As a mom of two teens, sometimes I feel like a hypocrite. I write a lot about raising them and what I say is always true for me. But much of what I share could easily go the other way and this sometimes contradiction feels deceptive.
I love parenting teens
I’ve written countless articles about how much I love parenting teens, and it’s so true! I really do. They are so much fun. Watching our little babes grow up into grown adults is the greatest gift we have in parenting these kids. I love spending time with my teens. I love our talks and jokes and the things we do together. I actually enjoy being around my kids. I love their company and believe it or not, I think they rather like mine too. I miss them when they’re gone and I can’t wait to hear about their days after many hours of not seeing them.
These teenagers of mine are my favorite people. I love our talks and I love offering my advice when they ask for it. I love listening to them dream about their futures and I love watching them try new things. I love that they are slowly becoming their own person, with their own gifts and opinions and decisions to make for themselves. It’s an incredible journey, watching our kids grow up and these years are when things really get good.
But parenting teens is tough work
But here’s the thing, parenting teens is also exhausting, exasperating, and terrifying too. Amidst the fun times, the great talks, and the hilarious jokes we share, there are the brutal growing pains that come with this season. These are the years filled with power struggles and identity crises, social issues and academic challenges. It takes a lot of strength and patience and time and effort to encourage our teens through heartbreak and failure, insecurities and fear, tough choices and difficult conflicts.
I’m constantly wondering how they are doing and worry about their well-being, because being a teen is harder than ever before. I grow concerned about their choices and all the options they face today in a world that can be so damaging and dangerous. These years bring a lot of angst and angry outbursts, confusion and mood swings, and the unpredictable ride can take sharp turns and hard falls. My kids can be careless and reckless, and sometimes they leave a mess of mistakes in their wake.
So, although raising teens is my favorite part of parenting, it’s tough work. It’s exhausting and stressful and scary and worrisome. My favorite people can bring me to my breaking point and they often do.
I write about raising our kids to be independent and that means letting go and allowing them to solve their own problems. I truly believe our kids need to figure things out for themselves and often we interfere with that process by enabling them. I’ve shared how our teens need to become self-sufficient and saving them from doing hard things is a deterrent to their growth. Letting our kids fail and recover from those hard situations will develop new strengths they didn’t even know they had.
I believe that encouraging our kids to have those awkward moments and stressful conversations will help them learn how to manage their lives successfully. I’ve shared stories about my own kids and how they are slowly developing their life skills and learning how to handle difficult situations and challenges on their own as I continue to let go more and more and allow them to fumble through hard things.
But I also do a lot for my kids. In fact, I sometimes offer to do more than I should. I’ll wake up at 5:00am just to help get my daughter out the door. I’ll do their laundry and make them breakfast. I’ll even pack their lunches. I’ll check in with them constantly and worry about them when they are out on their own. I’ll tell them to be careful and make good choices and I’ll bombard them with a string of questions when they return. I’ll remind them about deadlines and dates and drop forgotten items off at school. There have been times when I’ve wanted to dive in and save them from harm, injustice, or rescue them from their mistakes, and it is often my kids who keep me from doing it.
Some days we feel like we’re not doing enough for our teens, other days too much
It’s a wavering wishy-washy walk, as I try to figure out what’s best for my kids while managing my maternal need to take care of my babies and keep them safe. I am reminded of the reality of this ever-changing parenting role over and over again as I’m still learning the difference between helping or hindering. Some days I feel like I do too much and I worry they won’t learn how to manage things on their own and other days I’m confident that I am preparing my kids to be strong and independent adults.
The bottom line about parenting teens is that it is a constant dichotomy. I might feel like a hypocrite, but really, this is how it goes for us all. We can push our kids forward when they need to learn new things and pull them back in when they need to be comforted and consoled. We can hover in our helicopters when things get hard and open up the range when things are going well. We can be demanding and dominating when enforcing our rules and we can be relaxed and permissive when our kids earn our trust. We can be confident in our kid’s choices one day and question them the next. We can be proud of all they’re doing and praise them for their hard work, while complaining about their messy rooms and moody sighs. We can allow them to make hard decisions on their own and we can coddle them when they still don’t quite know what to do. It’s a marvelous and often maddening journey, parenting these teens. And there are no clear-cut answers.
We live in a world of contradiction while raising our teens-the joy and frustrations, the assurance and concern, the excitement and the fears, the praise and disappointment, the confidence and questioning, the failures and the victories, the holding on and the letting go…
We make up our own parenting paths as we try our best to help our kids pave theirs.
There will always be opposing approaches when it comes to raising our kids well, but funny thing is, we’re all in this confusing conflicting mess together just trying to help our kids grow up the best we know how. We all have justifications and explanations for what we do or don’t do. Each child is different with their own unique needs, abilities and gifts, there’s just no one right way to carry out this mission successfully.
So let’s all keep diving in and pulling back. We’ll keep standing at the doors with anxious hearts, waiting for our kids to come home in one piece. We’ll keep banging our heads on the walls when our kids don’t listen and we’ll keep holding them tight when they need a good cry. We’ll have the hard talks and set the tough rules, we’ll nurture their wounds and nourish their confidence. And when all is said and done and our kids are on their way, we’ll still feel that twist of dichotomy pour through our hearts, as we feel excitement and angst at the very same time.
There’s just no black and white in these crazy teenage years. It’s layers of shades of grueling and glorious grey.
And the one thing that’s never conflicting and never confusing, is simply realizing that it’s supposed to be this way. So, let’s all join in a collective sigh and a commiserating nod. Let’s raise our coffee mugs or wine glasses to the exhaustion and stress we feel, while we celebrate how amazing this stretch of the parenting road truly is.
And we’ll tread through this really tough terrain together, loving every minute of it. If that’s not hypocritical, I don’t know what is.
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Christine Carter writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. You can also find her work on Your Teen for Parents, Moms of Tweens and Teens, Parenting Teens and Tweens, Scary Mommy, Motherly, For Every Mom, Grown and Flown, and Her View from Home. She is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.” And “Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World.” Both sold on Amazon.