Parenthood 2016

May 29, 2016

Dear Teenagers,

I’ve heard from a couple of parents that they are having similar struggles with their kids based on some stuff that I’ve written on Facebook and WordPress.

So I thought I’d fill you in on our perspective, or at least our perspective from my point of view. I’m going to tell you some things you might not know.

You probably won’t read this. You’re on snapchat, instagram, and a whole of lot other places I can’t even remember.
(I know some of you are on Facebook, but you probably signed up when you were 12 and probably aren’t reading this.)

Nevertheless, here goes-

You know how we’re always coming at you with an angry look on our faces, launching into long speeches about laundry, social responsibility and the importance of schoolwork? While we sit on the end of your bed and peer around your room with an undisguised look of irritation on our faces?

Yes, we are pissed. At least I am. But I’m about 5% mad, 75% petrified, and 20% totally without clue.

I know that all the experts say I’m supposed to be a parent and not a friend. They say it’s important to set boundaries, maintain expectations, hold kids responsible. In other words, be a parent.

I don’t know how to be a parent to a teenager. We want to hug you, you look at us like you want to spit. Or run out the door. Or slam the door so hard it breaks into a thousand pieces, but you won’t do that because then you wouldn’t have a door to slam any more and you really, really like slamming doors.

Many of us did the same stupid things you are doing now as teenagers. Not all us, and not all of you, are experimenting with drugs and alcohol. But a lot us did. And then, as we got older, we were either front and center watching someone we love struggle because of drugs and alcohol. Or die. Or dealing with addiction battles on our own.

How are we supposed to sit by and watch you the same things we did, or watched so many of our generation do? When I see a teenager stumble out of the woods and stagger across the street bare feet, even though 30 years ago I was staggering out of the bathroom, I can’t sit by and say that’s okay. I’ve been to the meetings, picked people off the sidewalk, said prayers at funerals.

What are we supposed to do about all the pictures you post? The bare asses, the clouds of smoke, the n word this and the ho that?

I know not all of you drink or do drugs. I know not all of you post crazy stuff. I know a lot of you talk to your parents, do community service, excel in school, and are amazing people.

I’m also aware thatt there are many of you that drink, do drugs, snapchat pictures that would make a blind person cringe and are failing school will go on to do amazing things. You might even be doing amazing things at the same time you’re getting naked on your finsta and stuck in summer school.

I’m just saying- a lot of the grownups in your life are totally without a clue. We walk around dazed. We have whispered conversations at work, (far away from the childless or the blessed, still dealing with bedtime drama and indelible ink on the walls,) where we compare notes. We try to figure out if we should take away your phones, call in a therapist, or just let you be.

You might be saying- let us be.

Personally, I’d love to. I’d love to step away from my kids, stop nagging, worrying, tracking, and even talking about them.

But what if I did that and something bad happened? Because I stopped paying attention?

So I’m scared. We are scared. And pissed. And hopelessly confused.

Cut us some slack. Put away the laundry.

If you are going to be foolish and silly, enjoy the moment. Laugh with your friends. You don’t need to document every single stupid, funny thing you do.

Alcohol isn’t going anywhere. It looks like pot is going to be legal any minute. Can you just wait a little while? There will be time for grown up mistakes, and you’re going to make lots of grown up mistakes.

You’ve got time. Lots of time.

So if you could give us a few minutes once a while, that would be nice. A smile would be awesome.

I think I can speak for most parents, We’d be thrilled if you could just maybe listen to what we say, some of the time.

I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Love and faith,

Mom

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I said in my last post that I wouldn’t ramble on about my teenager, but the past few months, my heart has been filled with joy, grief, guilt, bliss, fury, love, hate, gratitude, mostly all within the span of five minutes .

I’ve had to spend a lot of time at the gym so that it didn’t explode. After two hours of yoga or weights or zumba or lateral x, or whatever strikes me as what I need that night, I’m spent. When I return home, I don’t have much to say about all this stuff that is going on in my life.

Some people sit in front of the screen and outline their workouts, but for me exercise  is just as much for my head as it is for my pecs.  Analyzing my time would defeat the purpose, which is to come home,  pet the dog and kiss a kid, (without wanting to kick the kid).

A lot of what’s been making me so overwhelmed is adjusting to life with teenagers.

I’ve sailed thru parenthood pretty smoothly up until last year, with some blips, (“what is that tone?” “Did you really just say that to me?”.)

Next thing that I remember happened around the fall after he turned twelve .We were on our way out, and I said, in my always cheerful, upbeat, patient, voice- “FIVE MINUTES!”.

Five minutes passed. “Excuse me, what’s going on?” I asked, cheerful still, maybe not upbeat really, but patient. I didn’t mind missing the beginning of zumba or not having time to stop for the coffee.

“I’m busy with something.” This statement  was delivered from behind a closed bathroom door.

What are you doing in there? “Is something wrong with your stomach?”  He didn’t sound sick. He just sounded like he was busy with something and really didn’t care if I missed zumba or had to drink dad’s leftover coffee or never got anywhere at all ever. At least until after he’d completed whatever mysterious business he had in that bathroom.

“SOMETHING! And nothing is wrong with my stomach. Nothing.”

“Okay, I didn’t want to this, but-   Five, four, three… three and a half… two… two and an eighth… ONE!”

“I’ll be down in a minute. I’m almost done. Calm yourself.” My son didn’t get flustered by the countdown that had worked before he knew what numbers were, ignored the countdown, and then told me to calm myself. Calmly.

It’s been downhill ever since.

Recently, he’s struggling with some mistakes that he made, and trying to figure out why, if he’s filled out three job applications he hasn’t gotten a job yet. At any given moment, he’s laughing with me at The Middle, leaning on my shoulder surrounded by broken glass, asking why he is who is, confused because none of  the neighbors he talked to at Christmas about potentially doing some yard work for them this spring, have come knocking at our door, worried about his latin grade, frantic to find the axe body spray and convinced I hid it, begging me for a ride, begging me to leave him where he is, reaching to hold my hand while we sing along to the Fray, explaining why knowing what the words mean to White Iverson isn’t really necessary to appreciate the song.


I wanted him home tonight. Tomorrow is the Mother’s Day March for Peace, we go with FirstParish Milton, we’ve gone every year. All day long, text, after text, call after call, he pled to be allowed to stay at his friends house.
We have to be at the church by eight am.


All day long, text after text, call after call, i threatened to pick him up now, pick him up at 10 pm, bring his bags to his friends house and let him finish the school year in Canton.

It’s been fun.

I cancelled Mother’s Day.

I just got word, he’s meeting me at the church at 8. He said I’m important in the world, but that I’m overestimating myself if I think I can cancel Mother’s Day just because I sleep better when he’s upstairs.

So it’s on.

I almost marched without my son tomorrow because I wanted the day to start the way it started last year and the year before that.

The times they are a changin’ and that’s not going to stop. Ever.

Happy Mother’s Day, to mothers, future mothers, and caregivers all.

It’s hard, but sometimes, I think I make it  even harder.

(Don’t tell him I said that.)