying to figure out their plans. And they will make mistakes. They won’t be perfect. They’ll stumble. Our job as parents is to extend the hand to help them stand up again and to tell them don’t do that ever again and I still love you and how can I help? And show up. Sometimes being silent but being there is the most powerful thing of all.
- I know you try and you love and there are times where you feel alone. It’s scary parenting a teen. It’s scary letting go. It’s scary having your heart on the line. It’s scary watching them drive. I think so often we read articles that make it seem easy, but lets face it – there are moments where it’s scary. I know, sister, I know. And I know that sometimes it doesn’t go perfectly or that teens rebel. You are a good mom even in those hard places. You are a good mom even if they think you’re not. You are a good mom. Just rest in that, just for a moment.
- Don’t fight the emotions. Letting go is hard. I still remember the day I boarded a plane in Seattle and flew almost two thousand miles away from my oldest. Time felt unfair in that moment, honestly. I felt like the eighteen years, even though it felt long, went exponentially short. And the emotions I felt on the plane were such a mixture of elation and fear and hope and pride. We don’t get iron wills just because the kids are older, in fact, those emotions, those bonds, those years together have grown even more and so the letting go heart strings are even stronger. But life is about letting go, letting them grow and being there when the phone rings at one am and it’s your daughter on the other side of the country who forgot the time zone change who just is calling to tell you about her day.
I’m getting ready to have my third child graduate from high school. And I can feel her pulling away from the house more and more and more…. and despite my heart being like not again! there is part of me that has this deep peace. Not because everything is perfect, but more because I survived. And surviving isn’t necessarily a negative thing. In fact, it’s a moment in life where I can be proud of the journey – not because it was perfect, but because I didn’t quit, I loved and I showed up.
You will survive. I see how hard you give, love, show up, care, wait up, don’t quit, pray, worry, try again.
It won’t be easy. I can’t sugarcoat that part. Maybe we struggle in these years because we think that we can change the system. But the teenage years are supposed to be challenging – for all of us. And challenging isn’t hard, challenging sometimes means growth and learning. Remember, you are not the only one letting go of everything you’ve known as normal.
They are too.
I was reminded of that the other day when I talked with my daughter and she was panicky about not knowing what to do with her life. In that moment, the humanness of being seventeen rushed back and I simply told her it’s okay. Yes, it’s okay. A simple phrase that we tell each other but for our teens, I think in a world of pressure they need the most basic reminder.
You can do this.
And that goes for you as well. You can do this. I mean you don’t have a choice, but listen, you can do this. It can be hard, but you are strong. You will be okay.
And you are not alone.
I see you.