Let’s face it: When you hear someone is going to have a baby, it feels natural (not to mention completely acceptable) to check in on the parents-to-be (even if you don’t know them) and see how they are doing.
We throw showers, we send food, we come baring gifts and offer to hold the child so their parents can shower, go to the bathroom. They tell us how much they miss sleep, and they aren’t sure how they are going to get through this. We listen sympathetically and try to help them, and we never think they are neglectful for having these feelings—we get it.
When we see a mother or father pushing a stroller or grocery cart containing a tiny human being, it’s so easy to stop and ask how old the child is. We want to know how the parents are doing. We want to know if the baby is sleeping through the night. We want to chime in with stories of yesteryear so we can offer some experience-based advice.
I know each time I was a new mother, I expected to be stopped multiple times while on an outing. It became so common that if our shopping or lunching wasn’t interrupted by someone ogling about the baby, I was almost insulted.
This is just how it has worked from the beginning of time, people hurry to see how the new mother and baby are doing. Then through the toddler years, people’s concern seems to dwindle. The visiting and donations of time and food drop way off, but there’s still a supportive presence.
Sitting in the middle of a 5-year-olds birthday party, you can often find most parents trying to relate to each other, sharing stories of toilet training, meltdowns in the grocery store, and how they’ve discovered that if they cook and blend greens into pasta sauce, your little one can almost get their daily veggie requirement in.
Why Do We Stop Checking In On Parents of Teens?
After those years pass, parents get ghosted. People stop checking in. You are ignored. I guess everyone assumes you’ve got this parenting thing down and you no longer need help because your kid won’t stop eating or sleeping and they barely talk anymore.
Not once have I ever been stopped in a store by a stranger who sees me trying to get my kiddos to stop putting groceries in our cart and says, “Hi, this looks really hard. How are you? How’s it going? You doing okay? You need some Advil and the name of a good therapist?”
People don’t come with wrapped gifts and frozen lasagnas when you have teens. They don’t offer you advice, or tell you what worked for them.
In fact, many people avoid these questions because no-one knows how to parent through the teen years– including many parents who have had teens. Their only thought is, “Okay, we made it through that nightmare the best way we could.”
But the truth is that parents of teens may need the regular check-in the most. I have three teenagers and I’ve discovered “Are you getting any sleep, or are you up late worrying about sex and drugs?” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like, “How’s nursing going?”
If we complain about our kids acting out, we are afraid we’re invading their privacy and they will be labeled as the “bad kid.”
At this point, we are totally missing people patting us on the shoulder when our toddler was crying because they got the wrong color cup, and reassuring us that the terrible-twos are just a passing stage. What I wouldn’t give for a stranger to walk up to me and say, “The middle school years are just a stage. Hang in there, the backtalk, complaining, and your kids being mortified by your presence will pass.”
Instead, there’s judgment, high expectations, and more parents trying to figure out the right way to handle finding a vape pen in their teen’s backpack, without actually talking about it.
Our kids get older, things get harder, and people disappear.
If you know a parent of teens, please drop them a line. They probably aren’t okay no matter how together they acted at the soccer game last week.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt to drop off a frozen casserole every now and again or offer a shoulder to cry on. Believe me when I say, parents of teens are always low on food and support.
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