Parenting is quite the journey. You begin armed with opinions that fit right along certain rails, you know your destination and you know what train to board to arrive. There are plenty of travel guides with all of the answers.
But somewhere along the track you’re thrown for a loop. The train breaks down and you see how useless the time table issued is when you are dealing with individuals. Sometimes this realization is gradual, sometimes it is sudden.
A noticeable shift toward uncertainty occurs in most parents of teenagers. We now offer each other more empathy and listening than advice, our troubles no longer fixed by a timely potty training tip. The stakes have been raised on us, the consequences greater. Those early years were just a trial run. We suspect that we’ve either messed up our kids by following the rules or by not following the rules.
Those teen years. You can deny that they exist, it’s been insisted that they’re an artificially created era. A body could use this argument as an excuse to treat teenagers as children or adults. One can combine the two by giving them the responsibilities of adults with none of the privileges of adulthood or all the privileges of adulthood and none of the responsibilities. My goal is to do neither. I want to embrace these teen years with all of the beautiful uncertainty and to make the most of them . These years seem to shape our lives as few other years do. In our memories these years stretch into long formative years, in our experience they take forever. These years are challenging. Your children still need your guidance but they also crave independence. They need firm boundaries, but lots of room to explore. They need room to make mistakes, but not enough room to ruin their lives, yet. You may be able to control their behavior, but their hearts are not so easily swayed. As parents, we know that the decisions that truly matter are now their own, and that terrifies us.
There is a wonder and joy is seeing the almost magical emergence of an adult from a child, yet there is also the sorrow of seeing the child disappear. Not to be too depressing or anything. I’m not sure that joy and sadness have been separate emotions for me since beginning on this particular journey. There is a susceptibility to being carried away by these emotions and missing the yesteryears, instead of embracing, even celebrating these years.
Yes, these years have unique challenges, but we should not dread them or fall into the trap of ‘ugh, teenagers’ Why do we do that? I get tons of ‘stranger sympathy’ about having teenage girls, as if they’re more trouble than puppies and bound to make your life difficult. I want to embrace these teenage years. I want to affirm the people that they are becoming and guide them, mentor them. As our children transition, so must I. We move from being an authority to a mentor, and relationships must grow to survive. It is undeniably awkward at moments, because we must walk that line, we must ‘be the adult’ but it is also time to be friend and equals. Sometimes, walking that line feels as awkward as the teen years themselves. Walking this balance is so much more than a list of do’s and don’ts. It requires relationship, it requires involvement. Transitions are never easy.