Parenting teens is a challenge for many reasons. For me, the biggest is that there are lots of emotions to manage in the household at any given moment. Add in that, for a living, I work in the field of emotional management, and sometimes (especially after a hard client day) I’m worried I’m not doing enough for the people in my own home.
Let me set the scene for the other night. It’s my kitchen. It’s roughly 8:30pm. I am arriving home from a heavy-ish client work day and The Husband has arrived home that morning on a red-eye from a major work trip so he’s been rendered fairly useless for anything more than basic human needs.
I walk in the kitchen door, bags still hanging from my arm, coat still on to be greeted by The Girl who is doing dishes. She turns to me to chat and I notice she has huge dark circles under her eyes. I interrupt her to ask, “did you have on eye makeup today or are you just that tired?” (I get this lovely heart-stabbing concern delivery style from my mother. It’s like Rude-with good intentions. I try to fight it, but it wins sometimes.)
Mistake. She immediately bursts into tears. We spend the next 20 minutes “in session” while I still have bags on my arms and a coat on. Oh, and I also had to pee. Silly me, I left my office after two cups of tea, thinking I’d just go as soon as I got home. Ha!
Anyway, the meltdown was pretty standard teenage stuff and we talked it through fairly well, and as always, I just keep reminding myself that I am so happy they still talk to me. But, no matter the positive spin I tried to make, I couldn’t help second-guessing myself when I went upstairs to change. Did I say the right things? Was I too hard on her? Did I Toni Ritz it too hard with too much reality and not enough gentleness? Was my brand of mothering what she needs or am I doing more harm than good?
Around this time, I heard her pop into the living room to read The Husband (near comatose on the couch) a poem she had written in school. I’m going to share it with you. But you might not understand it all. Here’s what you need to know: I started crying at the first line.
She literally validated the past 17 years of parenting. All the little things we’ve done, some accidental, most purposeful, she noticed. From my love of music, to the family memories all over our house (some haphazardly) to the attitude I took when we’d get lost every time we went somewhere those first years in Jersey. She heard it. She got it. She didn’t care if we had fancy photo frames or always found our way the first try. She felt the love and the openness and all that I tried to convey through mishaps and all the “just good enoughs”.
I remember being 17 and writing a poem about my mom. (I guess junior year is poetry year in high school) and feeling so strongly about her and all that she did for me. I hope my mom heard it that way. Because, last night, when I heard my kid read her poem about where she is from, I have never felt more full. Never.
So, moms and dads, I know there is a lot of questioning of yourself when you are parenting teens. But, know this. They’re noticing. They’re taking in all that you’re doing and they are feeling loved. And THAT is what matters.
I am From
By The Girl
I am from minivan mixes
From Goldfish and television
I am from the family that changed locations,
From brick to yellow siding, all numbered with two’s
I am from hydrangea bushes, stubbornly blooming year after year
I am from road trips and laughter
From my driven mother and optimistic dad
I’m from the family dinners, card games, and dance parties
From “It’s a disaster Charlie” to “It’s an adventure”
From crosses in bookshelves to the Walt Whitman quote hanging above my family room, “We were together, I forget the rest”
I’m from Maryland by way of Cali and Jersey and Brooklyn and Pennsylvania
From long distance phone bills
From “The Power of Two” and Gilmore Girls
From Waffles and Ritzy Chips
From my brothers’ quick wits and my mother finding her passion
From important family discussions and movie nights
On my kitchen windowsill, shoved into bookshelves, displayed across our house are pictures of my family. Of my grandmother modeling, of my grandfather in Life Magazine, of my parents on couches, my brothers in leaf piles. Torn from calendars, cut from Christmas cards, hung up with thumbtacks or in frames
I am from these, important memories. Held onto regardless of what they looked like.
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