Wednesday, June 12, 2019

A Letter to the Mom Who Finds Herself Parenting a Teenager and Is Totally Lost

Dear Bewildered New Mom of a Teenager,

Right about now, you're wondering why everyone told you for so many years that "it gets easier." You assumed you'd never again be as tired as you were during the newborn years, because that's what everyone said.

How were you supposed to know that parenting a teenager would be the most exhausting thing you've ever done?

In their own way, I suppose people tried to warn you. But when they eyed your family and said "Oh, just wait until they're teenagers!" you ignored them because you just knew: it would be different for you.

Your child was younger then, and you couldn't imagine that the fountain of his enthusiasm and affection would ever slow to a trickle (at least for you) or that one day there would be silence in the car.

Even at 9 or 10, the baby roundness hadn't completely left your son's face. At 11 or 12, your daughter still sometimes slipped her hand in yours while you were walking.

One day she was giving you sticky kisses and peppering you with a million questions about snakes, and then she wasn't anymore. It doesn't seem fair. You want to shake your fist at the sky and yell "I've been robbed!" because that's how it feels.

Sometimes you find yourself annoyed with this strange creature who's taken up residence in your child's body, eating your food and rolling its eyes at your four decades of wisdom.

Sometimes the only sound that escapes your child's lips all day is a sigh so exasperated it makes you understand why people anciently married off their children as soon as they hit puberty.

But more often, it just makes you sad.

It's not like you didn't know your child would grow up. You've been assigning chores and teaching life skills for a decade, all to get him ready to leave the nest.

The thing is, you weren't prepared for the leaving to start so soon. You thought you had more time.

You didn't know you'd start missing your child while he's still living under your roof.

You didn't know how many family dinners you'd have without him at the table, how many pieces of him would be scattered all over at school, at play practice, at cross-country and at work.

You didn't know how much you'd look forward to family vacations simply because you miss feeling like a family.

Sometimes you feel like you traded everything you loved about motherhood for... well, you're not sure yet. You don't really know what the parent of a teenager is supposed to do.

If only there was a playgroup for moms like us, only instead of trading potty training tips and outgrown onesies we could tell each other how we raise these almost-adults who wear bigger shoes than us but still need reminders about basic hygiene.

But we're too busy shuttling those almost-adults from one thing to another, not that we could really talk about their problems, anyway.

A teenager's struggles are too personal, both for them and for us, so we keep quiet. We bear their burdens alone, we pray, and we worry.

We worry about what they're thinking when they're quiet. 

We worry about the pressures they face. 

We worry about their safety in a car full of 16-year-olds. 

We doubt ourselves and whether we're raising our teenagers all wrong, whether we're providing too much structure or not enough, whether we're too late to correct our mistakes.

We nervously count down the years until they leave the house and wonder if they'll be ready.

And secretly, we wonder if we will.

New Mom of a Teenager, I don't have any wisdom to offer you. But know I'll be up late tonight just like you will.

I'll think of you as we get in our cars way past our bedtimes to pick up our not-so-little kids, practically propping our eyes open with toothpicks and navigating this heart-breaking foreign territory that is figuring out how to let go of our babies.

It didn't "get easier," but that was never why we signed on to be mothers in the first place, was it?

Jenny from Unremarkable Files

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Kimberly said...

My oldest daughter's questions haven't stopped yet, but the sighs and eye rolls started when she was 11. A year later, it's kind of surreal to see her play gleefully with her younger siblings one minute, then furrow her brow and ask a question about the Holocaust the next minute.

Becky said...

One of your best posts yet (and I've been reading since the beginning) and so, so true!

PurpleSlob said...

Parenting a teen is like trying to communicate with an alien!