I have a friend from high school who had a child two years before I did. We’d lost touch until I saw her at the grocery store holding a newborn a few years after graduating college. I’d just gotten engaged and couldn’t wait to have kids.
She held her swaddled baby because letting him sit in the grocery cart in his newborn car seat made her nervous. That’s how I will be, too; I thought as we stood there catching up.
As we talked in the produce section, that tiny nugget she was holding that day is now 21 years old and a Merchant Marine. She also has a daughter who just graduated high school. If it wasn’t for her (and a few others), I’m positive I’d have less patience and grace with my three teenagers, and I would be beating myself up more often.
I needed my friend to help me through struggles with my teens
When my oldest got caught smoking pot in front of the school, I called my friend. When my kids started retreating to their rooms more and were addicted to their cell phones, I called her. When her daughter struggled with anxiety, she called me and asked what therapist I’d sent her son to.
She was the only person (at the time) who I felt I could confide in about such personal, private matters since I wasn’t close enough with anyone else with teenagers. Sure, I had friends who had kids the same age as mine and I was friendly with a lot of my kids’ friends’ parents. But, on the outside everyone else made parenting teens look like it was a breeze. They didn’t seem to have the same issues or struggles that I did. Also, I had to be very careful not to break my kids’ trust by talking about them to the wrong person.
We all need help from friends who will not judge my children or me
The truth is that I needed help raising my teens. I still do. I need other parents I trust as a sounding board, parents who aren’t going to judge my children or me. I need women going through the same stages with their teenagers who won’t look at my kids and think they are “bad kids.”
Sure, we were all teens once, which means we know how their brains work and what they are going through, right? Well, not exactly. Being a teenager versus thirty-five years ago when I was going through it is pretty different. We need other parents to support us because, let’s face it, the rules and ways people used “back in our day” probably aren’t working with most of our teenagers.
These past couple of years, I’ve gotten close to some other parents of teens. It has been beyond helpful for us to touch base and admit what’s happening behind closed doors. It has been a safe place to vent our frustrations about how lazy our kids can be or how ungrateful or nasty they can seem.
These women are empathetic, understanding, and know well that you can have a child on who plays varsity sports, makes the honor roll, and still have painful, difficult moments that feel earth-shattering as they happen.
I struggled as my kids turned into teens
When my kids blossomed into teenagehood, I struggled with their attitudes, lack of communication, and rebelliousness. I was talking to a friend who had younger kids, and she couldn’t relate. In so many words, she told me that I wasn’t being hard enough on them. She thought it was easy to tell them what to do and make them listen because that was the stage she was in with her kids.
That same woman now has three teenagers, and she has come to me several times to apologize for that day and ask me for advice. “I had no idea what you were going through or how impossible it is to make teenagers do anything!”
Reach out to other moms and let yourself be vulnerable
If you are a mother of a teen and you are struggling, I recommend finding other mothers of teens with whom you can be vulnerable and honest. It may be humbling but it is so, so helpful, and will be the best support system you could ever ask for.
The days when I could carry my swaddled kids around the grocery store, making sure they were safe, are gone. Being the mother to an older child comes with a lot of gifts and a lot of challenges.
It’s best not to try to do it alone.
The author of this post wishes to remain anonymous.
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