Zeb’s been out of town for two weeks now (which should show you about how behind in blogging I am). He comes home next week, just one day shy of his 14th birthday.
These trips of his are almost old hat for us now, except this time he not only flew alone but also navigated his first layover/plane change. It came about after a lot of discussion and even some practice runs following our convoluted and time-sensitive directions through a busy mall. 😉
The first thing people ask us when he leaves town is, “Do you miss him?”
The first two weeks my answer was, “No”, which I’m pretty sure puts me in last place for Mom of the Year.
But the thing is missing him would be like saying we wish he were here. And if he is having a blast, exploring and being with family and friends, why would we bring in our complaints about his absence, why would we wish for him to be anywhere but where he’s having fun, why would we damper his mood by making him worry about us?
So instead of our focusing on his not being here, we focused on his having a blast and our permission to do the same. We ate out. Went to the beach. Got to know each other a little more. We even established an Instacrack hashtag to commemorate #ourmonthofdates.
But that was the first two weeks.
Now we are missing him and ready for our time apart to end. 🙂
Funny how the newness (or the much needed break) wears off.
Yes, I said much needed break.
You know, a lot of people in the mindful parenting community talk about how awesome it is to have teenagers. And when you’ve come from a paradigm of “the moment your sweet little child hits 13 they will make you want to scratch your eyes out” it is REALLY important to understand that parenting teenagers does NOT suck.
And it doesn’t.
We get to watch this man-child grow taller than us. We get to have amazing discussions on politics or social issues. We get to hear jokes that don’t end in “Red race car vroom vroom”. We get to see him establish his own identity (that he will undoubtedly reestablish 17 more times before he finally realizes none of it works) and come to know him in ways a 3 year old or 7 year old or 11 year old can’t tell you about themselves, can’t even know about themselves.
But there’s one thing all these mindful parenting circles don’t tell you….
Yes, parenting teens is it’s own kind of awesome.
And yes, it can also really blow too.
Hormones are a bitch. Don’t you remember that? Don’t you remember bursting into tears or suddenly growing fangs and ripping the flesh off some unsuspecting person while in your mind you shocked or scared even yourself? Don’t you remember that biological urge to establish your own territory, so you packed away the Slim Jims and Top Ramen in your room until finally the ants got so bad your parents called the trump card and made you eat in the kitchen?
Self-identity is a bitch. Don’t you remember how your sudden self-awareness quickly turned into self-consciousness as you re-examined everything you ever loved and suddenly didn’t even understand anymore. And your heightened awareness also meant seeing the world at large and wanting to find your place in it – and that’s some crap we still struggle with as adults, except as a teen it’s new and overwhelming and makes you wanna watch Family Guy all day until you’re comfortable enough with the mere thought to finally sort it all out. (I remember when the idea of an endless universe made me want to cry from the impossible task of trying to wrap my limited mind around it. I couldn’t even go there until I was at least 20.) That’s not only happening in mainstream, unconscious homes. It happens to mindful, relationship-based, conscious people too.
And as much as it comes with so joy and fun and utter coolness, it’s hard for teens to make the transition through such bumpy mental terrain, which makes it hard for us parents too.
No one ever told me that.
No one ever told me that conscious parenting doesn’t guarantee that the child-to-adult transition still won’t suck at times. Or that those times might last longer than one short outburst, and then maybe not even end in a hug.
No one ever told me that for all the awesome sauce teenhood brings to the table, there is still a biological urge to leave the nest, and that even your kid will feel bad about how dorky you suddenly seem to him as his evolutionary switch is flipped from My Parents Are Gods to “Oh my God, my parents…“.
And well, no one needed to tell me that any of our own latent triggers we acquire as a teen will suddenly be brought up for us to finally face. That one I knew. I just didn’t recognize that he would have triggers too, and that sometimes we would both be triggered in harmony with one another, like some sick and twisted version of Satan’s Choir.
And I get why no one ever told me.
They didn’t want me to expect it, to dread it, to perpetuate that false idea that raising teens sucks.
Because it doesn’t suck… inherently.
It’s just the real deal. Like World 8 of Super Mario. Sure it kicks your ass, but you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have some epic experience defeating your own inner Bowzers to this point. And anyway, you only are playing the game because ultimately it IS fun and fulfilling. Even if sometimes you wanna throw the controller at the screen.
So yes…raising teens in a conscious, connected way, transitioning from attachment parenting to nonattachment in your parenting, and navigating the perils of hormonal fluctuations is hard…for you and your kid.
But it’s still really cool.
And like this week is showing us, the hard stuff fades away and you just end up remembering how awesome they are – when you take the time to remember.
At some point Zeb is gonna be out doing his own thing. And it’s really weird to have your offspring hanging out in Houston without you while he waits for his connecting flight; I can only imagine how much weirder it’s going to be when this is an everyday occurrence.
And yes, we were enjoying #ourmonthofdates those first two weeks, practicing what it would be like to be empty nesters, but now it’s just getting weird. We can only have Pad Thai so many times before we’d rather go to his fave restaurants. And watching The Wolverine in two different states felt kinda sacrilegious to the Family Canon (“Thou shalt see all Stan Lee movies together on release weekend” ranks in our Top 5 Commandments. Right after “Thou shalt wipe your own urine off the toilet seat, dammit“.)
But the time away has also come with some great perspective…
Like how incredibly thankful we are for the way he helps us everyday.
Like how much laughter he brings us.
Like how this parenting gig, no matter how conscious or attached we are, is not going to be our full-time gig forever. That someday he will fly the coop and when the two week newness of date nights and sleeping nekked and actually having leftover bacon wears off, we’re going to miss his face and his warm hugs and his jokes (the good ones and the ones that end in car sounds), and we’re even gonna miss his mood swings.
You’d think I’d know this by now.
We always miss the things we don’t think we’re going to miss. Like the diaper phase. And the sticking-the-hands-in-the-diaper phase. And the Curious Fours and the Intense Sevens.
If we don’t miss the actual details, like the time his diaper leaked diarrhea down my leg and someone was kind enough to take a photo, we at least miss our opportunity to be present and engaged and our best Selves in the moment, like the times I wish I had taken 5 more deep breaths and reminded myself how difficult it can be on the other side.
Because it’s way more difficult to BE a teen than to parent a teen. And it’s probably way more difficult to be MY teen (I’m told, my “going Guru” doesn’t really do it for him). And it’s gotta be infinitely harder to actually be an empty nester instead of just practice being one.
So yes, we (all) appreciate our times away for one another. But for me, mostly because of how they bring us back together.