Meagan is our resident mom, our Everymom…The Mom. Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am discovering our house has some stormy new weather from my newly pre-teen’s volatile, and often anxious, moods. And now that he is older, he is more skilled at bringing others’ (me, my partner, his sibling) into his weather system. How do we recognize and respond to him and his moods, while not letting them dominate how our home feels?
— Craving Calm in CT
Dear Craving Calm,
Over the last few months, a bit of an edge has crept into my 11-year-old son William’s usually sweet and agreeable nature. He’s been argumentative. Bossy. Grumpy. Sleepy. And other words that could also double as the names of cartoon dwarves.
While he was slumping around the kitchen one day last week, I asked, “Are you doing all right, hon? You don’t seem quite yourself these days.”
“Well Mom, I’m just not happy all the time like I used to be,” he responded, matter-of-factly. “After all, I’m going through a lot of changes right now.”
I blame sex ed.
In all seriousness, though, our little exchange reminded me of something that can be easy to forget when we’re on the receiving end of adolescence’s chemical mayhem: even if they can’t quite articulate what’s going on, kids in the throes of puberty know something ain’t right.
Keeping that in mind has helped me find a lot more empathy for my boys as they’ve gone through the tumultuous preteen and teen years. I’ve found that sometimes, simply letting my son know that I understand he’s not quite feeling like himself is enough to defuse the situation. And of course, while he’s allowed to feel any way he wants, sometimes he needs to express those feelings in the privacy of his bedroom instead of making the rest of us miserable.
Just like the runs-away-in-Target or throws-tantrums-at-the-playground phases you’ve already survived, you’ll get through this one, too. And since you can likely no longer bodily pick up your son, fling him over your shoulder, and remove him from the situation, all you can really do right now is try to maintain a sense of calm…and a sense of humor. After all, when it comes right down to it, the only thing we can control is ourselves…and that’s true, whether our kids are 2, 12, or 32.
Good luck, and hang in there, mama.
My daughter and the daughter of one of my closest friends have essentially stopped being friends, and now I feel my friend pulling away from me. Granted, it would be nice to take the girls to events/around town together like we used to when they were younger, but I’m not going to force my daughter to hang out with someone just because I’m friends with her mother. How can I keep my mom friendship from imploding just because our daughters don’t get along anymore? I really love this friend and would like for us to remain close.
Isn’t it interesting how kids can both create—and complicate—friendships?
When they’re little, you sometimes get stuck hanging out with people you’d rather not simply because your kids happen to be the same age and you’re in that not-particularly-discerning period when any human being who can form full sentences is like a lifeline to your former, fully verbal and not-yet-covered-in-unidentifiable-substances self.
Often those relationships fade as your kids outgrow library storytime and playdates, but sometimes, you luck out and manage to form a strong friendship with the potential to last. And then that very connection is threatened by your kids’ stubborn insistence on developing opinions about the people they hang out with.
It’s not fair, I tell you.
Here’s the rub: yes, absolutely, two adults can be friends even if their kids aren’t…but if there’s even a trace of defensiveness or hurt surrounding your girls’ falling out, keeping that connection strong might be easier said than done.
I think you may need to have a frank discussion with your friend to find out why she’s pulling away. Is it simply because it’s not as convenient to hang out anymore, now that the girls have separate interests? Could it be that she was more invested in the idea of your daughters being friends than she is in your individual relationship? (Ouch, I know, but worth considering.) Or, is it possible there are some hard feelings about your daughter’s lack of interest in hers?
As much as this conflict-avoidant mama hates to break it to you, this friendship could easily experience a fizzling demise if you don’t hit it head-on and have the awkward conversation neither of you likely wants to have.
So start the conversation—by phone, email, Facebook; whatever seems most natural. In your own words, communicate these three truths:
“I have noticed that our daughters aren’t as interested in hanging out anymore, and I feel like you’re pulling back as a result;”
“That makes me sad because I really value our friendship and want it to continue;” and
“I am willing to put in effort to reconnect if you’re up for it too.”
The older I get, Anon, the less I’m willing to let issues simmer under the surface with the people I care about. Sometimes guessing, hints and subtlety just get in the way. So I challenge you to quit supposing and find out for sure what’s really going on. Be direct, be earnest, and be honest with your friend. This matters to you, and she should know it. Hopefully, it’ll turn out that she’s just been waiting for you to make the first overture.
Rooting for you,
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