Attention Parents of TEENAGERS!!
So my oldest son turned 16 last month. I’d like to say we have a pretty great relationship, but I noticed the minute he turned 16, that teenage, entitled, attitude started. You know, the one every parent talks about. Let’s just say I had to bring him down a notch at least once or twice in the last few weeks, something he did not like very much. So needless to say, we started butting heads a bit. Then it dawned on me…his entitlement…his attitude….his eye rolling….his pushing me away, was just a defense mechanism. At first I’d get angry and fire back which is exactly what I think he wanted, subconsciously anyways. But my anger quickly shifted to hurt. I was being rejected and pushed away from my baby. It was in that pain that I was able to see that he too was struggling. I could see it in his eyes. I could feel it when we argued. His behavior was just a symptom of the struggle.
He is growing up. He is slowly going his own way. Once I was able to step back a bit, I was able to feel his pain, his grief, his fear, his guilt and his excitement. He has so many strong emotions all at once. I took some time to gather myself, then asked him, “What’s going on with you? I want to be there for you, but I can’t if I don’t know what’s going on.” He shared with me that he wasn’t entirely sure, but what he was sure of is that he wants to be more independent…he just doesn’t know how. These were his words, not mine. I responded by saying, “And we want you to be more independent. That’s why we helped you get a car, a job, and open a bank account. Do you think you feel guilty or sad pulling away from us? He answered, “yes.”
It was then that I realized my theory about what was going on is accurate. His anger, entitlement and disrespect were real, but they were a deflection; intended to push me away and cause a fight. Because if we can create a argument or create chaos in the relationship, then we can justify our wanting space and independence from that person. If we can hurt the other person and get them to react, then it’s easier to be mad at them than feel sad or guilty. In the midst of this conversation I was able to tell my son that it doesn’t have to be this way. We love him and want to support him becoming an independent teenager and young man. We want to walk beside him, not against him.
I’m not going to lie, I cried myself to sleep that night, reminiscing on the old days when my kids were toddlers and we spent our days visiting family, shopping at the mall, and playing at the park, the days when he needed me and wanted me all the time. Through those tears I grieved and there was a shift in our relationship, from dependence to independence.
I know that the next stages of my kids lives are going to be amazing with a whole lot of precious memories, but that doesn’t take away from the grief I feel of losing the past. I will never experience being a mom like that again. And I want to feel it….all of it. I want him to feel it too, not deflect away from it or push us away because it might be easier.
I share this because I think so many of us go through these battles with our teenagers and we become blinded by their behavior. We fail to recognize the struggle and challenges they are facing and the emotions we, the parents, are experiencing, the changes we are both going through. I know most of us want to love, support and walk with our kids. I think sometimes they are so overwhelmed with what that looks like and feels like that they become reactive to avoid processing the change. I think sometimes we become reactive to avoid processing it too. If I feel this amount of emotion about my son growing up and becoming more independent, I can only imagine how great the magnitude his emotions must be as he is only 16. His brain is not even fully developed yet. So I share this with you as a hope of shedding light on this complex stage in the relationship between teens and parents. I know many of you are struggling too. Thank you for reading;)