BRINGING out the best in my teens sometimes brings out the beast in me. Navigating this precarious life stage leaves me unsure and uneasy. At times, I want to channel the Incredible Hulk, especially during instances wherein my kids practice selective hearing or their “incredible sulk.” The frustration drives me to the point where I am tempted pull my own hair, along with theirs!
They're not little kids anymore, but they're not adults either. My adolescents are moodier now, as opposed to when they were younger. Sullen faces are no fun to be around! No amount of kissing ouchies will take away their pain; that is if they actually spill and say what's bugging them in the first place. Sadly, Mommy has ceased to be the erstwhile cool confidante.
In fact, currently, any new picture I take of them or with them is banned from my social media, unless said picture has their stamp of approval. And it is oh so difficult to get. Ugh! Does this mean they've reduced me to a loser? Of course, not! They still know who's the boss (ehem, me). I just pray I do things right because there's clearly no second chance.
Choose thy battles
I've learned not to nit-pick. In the grand scheme of things, pictures on my page aren't really a big deal. If I decide to go all out dictator, there's no stopping me. But I can let the no-essential issues go. What's important is they're diligent about the more important stuff like respecting people, doing school work, and completing chores. There's no use sweating the small stuff.
Defining the Non-negotiable
I prefer winners to whiners, but life's challenges sometimes reduce them to the latter. Anxiety gets the best of adults, what more growing kids? I understand they want to assert their independence, and yet they lack confidence, so the tendency is to lash out. The easiest person within their target and reach is always me. They clearly know I will love them no matter what. I am amenable to accepting a little bit of defiance, but I've made it clear there are certain lines they can't ever cross.
Don't take things personally
The only person who's genuinely excited to see me in school is my preschooler. My high school ones have a lackluster response even to my shadow. I understand things weigh heavily on their minds: opinion of peers, harder school work, outings, curfews, hormones, changing body parts, pimples, etc. I tell myself not to take crankiness personally. If they're suddenly sullen, it's not my fault; nor is it a personal vendetta against me to ruin my day. It’s hard for me seeing my "babies" like this; but it’s harder for them being stuck in this quandary, as they find their footing and place in the world.
Patience has the most weight
And wait! Definitely extending patience goes along way as they test limits. I was once a teenager too, who sassed her own mother. "Mom, you're too paranoid! All my other friends can go, why not me?", "I'm already old, I can do it by myself!", or "I wanna buy it, it's my money right?!" Add: shopping with a PMS-ing teenage-girl or waiting home for a child who has gone out to party makes me feel as if I deserve a medal.
They need alone time
If they're not talking or are unresponsive, even after I've asked, I take it as my cue that it's for the best to leave things be for awhile. Tempting as it may be to pry, I hold my horses. My son refers to it as being in the zone. Sooner or later, I know they will open up to me anyway. They just get pissed and stay even quieter when I insist. What's important is they know they can come to me to talk anytime.
For the sake of keeping communication lines open, I have to: bite my tongue, reserve judgment, and offer sound advice only when the timing is right, even if I want to be hysterical! Sometimes, listening well is the hardest, especially when I'm worried or upset about an issue. I can’t fix everything! But I like it best when my teens tell me about happy stuff, especially when they share their insights that show the depth of their emerging personalities. There is nothing that makes me happier more than seeing their genuine smiles. Their pains are mine to carry, but their victories are theirs to enjoy. If they see my role in their triumphs, I am grateful. But if they don't, it's fine. I am content to stay on the sidelines and watch them shine.
Tweaking the style
It was actually my daughter who pointed out to me that screaming doesn't work. She's not a kid anymore and beast mode has lost its touch. My loud commanding voice just makes her less motivated to do what I ask. I try my best to change the way I do things, given that they're growing young adults with different traits. But bad habits are so darn hard to break. I may not be perfect, which at their age they now fully see, but I am trying.
Parenting is not easy, but my kids make it worthwhile. I am excited to see what kind of adults they’ll become and what dreams they’ll chase. Although they probably won't admit it, I know my teens still need me. Until now, I myself continue to value my late-mom's nuggets of advice and wish she's still alive so she can guide me. I'm definitely here to stay and guide my kids for however long they want! Children may only want to hold their mom’s hands for a short while, but she holds their hearts forever.
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Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 16, 2017.