Where have all the children gone….? The babies. The toddlers. The kids under 10. Those kids. My kids. Moms, if your babies are growing up, and aren’t little anymore, as in they won’t fit in your lap all snug, then this post is for you. Teen me, please.
I never really was a mom to join mom groups when my Littles were young. I worked full time outside the home, and was a single mom, so when I came home, my second job was immediately underway. And it always seemed like those groups were for moms who had the privilege of being able to stay home with their young’uns. When I did attempt to grab a meeting with the local moms, I felt kind of like the black sheep of the group. I didn’t have a regular yoga class. I was one to utter the occasional forbidden word in front of my kids, and then use the disclaimer that “mommy can talk like that because I am grown and pay my own bills. You can’t until then so don’t let me catch you doing it, or else”.
I wasn’t able to afford to feed my kids only organic food (heck, in those days my kids ate lunch at school on the subsidized lunch program – little tiny cute bags of organic carrots in perfect kid-size lunchbox portion was completely foreign to us!). My little ones didn’t have a bajillion activities happening around the clock. I allowed my kids to play outside in our complex until the street lights came on, trusting that they needed the social interaction, to learn to depend on one another, hoping to offer them a taste of the freedom that I enjoyed as a kid with my brother riding our bikes around the neighborhood until dusk. I was not a helicopter parent. Finally, I gave up after a few random attempts at trying to find a cohort, and decided that I would wing it without a Mom group.
As my kids got older, and I had a little more momming experience under my belt, I sought out other moms of teens. One moment I was feeling amazed by the Bigs that my Littles were turning into, and the next minute I wanted to pull my hair out because of the challenges that pop up out of nowhere when teens are involved.
One thing is for sure: being a parent of teens, especially more than one at a time in the home, is every bit as challenging, if not more so, than when they are little enough to scoop up and carry out of Target if they were acting up. You can’t do that to a 13 year-old unless you are some kind of super human. And people look at you weird if you try.
Teenagers sleep. A lot. Little ones hate to sleep.
They talk back to you. And its more than just the occasional “poopy head” remark. What comes out of your babe’s mouth during these years can leave you feeling smashed.
Tweens try on different personalities as often as we change our clothes. And they will trade one in even more rapidly if you, the parental unit, happens to like it even the slightest. Their main goal is to keep your head spinning. It’s their one job in life and they make stellar work of it.
Teenagers listen to music. A lot. They pipe it directly into their ears 24/7. And guarantee, you won’t like their choices. This pleases them. I decided, early on, as the first of mine became a teen, to let him choose his own music (I mean, lets be honest, they will choose anyways, right?), and I let him blast it in my car when we were riding together. My reason for this was to try and be in his world even a slight bit, to demonstrate interest in what he was interested in, and to show him that I loved him and respected his ability to start making choices on what he liked and didn’t like. My ears bled, but we won’t talk about that.
Teens eat. A lot. Along the way I had to simply forget the statement “don’t eat that, you will ruin your appetite.” Nope. They can, and will, eat. All of the time. An hour before dinner. An hour after dinner. In the middle of the night. It will take you back to when you had to feed them every three hours around the clock, as babies. Except now, you aren’t the one who gets up at 2 am to heat the bottle. He can go to the fridge by himself and build a monster sandwich to last him until morning, completely without your assistance. But be warned. The teenage girls hate -rather, loathe, breakfast. You can’t, and won’t, be able to change this with any kind of pre-formulated statement like “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” This will result in an exaggerated eye roll and elongated dramatic sigh.
Lest you think it is all dismal once your kiddo turns 12, let me assure you. I can almost say that I prefer raising teens, to when my kids were young. Most days anyway. There are super amazing moments with this teen breed of human. These moments, though few and far between, will be what keep you grounded.
For example, one of my favorites is when she comes to find you while you are cooking dinner, plops down in a kitchen chair and starts talking about what she thinks life means, who is important in her circle, what it’s like to feel so upside down all the time as she navigates her way through these high school years. She is letting you…in. On her terms. Moms, one interaction like this with your teenager can carry you for months. These glimpses bring your heart a sense of peace, regulates your breathing, calms your ever-increasing blood pressure and brings into focus that although your Little-turned-Big is acting like an alien to you most of the time, their spirits are still in there, and although they can’t physically curl up in your lap anymore, these moments serve the same as that physical cuddle. It is like they are reaching out to you and plugging in for an energy boost, like they did when they were four and asked to be scooped up and held. You are their Powerhouse, even though they act like they hate you most of the time.
They will come out on the other side, all grown up and able to fly the coop. And you, YOU, will be the one who made them ready, who cultivated all of the love and the space for them to make choices, providing boundaries to keep them safe without suffocating them, who gave a place for them to feel safe enough to let their hair down (or shave it off) and act like total brats (because they knew you would love them anyway no matter what).
One very sweet surprise, as I observe my kids growing older, is when I hear them talking about “back in the day,” what they remembered life was like, what they did together as kids and how they thought about life while growing up. It is almost surreal when they recall an experience and it impacted them or imprinted on them in the way you had secretly hoped at the time that it would. It’s also pretty dang cool to hear their perspectives on things that you had worried would stress them out, but their memory of it is completely different than yours! These moments make everything you experience (and endure) while they are growing up worth it. All the hoping you did that they won’t get involved in bad things or bad crowds, or get hurt, or turn into someone who is not their best representation of who you know they can be, the gray hairs you got while staying up until midnight worrying until the brand new teenage driver returns home, surviving the surprise blindsides, learning to stay present in each moment and not to overreact. The epic successes and the tragic fails. All of it.
Moms of teens, we need each other. We need our own “playdates” to share what it’s like to raise teenagers. No judgment, no criticizing, blaming or shaming. A safe place to talk about what it’s like, and to hear what each other has done in similar situations – same as we did when our kids were learning to walk or starting kindergarten. Though the days of ear infections and breastfeeding may be behind us, the need for Mom to Mom support is still very much present!
Each phase of parenting is incredible in its own right and leads somehow magically into the next, and prepares us along the way to not only be ready, but to welcome the specialness of each one.