Before I begin I should really apologize for the title because I am NOT, in fact, the mother of a teen. As of yet anyway. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten the t-shirt splattered with all the angst and drama that dominates being the mother of a teen. On the contrary kind readers, I am deep into it full force with said non-teen of only 12 years, 9 months and 17 days. And THAT is after the whole I’m-not-a-teen-but-you-can’t-make-me-not-be-one-just-because-I’m-still-a-6th-grader phase which began 8 months ago.
Now here I sit, shivering in my soaked tee, on my not the mother of a teen floaty (for those of you who drink I suggest the one with the cup holders to accommodate the coping juice). After fruitlessly thrashing for months at the deep end of the teen pool that I prematurely belly flopped into, I have to admit I panicked a little when I first discovered where I was. I’d been used to the end with the steps and the railing where I could stand safely with my head above water. The shallow end was predictable and familiar, not at all like this abyss where my lack of preparedness had me treading in a frenzy that exhausted me to the core.
“Wow!” you must be thinking. “They must have hit a really rough patch.” Drugs? Alcohol? Sex? No, none of that thank goodness. In fact, the deep end curriculum I was subjected to delivered mostly POSITIVE things by the non-teen: good grades, sound judgement, solid decisions, and a nice display of confidence. Why then was I freaking out? Because my baby has let me know in no uncertain terms that she is not a baby any more. And especially not MY baby. There are really only faint glimpses now of the child I used to know. It hit me like a Mac truck because I just didn’t see it coming. This was quite upsetting because I’m usually very good at anticipating milestones and stages and whatnot. But kids in this day and time are not kids like we were. I mean, I still believed in Santa at age 12 (don’t judge, my parents were masters at deceit).
So back to the floaty. Clambering up onto this thing was no accident, and it took quite a number and variety of strokes to get here. One such maneuver was reading. A lot. Those of you who know anything about me know that I’m a self-help fanatic. Give me a book, and I’ll give you results, right? Below I have linked to all the teen parenting books, 4 of which I devoured in the space of about 1 month. The fact that they all pretty much say the same thing is good to note here. As a completely normal person you may likely only need to procure 1 title to fully understand and put into practice these helpful principles as your kids approach adolescence. I, on the other hand, require an entire library of books that espouse similar tactics to be read and re-read in hopes that my parental hard-wiring can be softened, and perhaps even rerouted to some extent. Control is my jam, and I’ve had some hard lessons learning to let go of it. And I’ll continue to read and learn because this is only the terrifying beginning of The Letting Go.
A second tack I took was having another mom to commiserate with. It’s funny because I’ve been a mom for a long time now. I have met and laughed and cried and created deep and treasured friendships with many other moms that I still hold today. But something was different about the mom I met last year in the deep end. She was THE mom for that very moment; going through exactly what I was going through at the same time I was. She just suddenly appeared out of nowhere, hanging onto the side down there with her hand outstretched. Isn’t it amazing that the universe launches people into your orbit at just the precise time you need them (and they need you)? She is the Thelma to my Louise in so many ways at the pool (minus the plunging to our death part), and I am incredibly thankful to have her floating alongside me.
That said, I feel like I can finally lie back on my lounger and drift calmly for a little while, but I realize that this is only a rest stop on a long journey to the ultimate port of independence for my daughter. There will be MANY more times I’ll be knocked off my flotation device, despite how steady I might feel clinging on to it.
How are you coping with your teen/pre-teen? Tell us your stories so we can raise a glass in your direction!
Teen Parenting Books I’m Reading (and re-reading):
Parent/Teen Breakthrough: The Relationship Approach (out of print, but available used on Amazon) by Mira Kirshenbaum and Charles Foster, Ph.D.