Can you remember being 16? Could you possibly imagine what a pandemic would have been like for you when you were a teen? I can, and it gives me the shivers!
I didn’t go to school to learn. I went to hang out with friends. I liked sports practice, but I liked talking on the driveway with a friend after she drove me home for an hour before I went inside.
When I was a teen, friends were my life. And, as far as my teen age self could tell, my parents’ sole purpose in life seemed to be to squash my style:
- get home on time
- clean your room
- come set the table
- look after your little brother
- Anything to annoy me!
I had friends to be out with, and all my parents expected was obedience. My parents, as pretty much all parents to adolescents, were complete drags on my life.<insert dramatic eyeroll here>
When I imagine what it would have been like to not go to school, practice or hang out with my friends–well, I think my teenage self would have thought life to be over. <insert major sighing, foot stomping, sobs and other drama here–along with big 80’s hair>
So, there is a big part of me that has huge compassion for my Junior Tribe Member. All the things that a teenager knows to be important have been taken away from him, leaving only the crappy parts of life:
- chores and
- worst of all, parents.
All parents, all the time.
Not surprisingly, he’s grumpy. I would be too.
Angry at a virus that has dared to wreck his life, it seems to be a natural assumption that his parents not only are intentionally making his life miserable with chores and requests to do school work, quite possibly they may have also imported it from China JUST to wreck his life.
Last week, said JTM was Furious with me (yes, with a capital F). Enraged. Silent treatment. Stares of death. Amongst other age appropriate teenage rebellion. (About what, I’m not sure–that would have involved using words at us. There comes a point for every teenager where words for parents seem to be an utter waste of time.)
Well, parents bleed red, too.
I was hurt. I was frustrated. But mostly, frankly, I was pissed. I’m in the midst of a pandemic too–and my nerves are shorter and fewer like everyone else’s.
I was a very good bonus parent who had been kind and understanding and encouraging–until I wasn’t. Then I stopped being all that and became a ball of seething rage.
I hate apologizing, and so I know enough about myself to do damage control when I’m like that, so I spent most of the evening in the bedroom. I hid myself away. I could say it was to save others from me–but a big party of it was that I could hold my own pity party. 🙂 I had imaginary conversations with him in my head about all the ways he misunderstood me. I railed at him and shamed him and rehearsed nasty conversations in my imagination.
And then I went to bed. And woke up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep for a very long time. And knew if I sat in my anger, I’d be tossing for hours only hurting myself and setting myself up for a long and tired next day.
So I did a gratitude prayer exercise. Not cheerfully, but as a matter of begrudging discipline. It’s something I talk about in my talks for others to do as something that’s helpful–so, darn it, I gotta walk the talk. I started with “A” and thought of something I was grateful for. Then proceeded throughout the alphabet. Midway through the alphabet I came to the letter that is at the beginning of my JTM’s name.
I both felt simultaneously compelled to be thankful and be to angry that his name should be the word that would pop up in my spirit to correspond with that letter. Dang it! I didn’t want to pray a prayer of gratitude for this boy who had so wounded me. He was unkind and ungrateful–I didn’t want to be grateful for him in that moment. <insert a wee bit of adolescent rebellion here left over in my spirit>
And yet, here I was. So I did. I was grateful in word only, at first. Then I could feel it go past my head into my heart. He is, deep down, kind and good and has a gentle heart. I’d forgotten–and now I remembered. I think it was only a letter or two later that I fell back asleep.
The next morning I was still a titch cranky. <insert wink here–it was more than a titch> I was tempted to let him sleep in long past what was good for him to show him that he needed me to wake him up. I was tempted to yell loudly up the stairs to wake him in a distinctly curt and abrupt way. I was tempted to walk out the door and pretend I didn’t know him at all.
But I remembered a line that I have said to parents before:
Yes, you’re hurting. And yes, they are hurting. Both of you are hurting.
And…you’re the grown up. You know how to make the first move. You can make the first move. Your child doesn’t yet have what it takes to initiate repair after a relationship rupture, but you do.
It’s not easy. But it’s do-able. You can do it.
You can be the grown up. You are the grown up.
Gosh, I hate it when I make sense talking to clients. I have to then follow my own words. Hate it. Hate it. And then those words come back and challenge me–only because they are right. They are hard. But they are right.
And so…I didn’t want to. But, having been fed by my prayers of gratitude the night before, I dug deep and found it.
I went upstairs, and gently–deliberately gently–tapped on his door. I sat down on his bed, and calmly put on the socks I had in my hand (one more moment to gather myself) and in a kind voice that I found I actually meant, said: “We both had a hard day yesterday and it didn’t go very well. This is a new day, and I plan to do better. I think we can have a better day today.” He nodded.
And y’know what?
I’ve been holding onto that for days since. Because they haven’t nearly all gone smoothly since.
Maybe you want to hold onto this too?
Parents, this <insert deep breath> raising of teens 24/7 in the house together when they want to be with their friends and we tell them they can’t be, and they want school time to hang with their pals and instead they are at home, and they have brains that are so fried from computer screens that it feels like the only thing they are capable of is yet more screen time–THIS IS HARD.
Hard for all of us. Parents and teens.
They didn’t ask for this.
Neither did us parents.
But, fact is, as hard as this is for us parents, we have tools and resources available to us that they don’t.
I don’t always like be the grownup.
And, truth be told, I don’t really feel like a grownup most days of this pandemic.
But I have far more experience in taking a deep breath and committing myself to relationship repair than the JTM who is still pretty new to relationships.
I want to find ways of digging deep to be able to walk across the room when he and I are on opposite ends of it. My tender heart longs for him to walk across to me–because I’m human and hurt and raw. But so is he. How can I expect him to do it if I don’t/can’t/won’t?
Brené Brown asks the question:
Are you the adult you want your children to grow up to be?Brené Brown
I’m often challenging myself to be the adult I want him to become. That’s not easy.
The most essential component to being this adult of grace and kindness is this: self-compassion. When tensions are high, and we both are stuck with homeschooling whether we like it or not, and neither of us can go visit friends or just about anything else–we are all pretty raw. Fragile even. Our edges are tender and we can all be easily hurt as well as easily hurtful.
It is only after acknowledging my wounds are real, they matter, and they need tending–and then they get tended to–that I can be strong and healed enough to extend a hand of grace. It’s my job as a grown up to take care of my wounds–and I’m beyond grateful that Husband is a tender wound-carer to me, too.
Parents, this time is hard on us parents. It’s hard on everybody, but the kids have us to look after them. We have to look after ourselves so that we can look after them. They need us to be the grown ups, even when we don’t feel like it. Even when it is hard.
Even when it is excruciatingly hard.
We can do this. <insert fist bump here>
It won’t be easy. But we can.