After my son hit puberty I noticed a change in him. It seemed to happen overnight– he went from a loving, caring talkative boy to a child who seemed so conflicted about everything, he was unrecognizable to me. Since he is my oldest and this was my first time parenting my way through something like this, I kept thinking I had somehow failed him. I was constantly asking him what was wrong and trying to fix it. I wasn’t sure if he was depressed, if there was something on his mind, or he was simply changing.
My extroverted child had turned into an introvert who spent lots of time in his room and muttered to me under his breath when I asked him about anything. People tell you teenagers are moody and you become an inconvenience to them, but no one can really describe how that will make you feel.
When your teen starts to pull away, it feels like rejection. You keep showing them your love, maybe in a slightly desperate way, because that’s how you feel — desperate. But your natural instinct as a mother is to hang on tighter.
I felt as if I was making our relationship worse. All the signs were there– I’d hug him, talk to him, tell him how much I loved him and he’d pull away more. He was trying to covey he didn’t need me, but I’m his mom and I knew better– something was telling me he needed me more than ever. I’m pretty sure I was right although he’d never admit that. I tried really hard not to smother him; there were times when it was appropriate for me to give him his space— I remember being a teenager myself and spending time alone was essential, but when the coin is flipped and you are the parent, it’s hard to know how much to give.
My son was acting like he didn’t like me or want me to show any involvement in his life, but instead of throwing my hands up in the air and giving him too much space and just letting him spend all his free time with friends or alone in his room, I held on a bit tighter. I let him know I still wanted in on his life even if he was going to try and keep me at arm’s length, which he did for years.
Not only was this frustrating, mourning the little boy my teenager used to be was excruciating. Sure, I saw glimpses of my son resurface every now and again, and this was when it was hard for me to not act too excited. I learned very quickly this just made him sink further back into himself.
I started to become aware my son needed me to show him I loved him without suffocating him. It was one of the hardest things I had to learn to do as his mother. I so desperately wanted him to know I missed his younger years, but I knew I had to accept the fact he was no longer that little boy– he was different now. And me reminding him of how he used to be made him feel as if I didn’t love him as much, and really, that emotion was about me, not him.
Our teens go through so many twists and turns throughout life. They need to know their parents are going to hang on through every stage, especially when all signs are pointing to them needing us less.
Sometimes this looks like spending extra time together without talking.
Sometimes this looks like doing a little something for them just because.
But most of the time, this means being very patient with them, and by all means, keep hanging on– just prepare to be met with a child looking at you acting as if they don’t care. Understand they are going to make you feel like tearing your hair out, they are going to hurt you, you will want to throw your arms up and storm out the door. You are going to have days when you feel like it is so much easier to just not talk to each other– I certainly had more than a few of those.
It’s been a few years, and my son has come back around. He acts like he likes me again, he’s openly affectionate and talks about his days with me again. While this makes me incredibly happy, I know that can change on a dime.
The important thing to remember is no matter what happens, our teens need to know their parents will always be there for them, even when they act like they don’t give a damn if we are in their lives or not.