Here’s what’s wrong with the internet. There aren’t many blogs for parents of teens. Like – practically none. And even less for young moms of teens. People like me… in my mid thirties with a teenager in the house, destined to be an empty-nester before I’m even over the hill. It’s a blessing and a curse, people. I’m lying. It’s not a curse. Haha… I’ll let you decide if I’m kidding or not.
Anyway, the hardest thing about writing a blog about raising teens is that the darn teenager is going to read what I write. Today, I want to write about how exasperated she made me on the train. I want to write about her friends and their troubles with each other. I want to write about other moms and other kids and my own kid, and her failures and shortcomings. And sometimes, about her incredible accomplishments. Whatever I write though, she’s going to see it.
One day, the children of all the www’s mommy bloggers are going to learn to read. They are going to see the stuff their moms wrote. Hear the panic in her bold lettering and see the exasperation in every sigh and tear. Hopefully grown up mommy blogger kids will be kind to their mothers, understanding just how much their mommies loved them, and how much those moms gave the rest of us. Hope, partnership, encouragement and perspective. Hopefully they won’t mind the embarrassing photos and over shares. But gosh darn it… where are all you mommy bloggers of teens???? I need you. And all you mommies of littles… You are going to need me in just a few years.
Because my list of ideas of things to write about is huge. Yet it’s also sad sometimes, and controversial, and might expose who I am as a mother a little more than I’m comfortable with. Because let’s be real for a minute. The things that make us the most uncomfortable with our teens are the things that make us the most angry about ourselves. At no other time are our children as much of a theoretical mirror of us as when they are teens. They’ve got all our bad habits, they are the walking product of all our mistakes and showcase every speck of bad parenting we ever gave them. Like, my daughter is mouthy. And she’s constantly yelling at other drivers, and calling them morons. That only comes from one place, ladies and gentlemen.
She fights like me and is insecure like me. She gets angry the way I do. While not always at the same things as me, she does just the same. She gets exasperated too easily. She’s snarky. Gee, uh, wonder where that comes from. Seriously. She doesn’t know when to shut up. Hmmm…. interesting. And so, it’s hard to be all like, parent your teen like (insert really awesome and life-changing advice here), because I have no idea probably more than half the time of what I’m doing.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an idiot. Sometimes, I really get it right. Sometimes I know I’m on the right path… ish. But the rest of the time… I’m out here kind of looking around like, hey – everyone else – anyone been here and actually figured out how to do this right? Because it would be awesome if you shared your magical fairy-godmother-like wisdom with the rest of us.
Sometimes, I think I know why they used to marry off their 13 year old daughters… and why they had to actually bribe someone to take them with a few cows and some precious oils. Because guys – how often are you completely lost around your teenaged daughters? Yeah. Like every day. And while I wouldn’t actually trade my daughter for all the sacred cows in India, I see the beauty in shipping them off for a few years. The other day, Laine found a boarding school in England that was pretty much just like Hogwarts, and I found myself asking her if she wanted to go. She was just fantasizing, but then, I realized I was actually imagining packing her up and shipping her across the Atlantic for 10 months of the year. Send me a Christmas card, sweet girl! I’ll see you in July!
So what kind of mom am I if I can type all of this, and put it on the web for the whole world to see? What kind of wretched parent even thinks these things?
We all do. At some point. We all reach our melting point and can turn to mush when we don’t know where to go on this journey, and truly, when raising teens, it’s easier to just throw in the towel, call it a draw and walk away, than face the mirror that is our teenagers.
But here’s a perspective I hope I can invoke before I melt down and turn into goo (and take my daughter down with me) one more time this week…
Imagine you are in a new city. A big city! A place you’ve never been. You have a destination in mind, but it’s far across the city, with it’s complicated streets and bustling traffic. There are detours along the way. Traffic jams. Taxis that never come. There are distractions, like gigantic Sephora stores and an outlet mall.
You figure out the road you need to take, and just as you are on your way, skipping down the street all like, I own this, I’m the mayor of this city, you fall into an open man hole and get all covered in sewage. You spend a few hours at Saks choosing a fantastic new outfit and nursing your pride after the man hole incident.
You find your way back to the right street. You’re walking with swagger, and suddenly you find yourself in the center of a construction zone. You’re forced to take a huge detour. It leads you into a massive crowd of people, all shouting and fighting about which is the right way to go, and it’s so hard for you to decide what way you want to take on account of all the voices! You have no idea if what you decide is the right choice, but you make a hard left and pray for the best. It might work out, it might not. But it won’t be your last detour on the way to wherever you are going.
You get so worn out you just want to live to see the end. You become bruised and battered along the way. You find yourself on your hands and knees, crawling your way to your destination, fancy Saks pants ripped, mustard on your shirt, bird-poop in your hair. And you’ll have to continue this way for 8 years or so before you get where you’ve gotta be.
That’s my metaphor for parenting teens on your own folks. Happy thought, right?
But if we take the same scenario – harried city, detours, sewage and all – and add in a few key things, everything gets a bit smoother. Let’s take some friends with us… maybe a spouse by your side. And some other parents of teens! Others on this crazy journey too, or maybe someone who’s already taken the trip, but doesn’t mind coming along again, with you. They’ll warn you about the missing man hole cover! You might still fall in, but at least you had a chance! And when you’ve gotta go shopping, they’ll take you somewhere more sensible so you don’t waste so much time, or spend as much money. When you are lost in a crowd, they’ll be trusted voices of reason to help you make a better choice. And if you screw it up anyway, they’ll be there, laughing at you, and also, they’ll be there to try a different path with you. When darkness falls and it gets scary, they’ll hold your hand.
Maybe, we could take a map! Voices of those who’ve gone before us, like great blogs full of honesty and integrity, written by people who’ve screwed up, succeeded, and survived the trip. People who can give us a great book full of tips to make the journey a little bit easier. And knee-pads for the finish line crawl, in the form of encouragement and patience and love from those who are helping us. Great teachers who we can talk to. Relatives who can alleviate some of the pressure. Doctors who can bandage wounds. Pastors who can provide great guidance. And maybe even a councilor who can figure out why we fell in the man hole to begin with.
There are tools we can use to make the journey better. Doable. Easier. Successful. We just need to use them. We need to be them for our friends and neighbors! We need to blog it and say it and write it. Right now, today, we all need to stop acting like we’ve got it all together – like our road didn’t have detours – because it just makes everyone else feel even more lost, and also, it excludes us from having the chance to take the journey with others too.
I’ve got a few things in my book of tips, tricks, and hard-learned lessons. I’m adding to it every day. And hopefully I can share them with you to make your journey a bit smoother. But mostly, I hope we can just be here together, laughing and crying (sobbing uncontrollably even), and just trying to get through another day. Our kids are going to turn out awesome. Because they already are! And the best and worst part of this journey is that they are on it with us too. And if we let them, they’ll be leading us by the end of it, saying, “Look! I know my way! I’ve figured this city out, and I’m good now, mom.” And won’t that just be the happiest and saddest moment of our lives?
Best of luck on your journey. I’ll be out here, spray painting bright orange circles around all the open man holes. I’ll be tacking up the detour arrows. I’ll leave a pair of bloody knee-pads for you in case you need them. You won’t want to take my exact path though. You’ve gotta blaze your own trail. Just don’t forget to leave some hints for others as you go.