Parenting is hard. Right from the beginning it’s hard. You choose a name. Does it live up to your family’s expectations? Are there any drawbacks? Horrible nicknames? Offensive connotations? This is something that will be with them their entire life, but no pressure. It’s just the beginning of all of the choices you have to make on a daily/hourly/minute by minute basis.
Your whole life becomes this person. Their entire life is ruled by your decisions for them. Doctors, toys, friends, school, sports.
At some point in their teens they decide to start becoming their own person. You will know when it happens because they tell you… loudly… in your face, and usually with tears when you’ve taken away some perceived central part of their life. “You can’t take my phone! You have NO IDEA what it’s like to be a teenager during a pandemic!!!”
You have to walk this precarious line of keeping them safe, but letting them fall. Guiding and creating a safe place for them to have autonomy. I feel like this is where parent/child relationships can soar or disintegrate. It has to stop being about the parent suddenly. Its no longer about what you expect them to do or who you naturally anticipate them to be. The creation is made. The bolts have been electrified. The monster is his own being now.
Now you just have to keep him safe. .. without stepping on toes, or judging, or having expectations or presumptions. This whole human you have been raising, nurturing, putting off your own career to have, squelched any self care or growth to focus on is now *poof* no longer your 24/7 in-control-of whole-life focus.
We live in a more aware, inclusive, open and acceptable reality now- compared to 20, 30, 50 years ago. I feel like even my generation- GenX- is sometimes surprised by the various options a person can identify as. That being said, this child of yours and their identity never played a part in the raising of them. You simply kept your child happy, healthy, and hopefully well-adjusted. Once they start really growing into their own self, however, your child may realize that a straight and narrow path of their parents’ expectation is not the life for them. They instead choose a sheer rock wall with little to no foot holds and may or may not even want you holding the life line because, after all, they know everything.
They have an expectation to just be released to figure it all out (the very little they do not yet know, of course) while you are simply trying to continue what you’ve done their entire life: steer them safely to a reasonable end goal based on your own life experience and knowledge… and maybe toss a vegetable or fruit their direction once in a while…
It is a balancing act to find that comfortable place where you give more and more trust and they flourish and blossom beautifully according to all of the guidance you have provided.
HAAA!!! As if. It’s more like a daily struggle of letting go, leaving space for trust, they completely annihilate that by lying or deceiving because after all, rules don’t apply when they don’t feel they should. Then there is a consequence, then you work up the patience and grit to attempt it all again, lather, rinse, repeat until the time they earn trust and respect back …. anywhere from 1-10 years later. Along with the feelings of disappointment and frustration that the kid refused to learn from past mistakes, the parents are also dealing with the disappointment that the kid isn’t turning out to be the kid they thought they had. This is when things start to shift. “Disappointment” might not be the right word, but it’s fair to say that most people grow and morph and become who they want to be based on experiences and reactions to things that happen to them, and not because their future is mapped out and handed to them by Mom or Dad. This is when they learn what they like outside of an adult’s opinion. This is where they figure out what they want out of life for themself because at this point they are hoping to just get away. Get out. Anywhere will do to feel like they have some independence. This is where the conflict with parents comes in because up until now, we are just rearing miniature versions of ourselves. Of course we know what’s best because it’s a small version of our own life that we are nurturing.
Parent:”I LOVED swimming. What do you mean you hate the pool?”
Teen: “Can’t stand it. Not gonna do it. I want to play lacrosse.”
Parent: “What’s lacrosse?!”
When your teenager starts showing you who they really are, there are parts you don’t recognize because it wasn’t there before. There are new facets of their personality, sense of humor, life reflections. That can be devastating to a parent if it doesn’t align with what they themselves understand. Then you have a new challenge of trying to understand this person you have known for x amount of years. But it’s a teenager now and the communication skills are grunts and monosyllabic. How do you have a deep discussion about what this person is passionate about when the only responses resemble Caveman monologues? … or worse… teenlingo; “That’s sus, Mom.” “Bet.” “Bruh, no.” Google does not yet have a translate button for that.
So I guess what I’m saying is that one more tab in the Parenting Book that we do not receive would be “Letting Go”. It isn’t about us. Who they are, what they choose to be is not about the parent. We have to remove our egos from the expectations of the directions our kids are going. Some kids might just follow in their parent’s footsteps or plans. Kuddos to you. Step aside and read a different blog. For the rest of us, we have to adjust our own understanding of our children. “PIVOT”, if you will. Just because they have a different plan for their life than we had for their life does not mean they are wrong. It just means we have to find a way to communicate that
a. they are not wrong
b. we are not wrong
c. everyone is on the side of keeping the kid safe and responsible
d. live in a marijuana-friendly state to survive your teenager
Getting to know them on their terms is going to now happen periodically as part of the relationship you have with your kids now. The more open and warm and safe you make it, the higher the chance they might share their life with you. ..
But then again, this is all just theory. I don’t know what TF i’m talking about. Mine is just 14. I have a long way to go still.