I’m all over the shop in the parenting race right now, with 2 teenagers and a preschooler I’m pretty much at each end of the journey. That’s 17 years of putting other people’s needs way in front of your own, 17 years of guilt trips, wondering if you’re doing it right? And 17 years of small victories. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never found being a parent stressful, never once had that panic that I’ve messed up by adding to the human race, if anything my kids have been the making of me.
The pros have far out weighed the cons, one thing I’ve found though, is you can never quite predict what’s next.
2012 was the year I really had to consult the books, the year I realised that we were about to hit the turbulent years and I was loosing my grip and confidence on knowing what I was doing. Truth be told, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I’d trained in early years, the 0-8 age range, and that knowledge game me the gumption that I pretty much had a handle on the whole parenting thing. I oozed 0-8 years confidence and that confidence saw me through to the end of the primary years.
Then it hit me, my boy was going to secondary school, my boy was entering a whole new world where I had very little control. Not that I was ever a controlling parent, I prefer to describe as very much hands on in every aspect of his life. Not anymore though, now I’d done my thing and my little boy was about to be released into a big bad world of swearing, violence, sex, drugs and alcohol. A world where he would have to make his own choices, sensible or not, and all I could do was sit back and have confidence that I’d instilled some of my gutsy, don’t be a sheep ideologies and be your own person, make your own choices.
Which probably quite amusing to my parents who had watched me fall prey to many of the teenage temptations and learn the hard way. Was I going to be hypocritical and say how bad those temptations were? And would I get my parental payback for all the strife I’d caused?
My siblings and I often analyse our upbringing, we’re very close and open like that, testament to my parent’s treating us all equally and with honesty and respect to make our own way through life. Sure, we messed up, but we learnt from it and they never washed their hands of us when we did.
Whether that was ever a conscious decision brought about by a “how we gonna raise our kids?’ type discussion I’ll never know. ( I doubt very much though, I think my folks had very different out looks on life.) We’ve all done alright though, all pretty emotionally secure. It was a pretty boss childhood. A few blips, that’s life though; we probably could’ve done with a little more support through the teenage years when our parents were busy getting divorced. But that was just it isn’t it? They were only human and had to rein it in for a little while while they got their heads around what was going on.
And there is it, that one little negative, that one little human trait we all fall prey to. Which is why I guess I lost it at the thought of raising a teenager. What if my kids look back on their upbringing and say “yeah, she did all right. Up until I hit teens and then it all went a little belly up” ?
But my upbringing showed that kids are pretty resilient especially if they have the best possible start in life, that sometimes throwing a curve ball, mixing things up and cutting back a little, getting your kids to start taking some initiative in life builds character. I loosed the Protective Mum reins, made our house a welcome place for all their friends and chauffeured them round. My thinking; teenagers are going to do what they’re going to do. All I can do is try to make things as safe as possible without helicopter parenting them at a time when they want to be free.
It’s a mind field and leap of faith I’ve had to talk myself through many a time.
Yet we’ve got there. I say we, there’s very little co parenting going on these days now I’m single parenting it. Which is a whole different thing to throw in the mix. But in some respects, doing it solo can be easier, there’s no conflict of ideas. I do my thing, I get back up and mull things over with my friends and family when need be.
So yes, I do feel I’ve got there; A 17-year-old who’s doing ok, actually I’m pretty damn proud of the man he’s morphing into. And my 13-year-old, my beautiful work in progress is showing great potential to go the same way.
But don’t ever let it be said that raising teenagers is easy. There will be tears, there will be moments where you think you’ve lost every ounce of control and there will be times when you think they don’t need you anymore.
But they do. And while you may get very little back, you just have to look for the signs of appreciation, sometimes with a microscope.
Raising teenagers just takes guts, trial and error and negotiation.
A bucketful of negotiation.