You Know They’re Going to Mess Up Sometimes

They’re going to screw it up, you know.

Teens make mistakes

They’re going to gather up a friend or two or six and plow ahead with little thought into that frightening world of teenage behaviors and missteps and spontaneous, ill-advised adventures.

They’re going to participate in asinine, scary YouTube video challenges and post them to TikTok and cause teens to be intrigued, grownups to be frightened, and parents to question their intelligence and possibly even their character.

They’re going to back their cars up too fast while talking to four loud friends in their new-to-them vehicle, and hit the bright yellow pole at the fast food restaurant behind them, and need to come up with $500 in repairs.

They’re going to sneak onto dark, closed basketball courts at night and somehow climb to the top of the 10 foot backboards over tarred courts and take selfies in dangerous, ridiculous positions for Instagram.

Teens are going to make mistakes, parents need to remember that they did, too. (Twenty20 @9_fingers_)

Then they’re going to sincerely apologize with barely raised eyes and an unsteadiness in their voices that takes us right back to the years that have long passed, when they were less than half of their current age, dependent, softer in every way, and we’re going to take a deep breath, and be grateful that it worked out alright, and wish like mad we weren’t just waiting for the next time.

We’re going to remember when they brought us books to read them, clad in laundry scented pajamas, small bodies pressed up against us, shampooed heads leaning in close, as far from the rest of the world as was possible, the next steps seemingly forever away.

We’re going to remember an entire decade ago, when we bundled them up to play in the winter cold, and built giant snowmen who wore silly hats, and drove them to frosty hills to fly down on brightly colored sleds, them solidly, contentedly in our laps, their mittened hands over our thighs, safe from even the bumpiest of rides, each secure in that feeling.

We’re going to remember when we drove them to those courts, to those fields, to those studios, to those birthday parties, and stayed to watch them revel in their newfound bursts of relative freedom, involved in activities with friends and coaches and instructors, yet with the security of their parents seated a few bleachers away, our presence confirmed through more than occasional glances, our proximity quietly appreciated by both them and us.

The years are going to present themselves to us in a tumbling slideshow – the trip home from the hospital, carseat checked on a dozen times, eyes squinting in the never before seen sunshine; making pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, small hands stirring gleefully, the process taking much longer than years prior, but filled with the excited anticipation only a child can personify; pickup at a basketball camp years ago, greeted by an almost desperate hug from adolescent arms and a young voice overcome with unexpected emotion after the first 4 nights ever spent alone somewhere other than home; a friend, newly licensed, pulling into the driveway, the astounding joy of freedom in their wide eyes apparent from a living room window a front yard away.

All kids screw up

These are good kids. They are smart, mostly. They are compassionate, usually. They demonstrate common sense the majority of the time.


They are also teenagers, with frontal lobes not yet fully developed, with ideas forming from the unconscious desire for a near constant adrenaline rush, and with peer expectations around every corner and behind each door and on the very next screen.

And so, they are going to screw it up sometimes.

And the absolute best thing we can do is sit them down once again, on that couch, or in the car, or anywhere they can feel a bit of that familiar security, and hear them, see them, discuss whatever issue they’ve just demonstrated they cannot yet make adult decisions around, renew our faith in their ability, both out loud to them, and quietly to ourselves, and help them to steady their voices, once again.

This article first appeared on Scary Mommy.

About Sarah Burtchell

Sarah Burtchell is the parent of three children, one of whom has a mental illness. She was diagnosed with PTSD and reactive attachment disorder over the last couple of years. Every day is an opportunity and a potential heartbreak. I hope to both educate people who wonder and help those people whose lives also include this huge challenge to feel less alone. You can follow her on her blog.

Read more posts by Sarah

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