My children are and always will be my greatest treasures. I would’ve never believed it if somebody would’ve told me 20 years ago that I would come to enjoy them like I do now. They are hilarious, unique individuals and they bring me untold joy. But life gets real and it does it real quick. I don’t know where I got the idea that everything gets easier when they get older. Sure, I’ve heard the warnings about the tumultuous, hormonal teenage years but, as usual, real world rules and laws of nature don’t automatically apply to me. Who knows? My case may turn out to be one in a million and turn out different. Who knows? I may be able to jump off a high bridge and not fall victim to gravity’s pull. You just never can tell and I don’t like to limit myself, ya know? True, I’m not changing diapers and potty training toddlers anymore and that’s bittersweet as most mothers can attest. But the challenges are there and they’re difficult. Parenting period but especially parenting teens is not for the faint-hearted and cowardly. ‘Cause you’re gonna hurt-that’s a fact. I read a quote once that said something to the effect of “…being a mother means having your heart walking around outside your body as long as you’re alive.” How very accurate that statement is!
This half-grown child needed some truth yesterday. There’s just no substitute for some good, strong “talking-to” from your southern Mama. And it’s almost never what we want to hear. I can say that in my forty three years, I have never, ever wanted to hear the hard truth coming at me from my Mama. Some of that is because she isn’t capable of mincing words or using very much tact. It’s just not how she’s hard-wired and I’ve come to accept this and take her truth like Rocky takes a lick from Apollo Creed. She’s probably gonna lay me out with her powerful right hook of hard truth-probably what I need. (Thank you, Ma’am. May I please have another?) But she loves me like no other-like Paul Simon’s rock-and wisdom tells me to shut up and listen.
This sweet child of mine was experiencing the bane of my particular existence-the sneaky, bastard of an emotion we call self-pity. It’s so natural to go there as a human, but not healthy to stay there. Precious One needed me to listen for a few minutes and needed a little babying but I knew soon enough that I wasn’t handing out favors by coddling the kid. Even though I wanted to. I had to speak the truth.
Actually, I had to give the “Life is Not Fair, Nor Shall it Ever Be” talk to two teen kids the other day. Fair is where you go in August to ride the Tilt a Whirl, child. Catch that truth now rather than later, please, baby. I wish I had grasped it sooner. You know, being a teen has never been easy but it’s crazy-hard now. Temptation and negative talk come from every direction. So many commitments-scholastic and social-vie for their time and attention and there are only so many hours in a day to accomplish everything. It’s no wonder that teens are stressed out and experiencing anxiety at alarming levels.
“I’m overwhelmed, I can’t do this, too many classes, too much homework, too many chores, too much, too much, too much. Why? How?” And with that comes the admission that her Mama doesn’t have all the answers. “While I’m flattered that you think I’m that smart and intuitive, I still don’t have the words to make it all better. That’s the bad news. The good news is that knowing this truth is a sign of moving to the next level, of growing up. And it’s so preferable that you get your feelings of inadequacy out and not let it fester inside. Another good sign.
So, Dear One, you think it’s unfair that you’re being asked to prioritize your work and chores and it’s unrealistic to expect a State of the Teen address from you periodically because you’re too stressed and overwhelmed. Well, I truly hate that you’re experiencing those feelings but having them isn’t necessarily bad. Stuffing them is bad. Acknowledging them is good.
One thing I won’t tolerate is negative talk about Daddy. Just because we’re not married anymore doesn’t mean I’m not on his team and that I don’t support him. “I’m sorry if you thought I might take sides but you were wrong, darling. Your Daddy would move heaven and earth for you and has done so many times. He is totally invested in you and has a vested interest in your well-being. He has sacrificed more than you’ll ever know and I’m not gonna criticize him.
Having put that boundary up, I’m telling you, Precious, to hold that head up. Roll up those sleeves and do the deal.If somebody at any time told you that it was easy then they lied to your face. There’s no other way to do it. There’s no shortcut. I’m sorry that there isn’t.
Do you even realize what I see in you? Unbridled potential. That’s right. You are amazing. You’ve faced some hard stuff this year and you don’t even see what a badass you are. But I do. And I’ll remind you as often as I need to. I’m freaking proud of you, honey. Your accomplishments are a big deal and I want you to see yourself how I see you and I want you to feel pride. You are a big deal and I’m gonna keep on telling you.
You’re special and unique to me but not so unique to the world. You’re not facing anything that hasn’t been faced before and licked, kid. You’re not gonna fail–understand? Not an option. So stop being so afraid of failure that you miss the fun. I do want you to enjoy each day. You are gonna do this. Without a doubt. Borrow my faith. This semester is something to be gotten through and you’ll look back when you finish and proclaim that you did do it and be filled with such a sense of pride and wonder that you’ll be amazed.”
It was emotional but I’ll always have it, that conversation. The most beautiful things come out of pain and struggle, I’ve found. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be that kid’s Mama and exceedingly proud of all my kids. My cup is running over. I’m prepared to say it all over again tomorrow, if necessary. We all need a champion and I’m happy to be that for my precious offspring. This child owns one fourth of my heart and she’s walking around outside my chest. Bless it….