The Problem With My Teenage Son

He texts at 8:30 p.m. asking if it’s okay to stay the night at his friend’s house.  (I’m irritated that he didn’t text earlier in the evening, but remind myself that he doesn’t need to ask permission.  After all, he’s 19 now, and he’s asking permission to spend the night with a friend whose parents are home.)  I text back and ask if it’s okay with the friend’s parents.  He texts and says, “We already asked.  It’s okay.”

Then he texts, “Love you.”

 

I ask him to chop some wood and get us stocked up on kindling.  He does so without grumbling.  (I’m irritated that he doesn’t notice that we are out of kindling and that I have to ask, but remind myself that he was quick to get the job done.)

 

I ask him how classes are going.  We sip coffee as he discusses his frustrations with this new semester.  He mentions that his grades are good.  (I’m relieved and somewhat surprised that he checks his grades, and then wonder why I am surprised.)

 

I grumble at him for always being on his phone.  “You seem so disconnected from us,” I say.  “It feels like you don’t want to be here.”  He says, “I do want to be here,” as he goes off to his room to get ready for school.  (I wonder if I would want to be here if someone was always bitching at me about chopping wood and being on my phone.)

 

The day the bank statement arrives, we heatedly discuss his finances and whether there will be enough left in his account to pay for the next semester.  “I see how often you stop at Taco Bell.  Why?  Is that what all your friends do?”  He says, “I’m a homeschool kid, mom.  It’s good I have friends to hang out with.  We’re not buying beer and cigarettes.”

“I know I’m blowing through the money,” he says.  “I’ve picked up several job applications.  It’s all gonna work out.  You’ll see.”

He has said this before.

When I worried about whether it was a good idea to homeschool he said, “It will work out.”

 

The problem is that I worry.  I worry that I’ve not done my job.

Have I taught him financial responsibility?  Have I showed him what it is to be a good friend?  Have I taught him the importance of doing well in school?  Will he avoid the choices that get him in trouble?  Did I miss the window of opportunity to teach him the stuff he needs to know to be independent?

Did I do enough?

Is he prepared for the real world?

Shouldn’t he be here more so I can make sure we’ve covered absolutely everything?

Shouldn’t he be here …  more?

That’s the real problem, isn’t it?  The problem is that I’m not ready for him to leave.  It’s not about whether he’s ready or not.

I’m not ready.

 

The problem with my teenage son is me.

 

Yet Another Post About Self-care

As you stand at the kitchen counter eating toast and chugging coffee while paying the electric bill, the clock on the stove says you need to be in the car in 15 minutes if you are going to be at the office on time.  You still have to figure out what to take out of the freezer for dinner, run the curling iron through your hair, feed the cat, take out the garbage, finish the 15 year old’s school list and wake the 19 year old to remind him that he promised grandpa he’d mow the lawn today.

You’ve been up since 5:30 making lists, crossing things off lists, and doing the work you can from home.

What doesn’t get done this morning can be done on your lunch hour, unless you’re lucky enough to work far enough away from home that it isn’t practical to drive home for lunch.  In that case, I want to be you.

On your lunch hour you schedule appointments, return emails, check in with the kids to see how they are doing on their lists.  You make sure you have enough milk for tomorrow morning so that you don’t have to stop at the store on the way home.  Then you realize that you are out of spaghetti, and you’ve already taken the sauce out of the freezer.  Before jumping in the car to head back to the office, you rummage through the pantry and find some macaroni.  Spaghetti sauce and macaroni make goulash, for the win!  You still don’t have to stop at the store.

 

It’s the small victories that get you through the day.

 

After work there will be World History, polynomials, and helping with the sewing of the Halloween costume.  You will discuss what kind of tires his truck will need for winter and where to find the money for tires.  You’ve checked the forecast and know that snow is coming, so you’ll need to move firewood into the garage.  You’ll have to make a couple work calls that you were supposed to make earlier in the day.  Oh, and then there’s cooking dinner, too.

You stop for a second to check social media while the water comes to a boil for the macaroni.  You see a post about how important it is to take care of yourself – more on that tired old line about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first.  Your eye roll is audible.  You think to yourself, “Who has time for self-care?  If I take time to take care of myself, how will everything else get done?”  And then you realize that you take several minutes a few times a day to check in on Facebook, and kick yourself because those groupings of a few minutes here and there could easily turn into a solid half-hour of self-care.

As you pour the bag of macaroni into the boiling water, you picture yourself lounging somewhere for 30 whole minutes.  It feels icky.  It feels self-centered.  It feels like you don’t deserve it.

As you stir the macaroni and turn down the heat to keep the pot from boiling over, you picture your kids taking time out of their day for some self-care.  Maybe she sketches or plays with the cat.  Perhaps he grabs a pole and heads for a fishing hole or plays pool with his friends.  It occurs to you that you wouldn’t think they were being at all selfish.  You would be glad to see them making their mental health a priority.

As you take turns stirring the sauce in one pan and the macaroni in another, you realize that they won’t learn to make themselves a priority if you don’t show them.

For the Single Moms on Father’s Day

When society tried to make you feel guilty for leaving and raising your kids on your own, you persevered.  You knew that the damage would be greater if you’d made the choice to stay.

When you worried that you couldn’t do both jobs, you did your best.  When other kids went camping with both parents or rode bikes as a family, you created your own traditions.  And years later, when your oldest said, “Hey, remember when we used to play badminton in the street.  We did that a lot.  Let’s do that tonight,” you know you managed to create memories that will sustain your kids.

When you only had a blurred notion of what it is that a dad does, because your own dad was rarely around, you read the books on parenting and observed the good examples and tried to fill in, in the best ways you could.

When you couldn’t do it all, you sat your kids down and explained that you wished you could do more, but that you are one person doing both jobs, and while you are doing your best, you can’t do it all.  Through tears, you explained how much you love them, and that you understood that they were angry or hurt or sad.  When you were dog-tired from doing it all, you found enough to softly explain to them that they would be fine and you would always be there for them.

When you raged at the Universe for putting you in this position, you woke again to be thankful for it all, even when it kicks your butt every single day.

When you think you can’t handle one more issue or fix one more problem or make one more dinner, you flop on the couch between your favorite people, turn on the TV and order a pizza.  You laugh hard in that moment and tell yourself that what doesn’t get done today will find you tomorrow.  As the three of you try to agree on a show, you sip some wine and remind yourself that it’s all about the journey and this journey is creating healthy, happy, independent, functioning people who know how to navigate storms.

When you have those days when you doubt that you made the right choice, you will step back and watch your kids thrive in this safe place you’ve created for them.  You will see them for who they are allowed to be.  Those moments prove that you made the right decision.  (p.s.  As the years go on, you will stop doubting your decision.  Trust me.)

Once in awhile, remember that your kids picked you to be their mom.  They have things to learn that they can only learn with you. (You have things to learn that you can only learn from, and with, your kids.)

You’re doing great.

This is how it’s supposed to be.

Happy Father’s Day.