I read an awesome post today by Monica over at the grommom about what a teenage boy needs most from his mom. It got me to thinking about my own soon-to-be fifteen year old who is starting high school in just 20+ short days. I remember my first day of high school as though it were yesterday (even though I couldn’t tell you what I did four days ago) and there are times when I wonder what is going on inside my own teenager’s head.
Look at that face. Seems like it was only yesterday he was a little ball of energy, ripping and running all over hell and creation. I tried many a day to find his “off” switch – the kid just was simply not built with one. Much as it drove me absolutely crazy when he was younger, it is a part of who he is, what makes him unique, what makes me fall completely and totally head over heels for that smile each and every day.
I decided to put my own spin on the top ten that Monica shared and tell you about my own teenager.
A Safe Place to Figure Themselves Out
J. lives in his own little world which I call Jville. It consists of the four walls of his bedroom. He comes out to eat at the “family restaurant” or pop into the “family convenience store” when he needs fuel or hydration. Sometimes I can hear him laughing uncontrollably and other times he is taking his frustrations out on the wall because his XBox is lagging. This is his safe zone. This is where he feels most comfortable. I sometimes worry about him becoming anti-social, but then I hear him on the phone with his friends or he’s zipping out the front door to go skate with some friends and hang out. He can usually be enticed to leave Jville and visit with the family during Family Movie Night or with the offer of more food.
“I’m not cutting myself off from the family or the world, Mom. I’m just trying to figure out who I am.”
I try not to intrude on his safe zone. Just as my bedroom is my sanctuary/workspace, his bedroom is his sanctuary. Showing respect for his safe zone teaches him to respect the space of others. I always knock before entering, and he appreciates that.
I am the first to admit that we haven’t always been clear on the consequences. They know the rules, but the consequences have been dealt with on an as-it-happens basis instead of being set out clearly and being consistent. They resist the rules, they test the boundaries, but when they screw up (and they will) they also know that what they did was wrong, why it was wrong, and that there will be consequences.
Mom: “Why is everything on the floor?!?”
Teen: “Gravity, Mom. Gravity.”
I’m a mom, so naturally I worry when the boys are not within my eyesight. It was hard for me to let go, to give them the freedom to ride their bikes around the neighborhood, to go to a friend’s house off our apartment community grounds. As long as they were in our yard, or on the apartment community grounds, I felt safe. I knew that they were safe, and if something happened, I was just a moment away.
Dear Mom, If all my friends jumped off a cliff, it’s because it was my idea. Your child is a leader, not a follower.
I’ve given them both more freedom in the past two years. I understand that I cannot protect them every moment of the day, and if they are to learn responsibility, they need to have the freedom to develop that responsibility. I am extremely proud of the feedback that I get from others about my two boys – that they are well-mannered and well-behaved when they are at a friend’s house.
Allowing them both appropriate freedoms for their age group, allowing them to explore the neighborhood within which they live, they have blossomed over the past two years. They are spreading their wings and they are seeing what the world is like outside these four walls. Watching that transformation in them is a gift for me.
A Listening Ear
I love those moments when the boys come to me and want to talk. Yes! They actually do that! I know, shocked the hell out of me too. Granted, they don’t do it as often as I would like, but they do come to me and talk to me when they have something on their minds. They have both told me things that made my “mom brain” scream in agony, but I bite my tongue and I listen. I let them finish talking before I ask questions, and then I ask them if I can offer some suggestions. There have been one or two times where I just couldn’t hold my tongue and I flipped out like my brain was flipping out. Once that was out of the way though, we were able to discuss the situation calmly and rationally.
“Mom: We need to talk about the facts of life.
Teen: Do you have a mute button, Mom?”
We’ve had the “OMG TMI!” talks too. The latest was when my son put me on the hot seat and wanted to know about “all” of my ex-boyfriends. That was definitely an awkward moment, not because I’ve had hundreds of boyfriends or anything, but because I could not figure out just why he was asking. Surprisingly, he really just wanted to know what I was like when I was younger and what it was like when I was growing up as a teenager. I gave him the skinny on my ex-husband, what I was like as a teenager, and really made his eyes pop when I told him that I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16, and I didn’t have sex with my boyfriend until I was almost 17. ( Though the more I think about that … the more I wonder why that might have surprised him so much. )
A Sense of Humor
I absolutely love J.’s sense of humor. The boy can have me rolling in a matter of seconds with some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth. It just amazes me at what he comes up with sometimes. Like Monica said, “Teenagers actually GET STUFF.”
Teenager (noun) – “Someone who is well-prepared for a zombie apocalypse but not ready for tomorrow’s math test.”
The boys are constantly sharing videos and funny Vine clips with me. We have our favorites, and when we have family night, we’ll sometimes sit and watch them on the Wii in the living room – munching popcorn and laughing our asses off.
“I have plenty of management experience. I spent 18 years telling my parents what to do.”
They have a knack for finding the funny. I think teenagers just naturally have a built-in ability to find the strangest, comical, most outrageous videos ever that are on the Internet. It is as though their brains are connected to their own personal mind search engine.
There is plenty to laugh about, and raising your kids to have a sense of humor is vital. That sense of humor will get them through many rough spots, so cultivate it, encourage it, relish in it!
I seem to be one of the lucky moms. I might not get several hugs a day like I did when he was younger, but every morning (or afternoon when he finally rolls out of bed), the first thing J. does is come into the office to tell me he’s awake and to give me a hug and tell me good morning. I love that.
“Sometimes, all you need is a hug to make you feel better.”
I usually get a hug before he goes to bed in the evening as well (unsolicited mind you), and he has even been known to give me a hug periodically throughout the day “just because.” I cherish those hugs, each and every one of them.
I hated the screamo music that J. listens to. Absolutely, completely, totally hated it. That is, until I attended an Asking Alexandria concert with him. I still don’t care for the music that much, but sharing that experience with him was epic. Seriously. One of my favorite moments from the event happened as we were waiting outside for J. to get some autographs:
Stranger: “May I ask you a question?”
Me: “Sure, what is it?”
Stranger: “Are you his mother?” (pointing at J.)
Me: “Yes, I am. Why?”
Stranger: (addressing J.) “Dude, you had better so respect and love on your mom. That is frigging awesome that she came out to a show like this with you, that she let YOU come out to a show like this! My mom never allowed me to go to concerts like this when I was younger and she would never even THINK about going with me!! (addressing me) “You have got to be the coolest mom in the world! That is so awesome! I hope he shows you the love and respect you deserve!”
Have to admit, J. and I just looked at each other and grinned. That evening we spent together changed the dynamics of our relationship forever. He got to see the wild-and-crazy-concert-mom and I got to see just how sweet and shy my almost-man really is.
Lately, he’s taken to listening to songs from the 80s and 90s (right up my alley) and there are times when we’ll catch ourselves singing along to the same tune in the car. We look at each other as though an ostrich is growing out of the top of the other’s head and just burst into laughter.
What can I say. We’re strange like that, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Teenagers are going to mess up. A LOT. (Remember when you were a teenager? Get your head out of the clouds, you were NOT perfect.) They are selfish, they are self-absorbed, they get insecure, do stupid things to get attention from their friends at school. There are going to be more days than you can count where you wonder just where in the hell you wen’t wrong raising them.
“Consequences may be in order (for their actions), but so is a whole lot of grace.” – Monica at the grommom
As a parent, I always try to remember how my Nana would handle a certain situation. It hasn’t failed me yet. She was a genteel woman, never raised her voice, and her discipline never felt like discipline.
My best advice to my children is to learn from my mistakes. If I see that they are headed down a path that will bring them heartache and trouble, I explain their choices to them as a life situation that I (most often) have been through myself. You have to know your heart in order to know the direction your life is headed. Teenagers don’t understand this, do not have the life experience yet to understand this.
“I’ll never ask you for guidance, Mom, but I want you to help me figure out where I’m going.”
If you know your child’s strengths, weaknesses, desires and wants, you are the best resource that they have. Even when they refuse to ask you, you can be the one to guide them along the forks in the road, to guide them by faith. You have to know your child, in order to know how to give them the guidance that they will need.
I have always been J.’s champion. Even when he has done things he should not have done – I’ve never stopped believing in him and helping him to understand that making a bad decision does NOT make up who he is. I have taught him to learn from his mistakes, to remember them, and to do things differently when the same situation arises later in life. To make the right decision. I am his biggest fan, and his biggest cheerleader.
“Treat a child as though he already is the person he’s capable of becoming.” -Haim Ginott
I love the man that I see him becoming. Of course he drives me nuts, he’s a teenager, that’s basically his job for the next few years. Make mom crazy. I love sitting back and watching him discover himself, and I cheer him on every step of the way. I treat him as though he is already the great person I imagine him to be as an adult, and gently guide him back to the path he needs to be on when he loses his way.
As Monica said in her article:
A common key to pretty much everything is that Mom is involved in the teen’s life.
It really is a balancing act, knowing when to listen, when to guide, when to laugh and share a joke, when to step in and when to just leave them be. There is no owner’s manual for teenagers, each one is unique and quirky and the best that we can hope for is that we are open with them and that you develop a mutual respect. They may “act” as though they know everything, but they need your guidance and your support.
Like it or not, being a parent is the most important job in the world. You are raising the next generation. How you want to see this world that we live in grow, flourish, change – directly depends on the people that you are raising right now.
To my teen and my soon-to-be teen, I love you guys. Always, forever, infinity.
Don’t miss Sandy’s post over on Mother of Imperfection today either – Insane (but true) Facts About Raising Teenagers. Another honest assessment of life with teenagers!