This isn’t an easy post to write. Everyone loves to read humor. People love the honesty about how absurd parenting can be sometimes. Oh, of course, those writing the humor don’t always mean what they’re saying — it’s a turn of phrase. I’ve been there too. I’ve written such words. Humor in the face of adversity is just what is called for some days. But there’s another side to parenting. Another side to the humor. There’s the emotional side of parenting. And this side isn’t showcased as easily as the humor.
No one wants to admit that everything isn’t as perfect as they would like it to be. Something holds us back from writing about the reality of parenting. It’s all too easy to sugarcoat things with humor as if everything is OK because we are laughing. And honestly, I don’t want my children to know I find it tough to be a parent some days. The truth is, on the whole, I don’t — but there can be times.
When your children are small and they’re unhappy, you can easily fix the problem. Their world revolves around you as their mommy, and within moments of mommy working her magic, they’re smiling again. It really is as simple as that. This is possible all the way up to the preteen years, but then the magic of mommy holds less power.
Now, that is seriously hard to admit. Yes, of course, with big mugs of hot chocolate and a tray of warm brownies, I can still help to a certain degree, but I can’t resolve a problem fully. I can bring a temporary smile to their faces, but I can’t mend a situation in a way that will bring them long-term contentment.
The very essence of raising our children is to provide them with the ability to deal with the many different situations they may face. We are advised against helicopter parenting where we remove ever danger and potential upset from their path so they can walk freely through the middle with no obstacles.
However, a mother’s natural instinct is to clear that path. I can’t be alone here, can I ? We know it’s detrimental, but it’s a mothering nurturing instinct that is hard to push aside.
I’m finding this part of raising teens the toughest: maintaining their emotional welfare when I can no longer fix everything. One of my daughters shared with me a piece she had written for school about being a teen. She wrote far more eloquently about it than I ever could because it’s her life right now. The emotions are real. They are current. I can guess how she’s feeling, but can I ever really know?
Pressure — she talks about teenagers drowning in it. Pressure from peers. Pressure from school. Pressure from social media. Pressure for a thigh gap. Pressure for a flat stomach. Pressure to fit in. Pressure. Full stop.
She criticizes the media for for photoshopping natural faces and bodies so that all teenage girls are left faced with a standard of flawless beauty — as if nothing else is considered beautiful. She criticizes schools for constantly putting too much pressure on performance.
There is a lot of angst in her words, but I’m glad she shared them with me. As a mother, I feel it’s somewhat easier to see them on paper than to hear them vocalized. It was hard for me to read them, though, knowing that she felt those words and felt the need to share them.
I need to consider my response carefully. We are at that stage where anything I say is criticized — because a mother’s advice is not objective. I hate the fact that this pressure exists. Of course, I want to remove it and wipe the slate clean. But I can’t. That’s not my role. My role is to help her manage, to give her the skill set to cope with these pressures. Communication is key, but so is sympathy and empathy. The pressure is real for her. I can’t erase it.
The hot chocolate and brownies help things, but they don’t fix them. Like so many other parents of teens, I want to do the best I can for her. I want her path to be as smooth as possible.
So, in a bid to try to be the magic mommy I once was when my kids were small, I’m reading The Tao of Teenagers by Peter Berg, a health coach who empowers teens. It’s about honesty and being able to express emotions. By writing her feelings down, she was able to genuinely express her emotions. She’s done her part. Now it’s over to me. I’m sure I’ll have some pearls of wisdom after reading the book, but if anyone has some advice in the meantime, I’ll take it.