I knew that raising teenagers would not be easy. After all, I was a teenager. I remember the angst and the door-slamming arguments with my parents. I remember zits, highlighting my hair with Sun In, and endless hours on the phone with my best friend. I remember obsessing over boys, halter tops and Candies heels. I remember Mad Dog 20/20 and the debuts of Saturday Night Live and MTV. I remember feeling totally misunderstood and feeling beautiful and ugly simultaneously. And I remember longing for the day when my 18th birthday would finally set me free from my parents’ persecution.
But now, as a mother of teenagers, I look back and wonder if there was anything my parents could have done or said to calm the storm that was churning inside of me, or if those perilous years between ages 12 and 20 must be ridden out, like tumultuous waves in a stormy sea. As a parent, I stand in fear, my feet planted in sand and my legs knee deep in foamy water. I long for my children to join me in firmer footing, on the shore of adulthood.
It seems that I can only provide love, support and discipline for my teenagers, as they ride the wild waves of youth. Sometimes I can only smile while my insides are screaming. Or bite the insides of my mouth till blood pools and drips down the corners of my mouth. Ah, yes, these are the emotions I have come to know and love!
Life Of A Mother Of Teenagers
While my beautiful, blooming surfers are out basking in the sunshine and riding those wild waves, I find myself obsessing over sunscreen — desperately trying to protect my children from the harmful rays of life. At the same time, I know that storms are inevitable and just beyond the next cloud. But they don’t (actually, can’t) yet see the cloud, because they are still teenagers. In their minds, storms and tsunamis only happen to other surfers on the other side of the world.
So I wait. I wake each morning and account for the whereabouts of my beloved offspring. For a brief time, in my slumbered state, my mind once again sees them as precious cherubs from days of macaroni necklaces and milk mustaches. Then I breathe, slide my arthritic body from the sheets and begin another day.
I pray, as my mother and grandmother did before me, that the storms will pass. The clouds will break and the sun will eventually shine. As a parent of teenagers, I have to stop, breathe in and out, unclench my heart and remember my own personal agonies and acts of teenage defiance, before I react to theirs. I have to recall my own painful adolescence: tripping over my tongue as I desperately tried to impress a boy; the missing Frye boots underneath the Christmas tree and the resulting temper tantrum that left my mother devastated; the humiliating result of too many Bacardi and Tabs; asking a boy to prom because I attended an all-girls high school. Adolescent moments that still make me cringe.
My Life With Teens
So I tolerate my teenagers’ sighs and eye rolling (Is eye rolling a Pavlovian response to a parent’s voice?. I just can’t remember the physicality of eye rolling. When I roll my eyes now, I end up with a migraine, popping Advil and rolling Head On all over my forehead!) Talk about eye rolling! That visual is sure to elicit one.
For the life of me I can’t remember which dismissive word I used with my parents at the time — the “whatever!,” “talk to the hand” or “peace out,” of my adolescence. Perhaps adolescence is like childbirth – we forget most of the agony and humiliation over time.
So this time, I am taking notes. I have a legal pad in my brain, listing bullet points for use at just the right moment. I can’t wait for my future granddaughter’s screeching exclamation, “All of my friends are wearing them!” I’ll smile a well-earned smile and tell my grown-up child to replay the Beta/VHS tapes of her own adolescence, before howling in disbelief at her own children.
Until then, I shall endure. I will continue to remind myself of my own teenage frailties, the smiles as well as tears. Oh, the agony and the ecstasy of parenthood! I will weather the storm and when it’s all over, I’ll crack open the windows, let in the sun and celebrate life on the beach!