I Worry That We’ve Treated Our Son Like a Kid for Too Long

My 17-year-old son and I just had a heart to heart. The kind I’ve been craving. Wishing for. The kind that’s full of raw emotion. Real feelings. The kind that reminds me of the way we used to talk back in the day. When he was young and uninhibited. And not on the edge of adulthood.

The kind that broke my heart a little – okay a lot- as I held up a mirror to the reflection that he sees in me as a parent. So different from the one that I think is staring back.

I had a powerful heart to heart with my teen. (Photo credit: Amy Keyes)

My son has always had an old soul

My son is a rule follower. He is academically and athletically driven. Brainy in a way I never was. Competitive in a way I never will be. He goes about his business working hard at everything he does, with what seems like very little help from me. You know the type-the old soul who has always seemed like someone you would be going out to dinner with rather than driving him to track practice. The type of kid you forget is a kid because he is so independent and self-driven.

He spends most of his time out. At sports practices. Work. Friends’ houses. Seemingly anywhere else but here. And when he is home, I often feel like I’m trying to get to know this young man, who used to be my little baby, and has quickly grown into this person about to leave home.

I think I’ve done a pretty good job as a mom

Over these teen years, I’ve tried to ask the right questions. Show the right support. Remind him that I’m here without being TOO here. Remembering full well what went on in my youth and trying to make sure he doesn’t feel like he has to navigate his own without being forthright and honest about things.

In a nutshell, I felt like I’ve done a pretty good job.

My son’s perception of my parenting is not aligned with my reality

A good friend once told me that perception is reality, and tonight I discovered that his perception of my parenting is not aligned with my reality. When I boil it down, it’s nothing new. I was the same way – I wanted to maintain my independence and feel like I had some pieces of my life that were just mine, and my parents wanted to know more than I wanted to give.

The difference was that I didn’t always make the same positive choices that he does, so he feels like my questions take away every bit of making anything his own. That part I understand and empathize with-I mean, I’m now on the flip side, doing the parenting, but it makes sense to me nonetheless.

The pill that was a little harder to swallow was when he told me he’s not feeling super prepared to be an adult. Not ready to go off into the world and feel confident that he can do it. Feeling frustrated that we’ve treated him like a kid for too long, but also realizing that he has the privilege to be one because he doesn’t have to grow up too fast.

My conversation with my son left me thinking how I can approach this year with him differently

It was a conversation that left me thinking about so many things. Like, generational patterns of things we learn…or don’t. What we choose to carry forward from what our parents taught us, and what we choose to abandon for something different in the way we raise our own children.

How to tip the scale of everything- physically, mentally, emotionally-into balance so that our kids feel like they can become their own people and also so that we, as parents, can remind them that they are not quite yet adults and still need us.

It left me thinking about the last few years and how its impact is still leaving its mark on everyone-parents and kids alike. How the shells we built around ourselves as a society may still not be fully cracked open. The restrictions that we set, based around fears that we had, still sealing up some of the social spaces of the past few years.

Mostly, it left me thinking about how I can approach this year with him differently. How my heart can get past the tear that his truth opened up in my own parenting confidence. How I can own the words that are his reality and help make sure that I am doing what is in my power to help him build the fortitude and courage to walk out of this house next summer feeling ready.

I will be more intentional about making my son feel more adult

He knows I will never stop asking. Never stop wanting to know where he is, who he’s with- worrying until he’s safely back home. But, now I will be more conscious of what I’m asking- and how. I will be more intentional about taking this year to build in the things that will make him feel more adult than not, and work hard to give him the space he needs to stumble and grow from the choices he’s making.

These teen to adult years have been sparse in the heart to heart department. I’m learning that with each one, I can glean a pearl of wisdom in the oyster of parenting to help me better understand what my kid is going through.

And over time, maybe I’ll look back in that mirror and see the same reflection that he does.

More Great Reading:

At 15 I Hold Onto the Boy but Also the Emerging Young Man

About Amy Keyes

Amy Keyes is the proud mom of two teenagers and a crazy husky-lab named Walter. Married to the best college sweet cheeks a girl could have ever found. Former journalist turned middle school teacher, running and workout enthusiast, and enjoyer of dance parties for one. There's nothing she loves more than watching her kids do what they love and rediscovering herself in the process.

Read more posts by Amy

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