“Ohh how blessed you are to have all boys! Little boys…..ohh, they just love their mamas!” This must have been said to me from kind-hearted strangers for the better part of a decade. Whenever I had two or more of my young sons with me out in public, someone would inevitably make a comment about how special and unique the love between a mother and son was, and I wholeheartedly agreed. I loved my sweet little boys!
Then my little boys became teenagers
And then they became teenagers, and suddenly I was at a loss as to how to connect with them, and on many a day left simply speechless from behavior I couldn’t begin to process. It seemed like every day a new human (and personality) would emerge from the bedroom, one whose body and brain was developing and changing at such a rapid pace, it left me dumbfounded and speechless.
It was as if one day a smiling, lovable, and cheerful boy went to bed, and the next day he woke up with not only a new voice, but a new attitude. I was ashamed at how little I knew about male adolescent behavior, about what was “normal” and what wasn’t, and just when I would figure out a certain stage they were in and think I understood it, a new and more baffling one would emerge leaving me again, literally speechless.
What kind of mother doesn’t like her own kid?
Slammed doors, smelly, messy bedrooms, muffled, caveman like responses to simple requests, lazy efforts, grumpy dispositions, and in general a relational disconnect between me and my son has left me feeling quite hopeless at times. It also left me distressed and honestly embarrassed that sometimes I was clearly having difficulties even liking my own kid. What kind of mother doesn’t like their own son? And was I the only one feeling like this?
What I failed to realize were two things; First, it was a particular teenage phase I wasn’t liking, not my own child, and second, I was most definitely not the only mother feeling this way. Seeing that I write about raising teenagers, I’m afforded the opportunity to be candidly honest about my struggles and thankfully, when I began to write about how my teenage boys were hard to love, the feedback was not only supportive, it reassured me that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way.
There are millions of us out there, mothers of sons who are secretly suffering in silence, afraid to talk with peers about the angst our boys are causing us. Instead, we often continue to make believe everything is wonderful all the time, and we’re not alone. All too often we’re shown romanticized versions of raising teenagers, whether it is social media posts shared by friends that feature amazing bonding moments between moms and daughters, fathers and sons, and yes, moms and sons, we’re only getting a slivered glimpse of reality.
On days where I feel completely disenchanted as a mother to my teen, and wonder where my lovable son went, I’ll scroll and see a photo of another mom and her son appearing to be so full of joy and contentment. It’s feels fake. And that is almost how we should treat it, as something that might have been honest in the moment, but was just a moment in time, and not representative of all of the ins and outs and months and years of raising a young man.
Bluntly put, there will be times, lots and lots of times- that may even stretch into lots and lots of months, where loving your teenage son will feel like an insurmountable task. But just like a marriage vow says to love unconditionally, “in sickness and in health,” so too does one exist for parenting teens, and it goes something like this, “Even at age 15 when they’re on your very last nerve and acting like they know everything, love them anyway.”
Love your teens even when it’s hard
Love them when they slam doors and let you down.
Love them when you become their metaphorical punching bag because you’re their safe space.
Love them when their bad grades and bad choices make an appearance.
Love them when they’re happy, and when they’re moody.
Love them when you think you’re a bad mom, and love them when you think they’re a bad kid.
Love them hard during the hardest of phases, and then marvel at how easily it is for them to love you back when they emerge out of the phase.
And when some years later they call to say, “I’m sorry I was a jerk when I was 15, and I can’t believe what you put up with, I love you mom,” simply say, “It’s what moms do, and I love you too son.”