I’m sitting in a sun-drenched patio and I’m trying to find a sliver of shade so I can stop squinting. I’m pouring my heart out to an old friend, talking about struggles with my teenage son. Name all of the things that will scare the daylights out of a mother, and my son has done it. I don’t really like to open up to people about this because I want privacy (he wants privacy, too) and I don’t want judgment. Raising a child who is currently wildin’ out is hard enough. It’s like exposing all of your shortcomings as a mother for the world to see. But mostly, it’s trying to protect your child from himself.
You’re just going to have to help navigate his steps during these next few years — you’re a vital part of this stage in his life, our counselor told me. No pressure at all, mister counselor man.
The thought that a person would look at my son — young, reckless, sweet, kind, loving, dumb, funny, smart and foolish — and label him a thug or a lost cause really bothers me. He’s a kid that has made some bad choices, like most of us have at some point in our lives.
I’m a pretty calm person and I’ve got God on my side but if someone says something ignorant about my child, they should prepare to catch these hands.
So I’m pouring out my heart. My friend is listening quietly. I don’t want her advice, I am simply venting at this point. Still, she went there.
Denise, I was really troubled as a teen. I did drugs, I stayed out all night, I drank, I slept around, I flunked out of school. The only thing my mother could do for me at that point was let me figure it out myself. She kicked me out. I was seventeen. I had to learn how to survive on my own and that’s what I did. Maybe that’s what needs to happen.
I’m having a hard time processing her words. Is she, in good conscience, telling me to kick my child out onto the streets? Tossing my child out to the wolves will never be a smart parenting decision. Meanwhile, her three sons are sitting inside playing video games, lounging on their Star Wars bedsheets. Young, innocent, still soft with baby fat. She has not yet confronted their humanity, that is abundantly clear. My tears are threatening to spill over and they’re thick and hot in my eyes. I am seething inside but I don’t say a word. I move out of the shade and let the sun hit me full force.
I’m currently in the trenches of motherhood.
Like the dodging mines, running through barbed wire, getting gassed and jumping for cover in a dirty foxhole trenches. And that’s not even considering the mental warfare.
I used to think changing diapers around the clock and breastfeeding-induced scabs on my nipples was rough. Sitting in the ER with a crying child. Toddlers that refused naps. Grocery shopping with six kids in tow (picture this: carrying a baby in a sling, a toddler sitting in the front seat, the other four kids holding onto the cart for dear life). I thought that life was rough. And it was. When you are sleep-deprived, everything is rough.
But then they became teenagers and it’s a whole other reality. I currently have these lovely ages circulating in my home: 11, 12, 14, 16, 17 and 19.
What a humble space to be in. I wear my humility like a flower crown these days.
I was out to lunch with my old friend — that old friend — catching up on life. Truth be told, it has been months since we’ve talked because I was still salty from our last conversation. But I’ve grown in my soul, and I can move forward. But first:
Do not tell me how to care for my teenaged children when yours are still in their footie pj’s and haven’t even grown armpit hair.
You do not know what life is like when your child changes from one day to the next.
You do not know the feeling of helplessness when your child spins out of control on an adult level.
Unless you have survived teenagers, you have no authority on which to speak.
STAY IN YOUR LANE.
I don’t bother saying those things to her face because there is no need. She still has three sons to raise. She will learn all of those things on her own because that’s how life is.
We ate our sandwiches companionably. I told her my son was walking a better path in his life and my heart was grateful. She opened up about how her 13-year-old son — her sweet, quiet, loving little boy — is suddenly failing several classes in school / staying up all hours of the night / treating her like she’s the stupidest person on Earth.
It’s like someone just took my son and dropped off his stranger. What is happening to my kid?
I listened to her words. I am sympathetic. I wouldn’t wish teenager drama on my worst enemy. Still, I’m happy to say that humble pie comes in large, hearty servings. That is what motherhood is like, sometimes. Humble pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner — and a snack.
This is life as a mother. There are no guarantees that you will make it through unscathed. We will all feast on that humble pie.