This past week has marked the end of summer vacation for me. I was back at school, copying papers, decorating bulletin boards, connecting with an awesome team of people who are excited for the 2015-2016 school year. I am lucky and work with people who inspire me everyday. They inspire me to make a difference in the lives of children. It is an enormous task. One that weighs on each and every member of our school. I work in an elementary school, so the students I get to interact with daily are still quite young. It is a polar opposite from my home and volunteer life.
At home, this year, we have a Senior and Junior in High School and a boy entering his 8th grade, final year, of Middle School. The problems are much more different from when the kids were younger. So much more feels at stake. The two oldest got their first cars yesterday. The excitement they felt was so visible on their faces it was heartwarming. That is, until I realized that they can now drive off, without me, almost whenever they want. What an anxiety induced moment for a parent. All of a sudden, they really are not little boys, they are young men. Yes, I know they worked all summer. Yes, I know they are almost to the end of their high school careers. Yes, I know that they are far taller than me and so none of this should be a revelation, but it still was and is.
How do you parent almost adult young men? Each one’s personality is so different. There are all the sympathetic glances in the world to parents going through sleep withdrawn nights with newborns or the terrible twos, but the camaraderie of parenthood seems to end there. No one really likes to talk about the struggles of raising teens. Not my child mentality, wool pulled over eyes, no one wanting to admit to the next that these things happen. Sex, drugs, drinking, driving, grades, oh the list can go on and on. Each one of these carries consequences far deeper than that temper tantrum that may or may not have happened in the toy aisle of Target. The Target tantrum will not get them killed or jailed, at least not by the government. Go ahead and time-out those babies to your heart’s extent.
The “Mommy Wars” hurts me to even say that last bit out loud. All moms are in the great parenting experiment, dads too. That is what it is, parenting is just a big gamble, an experiment without a control group. In fact, save some heart ache and do not make comparisons. What you do, may or may not pay off in the end. You really can’t fast forward to see where the struggle takes you and your children. I can tell you from my experience, nothing, ever works out the way you plan. I mean, lets be real, how can you even plan when your children are humans too? We are not God nor are we puppeteers. No amount of string pulling is going to make my children walk the path I want them to take. They will hopefully get there their own way, with some of my guidance sinking in and influencing their steps. Life is a journey that we all must make, and it is one that no one else can travel for us, only with us.
Sure, we give our children tools. We try to teach them life lessons that we feel are important. We hope to reason with their teenage minds. Will they remember that when they are off in the world without you there? A parent hopes so. Will they remember to mind their manners with other people? To be kind. One hopes so. Will they realize how much hurt they can inflict on a parent when they are trying to gain Independence? That pulling away can be torture. Can we hope for a little empathy? Do teenagers even feel empathy? In my experience, they do, just not right away or always in public. Sometimes, they need a minute to process that emotion. Don’t we all need a minute to process emotions sometimes?
A few minutes ago, I waved good bye to two of my boys as they left our home, our driveway, and went out to breakfast together. I hope they remember all these things. I hope they continue to make time for each other in this busy world. I hope that they look back at me in the rear view mirror and they know that in this great parenting experiment, I am doing my best.