I’ve shared my woes at being the mum to a teenager before. It’s not easy for either of us as we navigate our way through the most delicate of years, made even more difficult by the fact that its unchartered water for both my husband and I.
We were relatively young (ish) when we started our family so it’s not that we’ve forgotten completely how if feels to be stuck in the crux of wanting independence and needing boundaries but with the security of knowing you can depend on your parents. It’s just I’m seeing it all from the other side, I willingly admit though, my parenting style is all over place, it confuses me so crikey only knows what it does to my poor teenage son.
You see raising a teenager is such a delicate process, get it wrong and you could mess them up for a long, long time so the pressure is on.
I have days when I’m bad cop, pulling him up on everything he does in the hope that he’ll grow into the perfect husband/employee/friend. And then there’s the days when I relax the rules and send him out into the world to fend for himself, learning from his own mistakes. (usually hastily followed by numerous phone calls and text messages combined with pangs of guilt and self-doubt.)
Where I was once pretty confident on what I did and didn’t allow within the realms of being a mum, I knew what was good for him, when to helicopter parent and when to free range it. I’m now in a regular state of panic and guilt ridden reflection on what I could have or shouldn’t do. But when you’re trying to relay ground rules to a bloke who vaguely resembles the little boy who once sat on your lap, holding onto your ears for comfort, it just feels a little, well, weird. Think chihuahua nibbling at the ankles of a mastiff .
What’s hard is he looks like he should be on par to my knowledge and I forget that there’s still so much which is new for him then every now and then I get a gentle reminder, where we’re transported back to the days of me showing him how to do something while he clumsily copies and I (reach up) and give him a well done arm round the shoulder, only nowadays my arm barely reaches to the spot where my hand once sat to protect him from harms way or reassure him.
While I desperately want to keep him close and under my watchful eye, it’s not doing him any favours at all. So these last few weeks his dad and I have changed tack, recognising that he needs some independence, the signs have been there for a while, so things have changed. We’ve loosened the reins in the hope he’ll come back.
What happened, though, has astounded us both. Instead of fighting the tides of change, exercising his teenage protests at everything we ask him to do. Our grumpy teenage son has transformed into a helpful, thoughtful, kick ass awesome kinda chap. By putting trust in him to make sensible decisions we’ve been rewarded with honesty and truth and I can’t tell you how amazing that feels.
So what is my perfect formula for raising a teenager?
It’s to give them what they want, what their actions and words are hinting at. Read between the lines and ask a friend’s opinion. Sometimes life looks a little different from the outside looking in. There comes a time when they do know what they want and their actions are doing everything they can to tell you, sometimes in the most negative of ways.
But most importantly, never give up. Never stop being there and admit when you need to change. Never stop reflecting on your style and learn from your mistakes because there is no perfect formula. It’s an ever changing and evolving, and accept that there will come a time when they can tell YOU how to be the perfect mum.