Mom’s of toddlers make an event of sharing the maddening, but ultimately laughable, stories of mayhem and destruction that the 5 and under set wreak upon our lives. In this stage of mothering, the rare coffee date with a group of friends explodes into laughter over the mischievous tales of your rambunctious toddler. Even the worst of the worst that toddlers can offer up (diapers removed and contents smeared anyone?) can still be met with a sort of head shake and a knowing laugh. Laugh so you don’t cry, knowing this stage will pass. We understand and have all been there.
It’s funny to talk about the three year old who earnestly promises he did NOT eat the cookie while smiling sweetly at you thru chocolate smeared teeth. After a glass of wine with friends, you can actually laugh about the mystery artwork on the back of your couch in Sharpie; and be mildly incredulous together that not one of your children will claim ownership of said artwork. Asking “Who did this?” is met with adamant denials and wide eyed looks of bafflement. You realize with a certain horror that one of your kids is a darn good actor, you just don’t know which one….
No one expects toddlers to be perfect, right? They are learning and growing, figuring out consequences, and ultimately learning what it means to be human.
It’s not so laughable though when those same imperfect kids wreak a little havoc down the road, in the teenage years.
Not many moms of teens sit around swapping stories of the most recent bold-faced lie your tween or teenager tried to pull over on you.
We can feel worried or embarrassed or ashamed when our kids are in this stage of life…. which creates a perfect storm of silence and secrecy. If we don’t guard against it, that can lead to shame that makes us traverse these years alone. I admit that it’s my first response. “Oh man. I hope no one finds out about this.” And yet, the enemy of our soul does so, so much damage in secret. The things we feel like we can’t say out loud are his absolute playground.
And here’s the truth about teenagers:
Just like toddlers, they are learning and growing, figuring out consequences, and ultimately learning what it means to be human. We accept our kids’ imperfections in the toddler stage when the mistakes are small, but not so much in the teen years when the mistakes have the potential to bring a bit more heartache.
So make it a priority to find a friend you can confide in about your frustrations and joys.
If you’re hesitant to share with anyone the very real, sometimes painful, experiences you go thru with your teen, why? Why the tendency to keep it all close to the vest? Here are my fears:
When I look carefully at those reasons for not openly sharing our trials with someone….I have decided those reasons are garbage. Are there any moms in your world who might withhold love from you or your teen upon hearing they are imperfect? Yes. You probably know who they are, so don’t choose them as your confidante. The moms who have proven that they love you and love your kids are going to own the fact that their teenager isn’t perfect either, and once you share your own story they will 99 times out of 100 have a story of their own to share. There is joy in knowing that all teenagers are a little bit crazy. They flat lose their [still developing] minds at times, and we are not in this new and scary parenting stage alone.
Sometimes you need a friend to say out loud: “Your kid is a great kid. He made a mistake. All kids do. It’s okay. This is not outside the realm of normal behavior.” And then when it’s her kid that loses their mind, you can be there to tell her those same things. (Bonus points if you have a friend from YOUR middle school or high school days who can remind you of your OWN ridiculous acts that your teenage brain convinced you were a great idea!)
There is so, so much joy in the teen years. These kids of ours are smart and funny and opinionated and kind and good. And then they lose their mind a for hot minute and make you crazy – but it doesn’t undo all the great things about this stage. Unless you brood, and worry, and fret, and don’t bring that crazy into the LIGHT with a trusted friend. Keeping the hard and confusing stuff in the dark can make this stage so lonely, and so scary. You need someone to help shape your perspective, and talk you down from locking your child in their room until high school graduation.
Don’t go it alone ladies. This stage of parenting is infinitely better shared.