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I read a quote this morning that said:
"Having a teenager is like flying a kite that gets lost in the clouds. Even when you can't see it, you feel its pull on the string."
You know, ask any parent out there and they will tell you that being a mom or dad is the absolute hardest yet most rewarding job they have ever had. And we aren't kidding around when we say that.
When I was a mom of littles, I foolishly thought on many occasions, "I can't wait until they are older." I really believed in my young as a parent heart that things would get easier. That my worries would lessen, that the stars would align, and my work as their mom would take a much needed coffee break. Anyone who has ever tackled potty training, and first days of school, and scraped knees from playground mishaps, and temper tantrum meltdowns in the middle of a crowded grocery store understands this way of thinking. In the moment you really believe you're in the middle of the battle, but soon to be relieved by teenage independence. "It's going to be so much easier when they can tie their own shoes, get their own meals, dress themselves, remember their homework, do their own laundry, and finally grow up." This is what you really believe. I know because I've been that parent, but this raising kids gig doesn't work that way, and I would have been more realistic to have been wishing for a unicorn.
Because you see, our work doesn't end when our kids can tie their shoes and dress and feed themselves. In fact, all those "little battles" were preparing us for the unseen monster sized war ahead. By no means am I trying to scare all the parents of young children who may be reading this. Rather, I'm trying to extend some support and camaraderie to those of us who have found ourselves in the middle of a raging war we didn't see coming.
Now let me make a few things clear. Having teenagers HAS gotten easier in the ways I had thought it would. They certainly can tie their own shoes, and they are quite capable of feeding themselves, and do it so often that they drain the house of food entirely. They bathe and shower on their own, they do their own homework, and they take responsibility for some of the household chores. My "younger parent" self would be dancing a jig at this news I'm sure. But I was blindsided in my want for an easier way; ambushed, really. These days it's a mixture of pride and terror that settles in our home. And I'm willing to bet that my teens feel exactly the same way I do. Confused, and happy and scared and drained and full all at once. I will try and explain.
The pride I have in my boys is immense. It's been growing for a long time. I have watched them conquer milestone after milestone. It's one of the best parts of being a parent. But along with those milestones comes the realization that they no longer need you for stuff. Your role as a parent changes, and you get kind of melancholy thinking about a lot of "last times." You will not remember the last time you washed their hair for them. You won't remember the last time you read them a bedtime story. You won't remember the last time they asked to sleep with you cause a nightmare pulled them from their beds. You won't remember the last time they grabbed your hand to cross the street. And it's probably a good thing I suppose because if we knew it was a last time our hearts would break over and over again on a daily basis. This is part of being a teenage parent. Watching and enduring your child's independence is bittersweet and it's a war we don't see coming that we fight within ourselves.
But now I know... I know that the "last times" are out there and that they hurt sometimes. I know that I'm going to witness last baseball games and last sleepovers and last long car rides with them listening to music. I'm going to be there when they walk out of their high school for the last time, or see their hometown as "home" for the last time. These littles are growing up, and why why why did I wish for it to happen so fast?
I'm not ready.
But I'm learning that right now, neither are they. You see, the war that's raging is staged between holding on and letting go. Every parent is gonna feel this one. And it hits you right between the eyes during those teenage years. Right now, those moody adult sized kids need you more than ever. Parents and teenagers both sludge through unchartered water together. We are sailing the same rocky sea, just in different vessels. Holding on and letting go. Being there and knowing when to back away. Allowing grace and remaining firm. Knowing the difference between silly and serious. All while trying not to capsize each other's ship. It's an intricate dance parents and teenagers perform, but it's necessary and both sides have equal parts.
My boys have shown me as much grace as I have extended to them. And sometimes they have to be firm with me on my job to let them develop into the people they are becoming. At times the parent must encourage letting go when their teen holds on for dear life and in return the teen does the same for their parent. The worries, the joy, the awkward conversations, the real, in the moment rawness of life gets tripled when your kids reach a certain age. And the war you feel is the longing for the days of cuddles on the couch watching blues clues sharing a bowl of popcorn while trying to be open to the glaring reality that your time with them as children is closing in on you. And it's a tough one.
My oldest is saving money for his first car. He's looking to get a job soon. He's quiet some days and some days he's ridiculous and chatty. His ship is right smack in the middle of the sea of teen-hood and he's navigating as best he can. The other night he came to me and said he needed to go shopping for Christmas with money he was saving for his car. I told him I would give him some funds for his shopping and he said he wanted to use his own money "cause that's how it should be."
Holding on and letting go.
Parents of teens, I'm with you. Be kind to yourself as you fly through this crazy ride of teenage angst. All of us are learning and growing and trying our best to get the job done right. Let's all wait for one another at the finish line with a really strong drink. I think we are going to need it. ❤️