I’m a teacher and a mother. I’m supposed to be enjoying my spring break. At home. Alone. My
kids are supposed to be in school. My husband should be teaching. They’re not. We’re all
home. Together. Am I bitter? A little. Time alone in my house to do whatever I want is a prized
commodity. But things change. We’re quarantined. It’s beyond my control. I will be fine. We will
be fine. I’d much rather have everyone here safe and healthy.
This time together has also been a lesson for me to remember practicing grace and forgiveness.
When you need advice as a parent of an infant or toddler or young child there are endless
books, blogs, and websites. As your children grow and become teenagers and young adults,
there seems to be less community for you to turn to. This thought that it gets easier as they get
older isn’t true. It doesn’t get easier. It just gets different. Sleepless nights and teething babies
become new drivers, later curfews, and dating with fewer roadmaps and guidebooks for us
parents to follow. You have to do what is best.
It’s not easy to bear the brunt of your returning student’s resentment
Below is my guide to using grace and forgiveness for any parents of teenagers and young
adults out there right now dealing with the brunt of their child’s anger, resentment, and fear as
their worlds are changing drastically before them.
Last Thursday, I received an email from the president of my son’s university that they were
closing for a month. Everyone living in the dorms had to move out by the weekend. I called my son and we set a time for me to pick him up. I anticipated he would be sad and disappointed, so
I stifled my excitement and relief at having him home. I did not anticipate the anger that would be hurled at me as we drove home. He was angry at the university leaders for closing down
instead of just locking the kids down in their dorms.
He could not fathom why in the two whole days since the closure was announced his school hadn’t been able to tell students if and when they would be refunded their unused food and board fees. I began to defend the leaders. I said that they needed time, wading through these uncharted waters. He wasn’t listening. It was unacceptable in his mind that they couldn’t give him simple answers. So, I stopped. I stopped responding and just listened.
My son wasn’t really mad at the university
He wasn’t really mad at the university administrators. He was just mad and sad and probably confused. He’s just begun to establish his life as an adult. Making his own decisions. Doing what he wants when he wants, and now he was being brought back to his parents’ house against his will. The house where he’s expected to engage, interact and do his share.
His roommate, teammates, and friends have become his new chosen family and he has
no definitive idea when he will see them again. So, I was quiet—which is really difficult for me. But I was. When he told me not to expect him to engage much or be responsible for
household chores because he still had to attend classes online, I agreed and assured him we
would all respect that.
What my kids needed from me was a listening ear and forgiveness
He didn’t need a lecture from me on how this is my house and I will make the rules and he will respect them. He needed grace and patience from me. He needed to still feel some control over his life which was spinning out of his control. When we arrived home, I left him alone and instructed everyone else to do the same.
I let him grumble and slam doors because I knew it wouldn’t last. And it didn’t. He’s settled and good. He knows he has to do his laundry and help with the cooking and clean up after himself. He just needed some time. That evening I got round two from my high-school child. He’s lucky his brother had put me in the right mindset. Earlier, when I had arrived home with my oldest, we had a family meeting where I explained this quarantine time was not like snow days or vacation days. We would not be going to movies, parties, large events, or sleepovers during this time. We would be staying at home. They could go outside, on walks and bike rides, and go fishing, but that was it. Everyone understood and agreed.
A few short hours later while he was out fishing, my son texted me asking to sleepover at a
friend’s house. I said no. He pulled out all the tricks showering me with compliments, promises
to adhere to the new guidelines after just this one sleepover, and bargaining. My answer stayed
a steadfast no. This broke down the gates holding in all of his emotions and he hurled them all
at me. Through a series of texts that followed, he said some truly nasty things to me. Things he
would never say to my face. Things he would never be allowed to say without severe
consequences. Things I know he will deeply regret saying in a few days. My replies were, “I
understand. Thanks for telling me. I love you.”
I had to look at the situation through my son’s eyes
I had to step outside of myself to see this situation through my son’s eyes. In high school, everything revolves around your friends and your social life. In his mind, his entire world had just stopped for an eternity. He was mad at the world, confused, sad, overwhelmed emotionally. I am his mother. His point of safety. If he can’t unload those emotions on me, then on who can he? He didn’t need me to return anger for anger. He didn’t need a lecture on respect. He didn’t need strict consequences. He needed grace. He needed forgiveness. And I hope that’s what I gave him.
Is this situation over? No. Discussions need to be held. He needs to understand that words have power and sometimes words can’t be taken back before they do unforgettable harm. He needs to learn there are healthier ways to express emotions. But now is not the time. Those lessons and conversations will take place weeks from now when his life and routine have returned to normal.
We will all get through this
So, I’m sharing this not because I’m some parenting expert or have all the answers. But, I’m
willing to bet a lot of my fellow parents of teenagers and college students are dealing with these
same issues right now and maybe feeling very alone as they navigate through these times. You
are not alone. Your kids will be ok. We will get through this.
Please don’t take anything your kids say to you personally. You’re not a bad parent. We’re all doing the best we can. But please be patient with your kids. And be patient with yourselves. It’s okay right now if routines go unchecked.
It’s okay if you don’t have it all figured out. We all need a little grace right now.
Barbie Beyer is an elementary special education teacher in Wisconsin. She is a mother to three sons; one in college, one in high school, and one in middle school. She uses writing as a means of cheap therapy through her blog at barbiebeyer.svbtle.com.
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