Last week in my high school carpool, I realized I was driving around a car full of 15 year-olds who all had their driving learner’s permit. (In our state, teens are required to drive with an adult for 12 months before earning a regular driver’s license at age 16.)
Lately when allowing my own 15 year-old to drive, I usually find myself sitting in the passenger seat vacillating between remaining silent because of sheer terror, or screaming directives full of traffic law hysteria at my son. And my driving son typically gets flustered and anxious at my agitation. We always end up fighting.
As a Mom of Teens, I Miss My “Village” of Friends
I’ve often thought to myself, “I can’t be the only mom teaching a teen to drive right now that is on her last ounce of patience. There should be a way we could teach our friends’ kids to drive, like swap a teen driver or something. Basically, with these teenagers I need my mom village back.”
The following afternoon while driving carpool, I offered one of the other teens in the car the chance to drive, while I sat in the passenger seat and the rest of the kids sat in the back. I was happy that she jumped at the opportunity, and we ended up having a great mini driving lesson on the way home.
I remained cool, calm, and completely leveled headed because it wasn’t my kid, and she felt relaxed and was open to my criticism because I wasn’t her mom. It was a teen/parent win/win, and for a few minutes at least, I felt like I was part of a parenting village again.
Remember that? Remember the parenting village you had when you had little ones? Remember the other moms who were in the depths of infant and toddlerhood chaos with you, and who could not only empathize with you, but who came to your rescue when you needed parenting help?
The moms who would hold your baby at the park or chase after and gently discipline your toddler when you couldn’t. The moms who would pick up your kindergartner from gymnastics, help your 3rd grader with their math homework, and assist with a million other small acts of parenting kindness that helped you raise your kid. I remember it fondly, and like other parents of teens, I was sad and dumfounded to see it go once our kids reached high school.
Where did my village go, and why isn’t anyone admitting that we still need a parenting village with teens?
Raising teenagers has been harder and lonelier than I ever thought possible, and raising them alone and/or just with your spouse only magnifies the struggle. And yet as problems and issues during adolescence grow bigger in both scope and consequence, our village of support grows smaller or often disappears completely. It’s as if suddenly when we have 14 or so years of parenting under our belt (and kids who are now more independent and need less physical intervention) we’re supposed to have figured everything out, and we no longer need a safety net of support from our peers.
But, in truth, the opposite is true, and raising teenagers is exactly the time when we most desperately need a village around us. We need them not only to do a million small acts of parenting kindness, but also to be there and help us with the really big and frustrating stuff-like teaching teens to drive.
The parent/teenager relationship is one that is constantly in flux and exhaustingly complicated, and that’s when having a peer support group (the village!) can act like a welcome relief pitcher after years of serving on the mound solo. It’s when parents need each other the most to help pick up the emotional slack that our teens have drained from us.
How wonderful would it be if all of us in the teen angst trenches allowed ourselves to be vulnerable enough to embrace the need for our village again. How wonderful would it be to be able to lean on each other in the same ways we did when we had little ones.
If you have the chance in some small way to help out another parent of a teen, don’t hesitate to do so. It doesn’t have to be some huge favor or something that was specifically asked of you, it just has to be an act of parenting kindness when for even the slightest of moments, you step in and become a surrogate parent.
You may never know how valuable the kind of reprieve you’ve provided for a battle weary mom of teens really was, but just know that when you become a village for another mother, she will do the same for you.
(And definitely offer to help teach a friend’s teen to drive. It’s way less stressful than teaching your own!)
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