Friday, October 1, 2010

The Last Teenager

I won't miss my last child being a teenager. Maybe twenty years from now, you can laugh at me as I wax nostalgic about the sweet golden years of blissfully parenting any of my kids through their teens – but right now, I'm betting I won't be doing that. I'll shudder like a cold breeze has touched my neck.
I think survival is key. My survival and my child's. There are days that I question whether both of us will survive or if these standoffs that I keep having with her will see us both bleeding in the middle of the dusty street. Insert bad spaghetti western music here.
Not that my other two children weren't strong-willed, smart and often cunning; traits that certainly highlighted our relationship at times. I'm simply aware of how different it is to be parenting in my mid-forties with a teenager versus parenting ten years ago when my oldest was the age of his youngest sister. I wasn't working full time, I had three kids in the house and his idea of fun was having his friends come over and host LAN parties. My middle daughter had no interest in school dances, stupid boys or what the latest fashions were. My youngest wants to shop at name-brand boutiques, wouldn't miss a dance unless she was dead and really, really likes boys. She rides the wave of current fads, peer pressure and popularity – all of which generates so much drama that I wonder how she ever gets her homework done.
I used to be pretty keyed in to the nuances of my kid's lives but working full time means that I have to find the time to ask for information. And asking means that I need to usually bribe her with a meal out – or shopping – so she can simply talk without being inundated with too many text messages. Once she actually left her cell phone at home and I felt so special.
Between our two schedules, there isn't all that much time to sift through our own relationship and notice how it is changing as she gets older. I am really aware that in a year I could potentially be putting car keys in her hands. In many ways, that is the moment when the leash comes off – not when she heads to college – but when she has access to a car and the great wide world of trouble beyond. I'm not sure if I am feeling like I am less knowledgeable about my youngest and her choices and values – or if I've finally become aware that I never had as much knowledge as I thought I did with any of my kids. They are all basically good people who seem to value personal integrity – and they all have done some stupid things. That's what growing up is all about – making mistakes and learning from them. I think I finally understand that I can't be there when those stumbles happen and that each of these kids have had to figure out their own unique ways of interacting with the world. Sure they accomplish that with lots of support and sure they have been shaped by all that familial conditioning to make choices based on a certain box of skills and tools – but they still do it in their own way due to the world that they find themselves part of.
That's scary. That is why I keep talking with her – however I need to make that happen. And as much as I love her, I feel a certain weariness in having to duck and weave yet again. Give me some kindness and respect; ask – don't demand; show a little gratitude instead of entitlement –
Wow, I sound like a parent of a teenager.
The good news is that I saw two other children move out of this terrifying thing called puberty and teen-hood. It isn't pretty. I'm happy to report that they both seem to have developed some manners, empathy and respect. It isn't my youngest child's fault that I am tired and focused on a lot of things that have nothing to do with being a mom. We both have choices, drama and stress to navigate – but I never want her to forget how very precious she is to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment