15 1/2 years. How did we get here so fast?
Yesterday I watched my teenager play high school football for the first time.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was holding the newborn version of him in my arms and introducing him to the world?
Back then he was just a delicate little creature and I was an insecure new mom, terrified of failing at parenting.
Yesterday I watched my teenager step onto the field as one of the players selected by his coaches to serve as team captain.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was snuggling with the toddler version of him in the glider in his room singing “I love you so much” as he drifted off to sleep?
Back then he was a cautious child who preferred to watch for a long time before he dared to try taking his first step and I was a nervous mom, afraid that the world would be too scary for my timid and sweet little boy.
Yesterday I watched my teenager push himself physically and mentally in a game that has become his favorite way to spend his time.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I had to peel the preschool version of him off of me and leave him crying with his new teacher?
Back then he was nervous about trying new things or being away from his family and I was the mom sitting in the car in the parking lot crying, worried that I was breaking his heart by leaving him with someone other than me.
Yesterday I watched my teenager get fist bumps and helmet taps from his teammates and coaches while I sat all the way up in the stands.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was volunteering in his kindergarten class and coordinating his playdates?
Back then he was eager to meet new friends in school and was finding his bravery as he began trying sports and I was the mom sitting in the waiting room of his karate class, my heart bursting with pride as I watched him begin to push past his fears.
Yesterday while my oldest son was on the field, my youngest son sat with me in the stands, watching the entire game, his tall middle school self engrossed in every detail of what his brother was doing.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that my baby was spending his big brother’s games playing with the other younger siblings, getting snacks from the snack shack, and putting “cool” rocks that he found around the field in my bag?
Back then my boys were happy to spend entire weekends on some sort of sports field and I was the mom beginning to make new friends with the other moms, carefully beginning to pull away and let my boys navigate their own friendships without my help.
Yesterday we all went home as a family and had serious conversations about religion, politics, and history.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that our family conversations centered around Mickey Mouse and Optimus Prime?
Back then my boys weren’t very aware of the world outside our house’s 4 walls, and I was the mom who was struggling with how much to tell them about the real world.
Yesterday my teenager communicated with the boss at his new job about his orientation schedule for the weekend.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that our weekends were spent completely all together as a family?
Back then my boys just tagged along wherever we went and I was the mom who was trying to find balance for the family — somewhere between being bored and being over-scheduled.
Yesterday a very different version of my family filled my day. It was a version filled with the angst of teenage boys, sarcastic brotherly quips at each other, practical jokes, and video games I thought I would never allow in my house.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that our house was filled with the squeals of little voices, Lego competitions, Imaginext figures, sweet games like CandyLand, and long snuggles before bedtime?
Back then I thought the time was moving slowly for my family and I was the mom completely unaware of how much I would miss the old days. Days like today seemed to be light-years away.
But, here I sit – squarely in the middle of the teen and tween parenting stage of my life, a stage I used to fear. Now I am the mom spending her days enjoying this amazing season of the parenting journey.
Today I am the mom who is acutely aware that someday soon, very soon, my boys will be young men, and some tomorrow not so far in the future I’ll be the mom wondering where all our time went.
Originally published April 2021 by Grown and Flown HERE
It was a typical summer evening in suburban America, a night when one child would turn to his mother and offer deep insight with one simple statement:
“Mom, stop. It’s OK.”
As the sun began its long descent in the sky that night, SUVs and pickup trucks began pouring into the tiny baseball field parking lot, dumping out their 12-year old passengers at the entrance to the field and rushing to secure a perfect parking spot.
The two dozen tweens made their way to their respective dugouts, lugging stinky bags filled with half-eaten packages of sunflower seeds, packs of sugary chewing gum, and multiple empty water bottles behind them. The players laughed and joked with each other, not really caring about the outcome of the game they were about to play.
They just wanted to have fun and soak up what was left of their summer.
As the children made their way onto the field to warm up, the parents began to take their place on the sidelines, staking out their preferred position alongside the field with their eyes fixed firmly on their own child, anxious thoughts filling their heads.
Will this be the night my child finally hits a home run?
Will my child find their confidence behind the plate or on the pitching mound?
Will my child be able to shake it off if they make an error or will it throw off their entire game?
As the game got underway, the distance between childhood and adulthood became apparent, and the life lessons began to unfold.
While the adults complained that the game was starting 15 minutes early, the sun was too hot, the bugs were too buggy, the field was too dusty, and the porta-potty was located too close to the field, the children continued on with their laughter and jokes, calling out support to each other.
The players were able to ignore the frustrating parts of the evening and instead focus on the positive parts.
When someone’s grandparent yelled at a player that was not their grandchild for making a mistake, some adults tensed and shot sideways glances at each other, muttering passive aggressive comments not quite under their breath. But the player took a deep breath, looked to his coach, physically shook the negativity off, and moved on.
The mistake and the criticism were forgotten by the player long before they would ever be forgotten by the adults.
When the umpire called interference on another player a few innings later, some adults shouted at the player, “You should know better,” and, “Get your head in the game,” while others heckled the ump for the “bad” call. The player pounded his fist into his glove and looked down at the ground as he kicked some clay around with his cleats. But the quickly deepening redness that had risen in his face from embarrassment stopped when his coaches called out to him, reminding him to breathe and to “focus on the next one.” With those words of encouragement, the player’s shoulders and face relaxed and he turned his attention back to the game.
As the adults on the sidelines spent the next 30 minutes rehashing with each other what had happened, the player had already moved on from the mistake.
Later when a player from the home team hit an out-of-the-park homerun and scored two runs for his team, the away team players could be seen fist bumping the hitter as he rounded the bases. From the adults on the away side, there was no clapping or calls of “nice hit!” Instead, there was silence, glowering stares, and frustrated hands being tossed into the air, as adults walked away from the game in anger.
Any jealousy or frustration the away team players had was overshadowed by their sportsmanship and happiness for a peer—even if it was a peer from another team.
As the game progressed, the home team’s lead increased, eventually dashing any hope the away team could win the game. But the players on the away team somehow kept smiling. They cheered for each other when one of them got a hit. They smiled for themselves when they struck out a player. They laughed as they made their way back to the dugout after each inning.
Despite the almost certain loss, they were having fun.
After a series of calls that just did not go their way, one parent finally stood up and yelled to another parent “That’s it. I’m pulling my kid now. He’s not playing in this game anymore.”
The field fell silent for a moment and the parent’s child turned to them from the dugout, calling out:
“Mom stop. It’s OK.”
Words of wisdom right there from a 12-year-old.
And it’s about time we all listen to them.
Moms and dads, stop. It’s OK.
It's OK if your child's team loses a game.
It’s OK if an umpire or referee makes a bad call in youth sports.
It’s OK if your child’s volunteer coach is not from the big leagues.
It’s OK for your child to be on a losing team.
It’s OK for your child to make a mistake.
It’s OK for your kids to have fun.
And you know what, it’s OK for YOU to have fun, too.
Our kids don’t need us standing on the sidelines, ready to throw down with every parent from the opposing team, coach, or ump who makes us upset or disagrees with us.
Our kids don’t need to see us throwing temper tantrums, swearing, making fun of the other team, or threatening to leave the game when things don’t go our way.
Our kids don’t need us yelling at them from the sidelines as we point out every error and mistake.
They don’t need that from us.
In fact, they don't really need us at all in those moments.
It’s we who need them.
The real lessons to be learned sometimes are the lessons that come from the kids and it’s OK for us to listen and learn from them.
It really is.
Originally published September 2021 by Her View From Home HERE
Sometimes I get mad when I rearrange my work schedule so I can make it to my son’s high school sports games.
Because it’s really not that hard.
Because I can’t imagine just deciding to not be there.
Because I know these years go by too quickly, and I want to be as present as possible.
And because my parents couldn't do it for me.
Sometimes I get mad when I find myself booking a therapy appointment for one of my children because they need support for their anxiety.
Because it’s what they need.
Because their needs are greater than mine.
Because that’s our job as parents.
And because my parents refused to do it for me.
Sometimes I get mad when I sit down with my children and husband to coordinate our schedules so we can watch our favorite TV show together.
Because they are the people I want most to be with.
Because they are part of my heart.
Because spending time with them refuels me.
And because my parents never did that for me.
Sometimes I get mad when I plan a trip every few months so my family vacations together--even super cheaply.
Because when it comes to quality time with your kids, you can make it work even if it means pitching a tent in the living room.
Because with family is where you are supposed to feel most loved.
Because those trips create some of our favorite memories.
And because my parents rarely wanted to do it with me.
Sometimes I get mad when my children’s out-of-state uncle asks for them to fly down and visit him.
Because I will miss them.
Because before we know it, they won’t be living with me anymore.
Because I love spending time with them.
And because my parents never seemed to miss me when they shipped me away to stay with other people most weekends.
Sometimes I get mad when my children show me their real, raw, and sometimes ugly feelings.
Because children should be able to trust their parents to hold their emotions without judgment and repercussions.
Because that’s our most important job as parents.
Because how we respond to their emotions can be life-changing.
And because my parents didn’t let me show them mine.
Sometimes I get mad when my friends share photos and stories of their parents showering their grandkids with love.
Because that’s what grandparents are for.
Because children deserve to feel special.
Because I see how much joy it brings to other children.
And because my parents never gave that to my kids.
Sometimes I get mad at just how much being a mom has defined me.
Because now I see what a gift it is to be someone’s mom.
Because all I want is for my children to know I love them with every ounce of my soul.
Because being a mom is the greatest honor of my life.
And because my parents never made me feel anything but guilt for being a burden.
Yes, sometimes I get mad at what my parents weren’t able to give me. But I always find comfort in the knowledge that generations of pain, trauma, and chaos have ended with me.
Because I refuse to pass that on to my children.
Originally published October 2022 by Her View From Home HERE
“I’m trying to enjoy every moment. I really am.”
It was as if her words had somehow reached through the telehealth computer screen and struck a nerve deep within my core. I stared back at her and took stock of who she was at that moment.
Just one week earlier she experienced the birth of her first child--certainly a joyous moment for many.
But, for her, it was not.
She did not get to have the birthing process she had dreamed of or planned for during her entire pregnancy. No, for her the delivery was one that ended with her being whisked away from her newborn so she could undergo emergency surgery, leaving her husband standing there, alone and terrified in the delivery room, holding their tiny baby and feeling a deep sense of dread as he felt the pull between wife and child for the first time in his life.
Yet here she sat, only seven days later, desperately trying to build up her nursing supply so she can exclusively breastfeed her baby while also trying to work through the trauma of her delivery experience, while also trying to support her husband in his new role, and while also trying to please all of the grandparents, aunts, and uncles who want to spend time with the baby.
Her words echoed in my head:
“I’m really trying to enjoy every moment.”
I stopped her before she could continue.
“Why?” I asked her gently. “Why are you trying to enjoy every moment?”
Her mouth fell open a bit, clearly stunned by my question.
“Well, I guess that’s what everyone says I should do. I know these days will go by quick. Everyone says I’ll miss them.”
I leaned in closer to the computer screen and said what I have had to say to so many new parents, “That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself--to enjoy every sleepless night, every moment of a screaming baby, every unshowered day, every hormonal cry as your body recovers. These days can be dark, lonely, and scary sometimes. It’s OK to not enjoy every moment.”
She let out a long sigh and took a slow, deep breath as tears began to fall from her eyes.
“Thank you. Thank you for saying that. It’s true. I love my baby, but it’s not always fun right now.”
This exchange between therapist and new mother is one I’ve experienced countless times--and it never gets easier for me. Each time I see a new mom trying so bravely to live up to the unrealistic expectations our society places on her, my heart breaks while my blood boils. These pressures we place on new parents are prime examples of toxic positivity.
Enjoy every moment.
You’re going to miss these days.
These years will go by in a blink. Treasure each day.
Hold your baby every chance you get—they won’t always fit in your arms.
Sure, these sentiments sound lovely and come from a well-intended place. It’s true there are many aspects of parenthood that are magical, breathtaking, and will surely be missed when we look back upon those times, but, for the vast majority of parents, there are just as many moments we don’t ever want to relive.
Many mothers, especially during those challenging newborn days, can recall moments that left us in a puddle of our own tears on the bathroom floor, or left us so desperate for just five minutes alone that we locked ourselves in our closet for some peace and quiet, or left us kicking ourselves as we tried to fall asleep at night as all our mistakes from the day ran wild through our heads.
The truth is being a mom is hard, it isn’t always pretty, and there are plenty of moments that are just not enjoyable at all.
Before you encourage a new mom to “enjoy every moment,” instead consider what her reality may be like right now. Think back to the hard times of the early days of parenthood and connect with how low and lonely and scary being a new mom can be. Instead of offering toxic positivity, maybe offer some support, Let’s connect in a real way and give each other permission to love being a mom while also struggling with many aspects of it.
And, to the new moms reading this, know it is OK to not enjoy every moment. The reality is not every moment is worth remembering or treasuring--not at the newborn stage, toddler stage, school-age stage, tween stage, teen stage, or even adult stage. Treasure the good moments, give yourself some grace in the hard moments, and be honest with your people about your struggles.
I promise you are not alone.
Originally published in July 2021 by Her View From Home HERE
Almost 15 years ago this month, my life changed in a completely unpredictable way. I was happily married to my high school sweetheart. We had a healthy 2-year-old son who loved everything about the world around him. My husband and I were both working at our dream jobs. We had good support from family and friends, were living in a beautiful apartment community, and were so very hopeful about our future. It seemed like the perfect time to complete our family by trying for a second child.
The first few months of my second pregnancy were filled with hopefulness and excitement.
Then, instantly, the rug got pulled out from under me.
The funding for my dream job was cut, and just like that, I was in my second trimester of pregnancy - unemployed and unsure of my future. After a routine checkup only a few weeks later, my doctor told me about the dangers of preeclampsia, a serious medical condition in which a person develops high blood pressure during or after pregnancy.
The doctor was concerned I was at risk for developing preeclampsia as my blood pressure was ticking upward. Eventually, preeclampsia could lead to some organs, such as the kidneys or the liver, no longer functioning properly. It could also lead to complications like preterm birth, maternal illness, and death. Because preeclampsia can impact pregnant women anytime after the 20th week of pregnancy, even after delivery, I was right in the window of risk.
My doctor told me to watch for any signs and symptoms of preeclampsia: headaches that don’t go away, changes in vision like blurriness or flashing lights, difficulty breathing, pain in my upper right belly or my shoulder, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, swelling in my legs, hands or face, and sudden weight gain.
I left that appointment feeling terrified and suddenly aware of how fragile pregnancy and maternal health can be. I felt completely alone. No one in my family and none of my friends had ever had preeclampsia, and it certainly wasn’t something that was talked about openly. Pregnancy was supposed to be a joyous and magical time, and yet, in reality, for me, it was terrifying and risky.
While I never got many symptoms my doctor had told me to watch for, my blood pressure continued to rise, and the swelling in my legs and hands became very noticeable. It was soon made official - I had preeclampsia, and my pregnancy was one of the unlucky 5%- 8% of pregnancies in which preeclampsia develops.
Initially, my doctor put me on bed rest at home to try to decrease the chances of preterm birth and decrease the risk to my health. Despite having a supportive extended family, a husband with a relatively flexible job, affordable health insurance, and access to wonderful doctors, I felt like I was drowning and alone. People dropped off books to keep me busy, prepared meals, and offered to watch my son. But not many people were comfortable talking about the reality of the situation - my pregnancy and my health were at risk.
Eventually, the risks became too great, and my doctor felt it best for me to be monitored in the hospital. I spent those long days and nights in the hospital, completely restricted to being in my bed unless I needed to use the bathroom. I could only sit up for a few moments at a time and had multiple lab draws, and fetal tests performed each day. The sole goal during that time was to keep me as safe as possible from the effects of preeclampsia and to try to keep the baby from being delivered too early.
Those days in the hospital on bed rest were so difficult.
I missed being at home.
I missed tucking my son into bed every night.
I missed my husband.
I missed my bed.
I missed not being poked and prodded all day.
I missed being able to enjoy my pregnancy without being consumed by fear every day.
I was terrified that I might lose the baby or even my own life.
At 37 weeks, my condition had progressed to a dangerous place, and doctors determined the baby, and I would be safer if we delivered the baby that day. A few hours later, he was here, a healthy baby boy. For a few hours, everything felt hopeful and peaceful.
Then my body started showing signs of preeclampsia again - because the risk does not go away after delivery. My discharge home with my new baby was delayed so that I could continue to be treated in the hospital for preeclampsia.
Within a few weeks of finally returning home, it became evident that I was experiencing what 1 in 8 women who have recently given birth experience - symptoms of postpartum depression. Almost all of the signs were there. I felt depressed most of the day. I felt like a failure as a mother. I was tired all the time. I had little interest in the things that used to bring me joy.
One day I leaned against the door jam of our bedroom door and started to cry as I told my husband that I was having thoughts of hurting myself. Through sobs, I told him that although I didn’t want to ever do it, I suddenly understood how some mothers could hurt their own babies.
I was lucky to have a supportive husband and friends. I was fortunate to have access to good mental health care. I was able to get help right away.
Not everyone is that lucky. Many women don’t get help. In fact, it is estimated that 50% of new mothers with postpartum depression go untreated.
Think about that - about half of the new mothers in your life right now might have untreated postpartum depression.
Despite there being over a decade between my pregnancy and postpartum experiences and those of the pregnant and postpartum women I currently support in my work as a therapist, the reality is that we still have so much work to do as a society to improve outcomes for pregnant women.
So much work.
This year alone, more than 6 million women will become pregnant in this country, and every one of them deserves access to the resources necessary to make the best decisions possible for their families and themselves.
But so many women don’t have that access.
Right now, an average of 2 women die every day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, and 2 babies die every hour. The rate of preterm birth in the US is at a 15-year high - meaning the situation has only worsened since I delivered my second son.
The situation is even more dire for pregnant people who are not White. Black women today are about 2.6 times more likely to die due to pregnancy and childbirth complications than White women, and Black and Native American women are 62% more likely to give birth preterm. These statistics make the U.S. among the most dangerous developed nations in the world for childbirth.
Perhaps what makes this data even more painful is the knowledge that according to a recent CDC study, more than 80% of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable. Maternal mental health issues played a significant role in these deaths.
80% were preventable - meaning we can stop this from being our reality!
If you know someone pregnant, recently gave birth or might become pregnant soon, right now is a great time to reach out to them and remind them how much you care about them. Be a safe space for them and offer your support.
If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, are pregnant, or recently gave birth, I’d like to send you a message I wish someone had sent me all those years ago:
Your health matters.
You deserve all the resources and tools needed to ensure your pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum period are as healthy as possible.
Watch It Starts with Mom Live to hear from health experts and other moms about what you need to know to ensure the best health outcomes for you and your baby.
Tune in to It Starts With Mom Live TODAY! May 25 at 3:00 PM ET on March of Dimes Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
Episode Two: What You Need To Know When You're Pregnant
In case you missed it, watch the first video in the It Starts With Mom series as we chat about mental health, cardiovascular issues, chronic health conditions, how to advocate for yourself, and much more. Go to itstartswithmom.org. (https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/it-starts-mom/it-starts-mom-live-event#may11)
#partner #ItStartsWithMom #MarchofDimes @marchofdimes
For 12 years, through too many youth basketball, football, and baseball games to count, my husband and I have found ourselves on opposite sides of almost every single game.
He was arriving early to games to warm up with the players and make last minute game changes.
And I was pulling in to the parking lot just a few minutes before start time.
He was leading practices 2-5 nights each week.
And I was at home managing things like dinner and laundry and homework.
He was on the sidelines with the players, giving them guidance, changing strategies, and trying to mentally support the ever-changing needs of youth players.
And I was talking with the other parents in the stands about the always-changing challenges of parenting.
He was up late working on plays, coordinating schedules, collaborating with other coaches, and planning practice drills.
And I was sitting beside him on the couch waiting (sometimes not so patiently) to also be a priority.
He was helping players during time outs to find their confidence again, control their temper, or handle conflicts.
And I was in the stands, working on keeping my mouth shut whenever someone criticized his coaching decisions.
He was huddled in a corner with the team after a game, pointing out their strengths and where they could have done better.
And I was huddled in a different corner, waiting to tell him and the team “good game.”
In addition to doing everything else involved in being a volunteer youth sports coach, he was busy spending the past 12 years forging a special place in his heart for each of the players that ever had the opportunity to call him coach, sharing lasting lessons of perseverance, and cultivating moments that will become snapshots in the memories of so many youth players.
And I was busy spending the past 12 years forging a special place in my heart for every sports parent who ever sat beside me and supported me when my own child was struggling, cheered for my kids like they were their own, sent me game updates when I had to miss a game, or knew just what to say to my child after a hard game.
For 12 years I’ve told myself that I can’t wait for the day when my husband and I finally get to experience the game from the same spot.
But as he steps into a youth sports game for his very final time as a coach today, I’m realizing just how lucky we were to spend so many years on opposite sides of the games and just how empty that players' bench will seem without him there as a coach again.
“What are you doing?” my husband asked me, his eyebrow raised and his head cocked curiously at me as I stood outside our kitchen door, frozen in place.
“Shhh…” I whispered. “They’re in there. Together. They’re talking!!”
A look of understanding flashed across his face instantly and he gave a happy nod. This was a big deal. Our teenage sons were actually getting along and having real interaction with each other — on their own.
My teen sons were relating to each other. There was no fighting or bickering — just authentic and positive interaction. These moments have grown few and far between over the past few years. So, when they happen now we try our best to not interfere or interrupt.
We stood and waited and maybe even eavesdropped a bit to their very ordinary exchange. Their beautiful ordinary exchange was music to my ears.
This is what every parent wants, right? For their children to have a real relationship with each other — one that extends beyond us as parents. It is what I have with my own sister and what I want so badly for my own children — a built-in best friend for life, someone with shared life experiences, someone who has known you forever, someone who gets you to your core.
There was a time, many years ago, when I thought my two sons would always be best friends. Their three year age gap seemed perfect when they were younger. Back then they would play endlessly with what I used to call their “guys” — things like Transformers, superheroes, and Imaginext figures. They would spend hours in their playroom together, laughing until their bellies hurt.
They were best friends and couldn’t get enough of each other.
As they both got older and matured, so too did their relationship. Soon I would find them chattering away at night in their bunk beds as they shared how excited they were about the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film or anything Star Wars related. “I love you” would be the last thing they would say to each other each night.
No matter how stressful those days got for me as a parent, each night I fell asleep with a happy heart knowing my boys had each other.
But as they grew, unfortunately they began to drift apart. Like two ships in a vast ocean, the distance between them grew and grew. Suddenly three years age difference felt like 100 years.
Eventually they decided it was time to stop sharing a room with each other. As they both settled into their new rooms with giant smiles on their faces that first night, my heart hurt a little bit. This was the end of a chapter of their childhood and I was so scared for what the next chapter would bring.
What if they stopped liking each other?
What if they grew to only see each other and talk to each other on holidays — or not at all?
That chapter brought exactly what I had feared — more and more distance, less and less connection. Despite them growing apart, I kept hoping that eventually the distance between them would shrink as it had done with me and my own sister.
I kept hoping and wishing.
I kept waiting and watching.
And lately, finally, things are starting to shift just a bit.
Instead of being two ships miles apart from each other, they are now starting to veer into the same waters. Their interests are starting to overlap again. Their senses of humor are starting to line up again. They are starting to not just love each other — but actually like each other again.
There are moments, like the other night in the kitchen, where I catch them having a serious conversation or even having a duel with their homemade lightsabers and my heart soars. There are times when I return home from running an errand and I hear them playing video games with each other and everything feels balanced and as it should be. There are even times when I overhear them giving each other advice about something and I feel a deep sense of relief.
In those moments, my hope is reborn and I can once again see a future in which their friendship keeps them firmly connected to each other. Despite the distance between them, it is possible that they will find their way back to each other.
I have no way of knowing what lies ahead for either of them but for now, I will keep waiting and watching, holding sacred those moments when their friendship and brotherhood starts to strengthen again. And when I stumble upon their moments of connection, I will stop in my tracks and give them space as I silently pray that their ships have settled in the same waters again.
Originally published February 2021 by Grown and Flown HERE
Parenting teens is hard.
Don’t get me wrong - it’s a wonderful gift and a blessing.
It’s so much harder than all those parenting books and blogs said it would be 18 years ago.
The truth is parenting never really gets easier. Never.
It just gets to be a different kind of hard at each stage of development.
And for me, my current stage of parenting - parenting teens and young adults - is by far the hardest stage yet.
At this stage of the parenting journey, the challenges of parenting aren’t just about not getting enough sleep or hoping our kids don’t fall on the playground, or getting them to eat their vegetables.
No, so many of the worries at this stage of parenting are worries about things that could have lifelong consequences and impacts for our teens.
Yet as the parenting worries increase, our ability to reach out and connect with other parents for support decreases.
Somewhere along the journey of parenting teens and young adults, parents have to start filtering ourselves pretty heavily in order to protect our teen’s privacy.
Even when things are hard.
Even when things feel impossibly hard.
Even when we start to think that we are the worst parents ever.
We have to stay silent.
Because it’s not our story to tell.
When our kids were little, we could casually turn to another mom at the playground and say “so, potty training. That’s hard, right?”
Or we could lean over to the mom sitting beside us at the little league game and say “how are you handling helping him balance school work and sports in third grade?”
Or we could call our friend and say “can I get some advice from you on how I should handle what his teacher just emailed me?”
But when we are parenting teens, often we simply can’t share with other parents.
Because it’s not our story to tell.
So parents of teens everywhere are sitting in silence.
Feeling like we are the only ones struggling.
Feeling like we are the only ones failing in the parenting department.
Feeling like we are the only ones worrying if we might be doing more harm than good as we help our teens navigate the consequences of not having a fully developed frontal lobe.
Feeling like we are the only ones who are gripped with anxiety every day.
Feeling like we are the only ones crying in the shower over things we swore we’d never do as parents.
But maybe the next time you find yourself out and about with other parents of teens, you could take a few minutes and consider that even though they aren’t able to say it, chances are those parents are facing the same exact struggles as you.
Maybe that mom posting in the families of high schoolers Facebook group is also choking back tears as she prays that the most recent mistake her teen made won’t hurt his chances at his dream college.
Maybe that mom that you hug as you enter a party is also feeling guilt and shame and regret over losing her temper earlier that day.
Maybe that mom sitting in the car beside yours bundled up in the heat before heading inside to a basketball game is also replaying events from last night with her teen and focusing on all the things she did wrong.
Maybe the story that IS ours to tell is that we all struggle.
No one is parenting perfectly.
No one is finding this stage of parenting easy all the time.
No one has it all figured out.
Maybe the story that IS ours to tell is that we all want to do better.
We are trying to do our best.
We are trying to learn from our mistakes.
We are trying to hold on to all the magical parts of this stage of parenting.
Maybe the story that IS ours to tell is that parenting teens is filled with both love and loneliness.
It is a gift and a challenge.
It is magical and maddening.
It is wonderful and worrisome.
It is sacred and scary.
Maybe the story that IS ours to tell is that even though we can’t share the details of our struggles during this stage of parenting, we can find comfort in knowing that we aren’t truly alone.
The first parent-teacher conferences of the year happened this week and man did I get schooled.
As a mother of a 15-year-old and a 12-year-old, I’ve been to more parent-teacher conferences than I can easily count. But, as each one approaches, the part of myself that I consider a recovering perfectionist starts to creep to the surface.
Fears of being judged as a parent and as a person float to the forefront of my brain. MY ANXIETY decides that it’s a great time to show up, sending negative self thoughts into hyperdrive.
Per usual, I respond to these desires to present myself perfectly by attempting to control as much as I possibly can.
My anxious self prepared for this year’s video parent-teacher conferences by checking and double checking our appointment times, testing the software, making sure my background was tidy and presentable, and gathering a pen and some paper for notes.
I was as ready as I could be.
Then I sat, nervously tapping my pen against my notepad as I waited for THE FIRST TEACHER to pop on my screen. I waited for judgement. Are they going to think I’m a bad mom? Are they going to judge my son?
Teacher after teacher said the same thing.
“He’s a great student.”
“He does all his work.”
“He’s super smart.”
“He’s respectful, polite, and participates.”
These are all the things a parent wants to hear — especially this year when more than half of my son’s school hours are being done remotely from his bedroom.
Then each teacher ended with a similar message about him.
“But I can’t read him.”
“He’s a mystery to me.”
“I can’t figure him out.”
Each conference ended with an almost exasperated sigh from the teacher “I hope I get to know the real him.”
I couldn’t help but laugh each time, thinking to myself “You probably won’t.”
These teachers can’t read him because my youngest doesn’t give a flying f*ck about what anyone thinks of him.
He will show up, do his work, and be polite but he will never be phony. He will never try to impress you or make you like him. He will never strike up casual conversation. He simply doesn’t care what you think of him. He doesn’t need anyone’s approval.
And boy, do I wish I could be like him.
As I logged off my computer, I shook my head at myself.
Once again, I had fallen into the trap I set all too often for myself — the trap where I think I need to care what others think of me.
If my 12-year-old were sitting beside me he would have rolled his eyes and said, “Mom, why do you care what they think of you? That’s a waste of time.”
At the end of the day, my 12-year-old’s view on the world is right and mine is wrong.
PEOPLE’S OPINIONS OF ME DON’T REALLY MATTER.
They don’t dictate who I actually am as a human, a parent, a community member, or a professional. I know who I am. I know how to let the right people see the real me. If people don’t like me, that’s on them.
It turns out my biggest takeaway from this week’s parent-teacher conference has nothing to do with my son’s performance in school but everything to do with what I can learn from him.
(Originally published 12/1/2020 by Filter Free Parents HERE)
“Kids are too soft these days.”
I rolled my eyes and tuned out the parent next to me at the youth baseball game when they started on a tirade about “today’s kids.”
The truth is, I’m tired of hearing people say that we are raising a generation of soft kids.
When did we all agree that we wanted to raise tough kids anyways?
Why should our goal be to raise kids who slough off danger like it’s no big deal?
Why should our goal be to raise kids who tolerate being bullied by their parents?
Why should our goal be to raise kids who don’t know how to express any feelings other than anger?
I know the answer that parents like the one next me will give.
“We can’t raise soft kids because life isn’t fair.”
“People are going to be mean to our children when they are adults.”
“Kids need to develop thick skin to make it in this cruel world.”
I just don’t buy it.
What if we all tried to raise soft kids instead of pressuring them to be tough all the time?
Kids who aren’t aftaid to express their feelings and emotions and will likely be better partners and parents for it.
Kids who notice other people hurting in the world and want to help create change, rather than place blame.
Kids who let their heart, rather than their pride or arrogance, guide them in life.
If having soft kids means having kids who know the power behind their words and choose kindness over hate, then let me have soft kids.
If raising soft kids means that they don’t have to listen to me shouting criticisms at them in front of their teammates, coaches, and opponents, then I hope they turn out soft.
If raising soft kids means that I have kids who don’t tolerate racism, prejudice, and hate, then I hope I raise soft kids.
Maybe all these soft kids can help make the world a better place. Isn’t that a better option than throwing our hands up and conceding that the world sucks?
Maybe I’m just too soft myself but I have hope that we can do better.
We have to do better.
Parenting is one of life's greatest challenges and greatest rewards. Here we explore all aspects of parenting from pregnancy onward, highlighting both the struggles and the triumphs.