Friday, August 29, 2014

Confessions of a Post-Teenager's Mom (with 3 more to go!!)

My oldest son just turned 20 and I'm pretty traumatized by the whole ordeal. Oh, knowing he's 20 isn't so bad, though I sometimes look at my boy and want to kick time for stealing him. I'm traumatized because he's no longer my teenager. My boy. My young man. Now, he's just flat out a man.

This was taken over a year ago.  ...sigh...

 I loved his teenage years. I loved watching him grow and mature and hearing his voice squeak through puberty and watching him go from my mushy, soft boy to my tall, very tall, furry young man. We had bumps, he made mistakes, I made mistakes and we learned together how to go from a mom and her boy to a mom and her young man. I learned how to stop telling him to do things and begin to ask him how he feels about things and what his thoughts are on the world and all it's beauty and junk.

 I learned that he's pretty smart and usually tries his very best to do his very best. I learned that, like me, he is a person with thoughts, feelings, and goals for his own life...apart from my own. And I learned that I do not understand parents who degrade their young people when they go through their teen years. (It's tough enough, right?!)

Ever hear a parent say, with a slight note of disgust and horror in their voice, "We're going through the teenage years" or something relatively close?  Everything in me cringes when I hear parents say those words in that tone of voice.  And I'll admit a small part of me wants to hug their teenager and apologize to them for their parents.

Human beings tend to rise to whatever expectations are placed on them and teens are no different.  If they're told they'll be nothing more than trouble by the very people who are supposed to love them most, then why do we parents act surprised when they become what we tell them they will become? So, while I do not have my offspring completely figured out just yet (thank you, God), here's some stuff I've learned:

1.  Don't tell your teenager or soon to be teenager that you're dreading their teenage years and don't ACT like you're dreading them.  (Actions actually do speak louder than words).

2.  Stop treating your young adult like they're seven. They aren't. (YAY!!!) Give them responsibility and expect them to succeed or learn.  They're going to grow up one day (sooner than you think) and they need to know how to make good choices. That doesn't happen by accident. Let them earn your trust and when they do...give them your trust!!!!

3.  DO tell them how proud you are of them when they make good choices. (and they WILL make plenty of great choices if they're given the opportunity!)

4.  Don't place them in situations outside their maturity level.  You're their parent, you should know their maturity level. Challenge them, don't overwhelm them.

5.  Listen to them.  LISTEN. TO. YOUR. TEENAGER.  They are not dumb. They are young. (And more often than not, chock full of pretty interesting stuff!)

6.  DON'T stop being their parent. You aren't their friend, at least not yet.  You're their parent and they need you now more than ever. You're the grown up. Period.

7.  Take the time to specifically do things with them even if they act like they don't want to do them. Yep. That's right. There were times my boy didn't really WANT to do what I was doing, but because I sort of forced him sometimes we talked, we laughed, we enjoyed life together.  And you know what...the other day I was going to Wal-Mart and he WANTED to go.  We had the best Wallyworld, people.  That's due to the fact that I never stopped pulling him away from his room on occasion and actually spent time with him. THIS. Works.  (ps...this didn't happen in our house until my boy was almost 17, so don't think that because your 15 year old isn't doing this yet that it won't happen. It WILL happen. They disconnect and that's OK (the umbilical cord must be cut), but it's not OK all the time!!!)

8.  Let them fail.  Like us grown people, teenagers are going to fail.  Why do we treat them like it's the end of the world if they don't remain our sweet natured, goofy two year old whose every moment was documented and proclaimed cute?  They are becoming adults and adults fail all the time. Let them fail. Let them feel the consequences and then love them. (basically, the same way you want to be treated when you screw up)

9.  You're the parent and it's YOUR job to find common ground right now (I suspect this dynamic changes with time, but for right now, it's the parent's job to find common ground with their teen!).  Find it.

10. Let them know you're there. Say it. Live it. Say it again (even if you think they don't care!!!). Over and over when my boy was in the midst of teenage angst, I'd tell him, "I love you and I'm here."  "If you want to talk, I'm here for you and I won't judge."  "If you need me, I'll stop what I'm doing, OK?"  And sometimes he'd grunt weird sounds and barely look my way.  But other times, he'd hug me and say with a sweet smile, "Thanks, Mom." (and the sun came out and angels sang and rainbows glistened...not really, but my heart felt like they did)  And then, every once in a while he'd say..."Mom...?"  And everything stopped because my boy needed me. He knew I would be there and he came to me and I stopped what I was doing because my boy needed me.

11.  Tell them every opportunity you get (Go ahead and make up some opportunities....I did!!!) that you love them. Look them in the eye and say, "I love you" (To infinity and beyond...), even if they aren't being very lovable. Speak love and life into your young person!!!!!

 I'm not saying the teenage years aren't tough. They can be. We had our moments. We had some really bad moments, but we had some really, really, really fabulous moments, too. Our babies aren't babies anymore and that's tough. Their hormones are whacked out but, hey, sometimes ours are, too (there's a conversation starter!!). They're young men and women getting ready to find out the great, big world can be ugly and mean. We, as adults, know the world can tear our kids down and possibly even hurt them. Probably will hurt them.

But, here's the thing:  We, as adults, also know that our kids are loved. Deep down, gut wrenchingly loved! Forever and always. It's our job to make sure they know it, too and it's our job to stop acting like our young people are automatically going to be bad or make world shatteringly poor decisions simply because they are young. Don't buy the hype! Because if you do, your teenager may buy it, too.

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