September 1, 2011

Parenting: The One, Two Punch

My youngest daughter started high school yesterday. She is now at school with her older sister and I have double the worry. I am the mother of two teenage girls. I don’t think their father is going to make it.

I can remember when (not so long ago) my sleepless nights were caused by babies: crying, needing to be changed, needing to be fed. Now, they not only sleep through the night, they can sleep through the afternoon if we let them. I don’t sleep much lately, because I’m worried about them driving cars, getting into friend’s cars, grades, college, bullies, money, boys, (sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll).
If only a little birdy had whispered in my ear during those sleep deprived years….just wait, you won’t know what you have until it’s gone. When you’re in the thick of it, all of the mind-numbing days you didn’t get to take a shower just made you want to fast-forward through it all. But time marches us forward, like it always does, and it’s over in a blink of an eye. When my girlfriend’s sons were 8 and 12, I told her to enjoy this time. When children are of middle-school age – out of the I-need-you-right-now toddler stage, but before the teen years take over – you can relax a little, catch up on some sleep, yet still keep one protective eye on their comings and goings without a sigh or a roll of the eyes. This, however, is not the case with teens.
Being a parent to teenagers means you (unwillingly) participate in a perfectly timed dance of staying involved and asking questions, while simultaneously keeping your thoughts to yourself and your mouth shut. When they talk, you listen. When they cry, you hug. And when they’re not willing to share, you just have to hang on and give them some space. Parenting teenagers is a marathon, not a sprint. But you can’t train for it. No, all of the training you need is done on the job and by the seat of your pants. And without any health benefits.
Because of the age span between our children, we’re caught between two generations. We were the “young” parents to my son’s friends and on the slightly older side for daughter #2. We’ve watched, learned, and witnessed parenting styles we’ve aggressively avoided. I never thought that picking my battles meant battling other parents. I’m one of those old-fashioned parents that still believes in curfews and setting limits. And like the dinosaurs before me, I’m quickly becoming extinct.
And it doesn’t stop there. Parenting articles are filled with how to deal with one nightmare situation after the other. Gone are the days when sneaking a cigarette in the girls’ bathroom was the worst thing a young girl could do. All of it makes me want to bury my head under the covers and not emerge until I can play doting grandmother. I just want to skip right over this, too.
Or do I?
Teenagers certainly get a bad rap. But I like spending time with my girls; they’re some of my favorite people. They make me laugh, pick me up when I’m down, and help me gang up on their father. I like to listen to what they have to say. I think they’re interesting, smart, funny, and caring young women. And I get deliriously happy when they actually ask my opinion. Some days I want to shout, They like me, they really like me! Knock wood, thank the moon and the stars, as I throw salt over my left shoulder – so far, so good. Luck? Definitely. But I like to think some of my hard work has paid off, too.

While I still figure it all out, I’m here. I’m listening. I’m hanging on. Someone please hand me some water. I’ve got a few more miles to go.


Wendy Wrzos said...

Oh Kim, do I have all this looming ahead? The good, the bad and the worry...
Your blog is so heartfelt, I always love reading it!

Anonymous said...

Great post. And very true. I'm a lucky mom of three teens girls (twins) and like you, so far, so good.


Kristen516 said...

Thanks for posting this on a day when I had a bad mommy morning. I have to keep reminding doesn't necessarily get better or just changes. My girls are no where near teenagers at 6 and 4.....but every age comes with it's own set of challenges.

Kimberly Merritt said...

Wendy, Tammy, and Kristen,

The worry comes with the package. But, it's all good - even with all of the challenges we face at every age.

Thank you for your input. And keep up the good work!