Having a teenager can be painful. It is a stage that many parents dread.
My son, now 14 and on the cusp of being a man, seemed to be an infant just yesterday. We have always been close and this sudden pulling away—that is par for the course of the teen years—is nothing short of painful for me. I long for the child who would rather be in my lap than anywhere else in the world.
Parenting a teen is also a challenge for the self-esteem. The work of the teenage years is to question the world and that includes questioning the lives that their parents have chosen. There is not a part of my life that I don’t feel is under scrutiny by my own child right now and it is humbling.
This journey, so newly minted but already life changing, has caused me to reflect on my own life.
I remember myself as a teenager, feeling many of the same emotions that my son is experiencing now. I hated conformity…the very idea of working a passionless job simply for a paycheck and the idea of ever being a minivan driving suburban mom. I critiqued my parents endlessly and vowed to never live a similar life.
Well, life has a way of coming full circle and here I am as an adult having worked several jobs that had no passion but a steady paycheck, forced to conform during my nine to five by corporate America and driving an SUV (the modern day minivan) from one child’s activity to another. It has me wondering if I have sold out underneath the weight of my own ideals.
So while these questions that are being asked by my son are often painful to me in their intense scrutiny, I have to ask myself if there is value for us all in the social rebellion of youth. I believe there is. This time feels like a new beginning for both him and me—a time for discussion, honesty and the beginning of a lifelong relationship not of a mother and child, but of one equal to another.
I’m not going to lie and tell you that this burgeoning period of separation hasn’t led me to cry into my pillow silently most nights because it’s been a tough few months. However, I never want to be the mother who never learns from her children. If these 14 years of motherhood have taught me anything it is that we have far more to learn from our children than we could ever teach them. I never have wanted a life lived robotically each day without self-reflection. I think the grunt work of being a working mom of three children has often forced me into a life that is not always consciously lived, but is just surviving the day.
My son has reminded me of the life of passion that I’ve always yearned to live every day.
There is value in the painful sting of the barbs that our teenage children sometimes throw at us. It is a time to remind our children of the value of kindness to others even when we disagree. It is also a time for us to be reminded of the person that we once dreamed of being and to reflect on what our current dreams are beyond the daily grind and beyond being parents.
I am reminded daily that my son will not be in my home for much longer. It makes me want to make the best of everyday that he sleeps safely under the same roof as me. It also makes me want to find that passionate teenage girl inside myself that still exists inside this adult body and dust off some old dreams.
I honor my son’s reflection and rebellion—it is necessary to find his way in the world. I also know that the struggle of this time has little to do with me, even as his general abhorrence of me sometimes burns my heart. In honoring this time in his life, I also honor the questions that have come bubbling up in my own life. Yet again, I find myself stepping back from teaching my children in order to sit and absorb the lessons that their teen years have to give me.
Beyond the tears and the pain of this time, I am grateful for the lessons that the teen years have to give me all of these years after my own teenage days have passed.
Author: Amanda Redhead
Apprentice Editor: Lois Person/Editor: Cat Beekmans
Image: Tobias Koepe/Flickr