When I was a kid the Peace Corp used to run commercials with the tagline “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” As a child I didn’t give it much thought, then I had kids. Whoever wrote that tagline must have never been a parent. Any person who has been a parent for more than a day will tell you parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love. And while it may be a labor of love, it is without a doubt a job. There’s no training for this job. There’s no manual to refer back to and your boss(es) is the toughest, craziest, most demanding and irrational boss you will ever encounter. There are only a few constants about this job. Number 1: the constant worry you’re going to screw it up. Number 2: just when you figure out a stage or phase everything changes. Number 3: it never gets “easier” it just becomes “different”.
I’m personally hitting one of those not easier but different phases – the teen years. And, it seems everywhere I look are examples of the same thing happening to others. Maybe it’s just my age, or peer group or the shows I like to watch, but the examples are still there front and center in my field of vision demanding my attention. I have friends with children who have just gone off to college or will graduate in May. I think to myself how did/do they let go? How do they know how to give and when to give freedoms to their kids? How does this whole process work? It’s not like introducing solid food and potty training. There’s no benchmark for when to allow your kids to do any rite of passage type activities other than the legal age to get a drivers license.
The family in ABC show Blackish recently addressed the older children becoming sexually active and how we as parents react to that knowledge. I literally had to stop watching the show and send out a panicked group text a set of girlfriends asking them how am I going to deal with this. One has older children and she basically just wished us luck and said stock up on booze. Fantastic. All I can think of is “my baby” and yet I know it’s coming just like a host of other first. Both of my kids are at the halfway or more than halfway to out of the house age. The next phase is rapidly approaching.
So in the meantime what do I do? Worry? Of course, isn’t that what every parent (especially Mothers) do. Prepare them? Certainly, but isn’t that what we are doing from the start? Isn’t the whole point of parenting, to raise them to become well rounded, relatively happy, good people? I don’t know, right now, looking at my kids, it almost doesn’t feel like enough. I know I’m being over-reactive. I know just like those crazy toddler years, I will look back at the teen years with some fond memories and wonder how I made it out alive without completely losing it. But in the meantime, I’m going to what I’ve always done. I’m going to read everything I can get my hands on. I’m going to ask trusted friends what they did. I’m going to pray and I’m going to try my damndest to do the best job I possibly can. Although I’m not gonna lie, I still want to send an apology letter to the parents of a couple of friends begging forgiveness for my part in wrecking their house and desecrating their son’s childhood bedroom.