Dear Teenage Son, Growing Up Is Hard For Both Of Us

Katie Bingham-Smith

Dear Teenage Son,

Here we sit. You, turning into a man and desperately trying to escape the child you once were (and my embrace every time I reach for you), and then there’s me, watching you closely — so closely.

This is hard for your mama. I know it’s harder for me than it is for you. I know it’s normal for you to try and push me out of your life a little at a time. I knew it was coming, but what I didn’t know was that it was going to hurt so badly. I miss who we used to be.

This has been the most tremendous part of my job as your mother so far. It is not like the first night I brought you home and tried desperately to nurse you all night, when we struggled together. Your epic tantrums as a toddler don’t come close to the emotions of parenting a child going through puberty.

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you how much I miss the days when you’d run around naked and get so excited about seeing a frog in the road that you’d scream. Maybe I shouldn’t remind you of the times you used to grab my hand and had eyes only for me. But I do. I can’t help myself and there is a part of me that wants to bring a little bit of that young boy back.

I’m trying — my God, am I trying — to be a good parent to a teenager and let your breathe. I know if I suffocate you, our relationship will die, but I’m afraid if I don’t speak up enough I will lose you in other ways. I’m learning how to balance your need for independence with your need for guidance, and most days I truly feel like I am doing a horrible job.

I’m trying not to be too emotional when I help you tie your tie, watch you from a distance holding hands with a girl, or see you try really freaking hard at something and still feel like you still don’t measure up. I’m trying not to tell you how to live your life at every moment, to not follow you around and make sure you aren’t acting like an ass. To not pick you up when you fall. To remember I made you but you are your own person. It’s all-encompassing, and some days it’s hard to breathe.

Watching you grow up, watching you fall in love, listening to you mutter “you too” after I tell you I love you breaks my heart a little. Your eye rolls and your back-talk make me want to scream, keep you locked up, and tell you to stop, to just stop trying to grow up so fast.

I want it all for you and I really miss being able to physically do things for you, but I know it’s time to let go. I have to let you create your own life, and discover who you want to be without compromising what I believe is right. I know you think I’m overprotective. You throw around words like “unfair” and “strict” and you’re damn right — I am all of those things. I am not your friend. I will be a strict mom until you are out on your own. Because the second I start letting you set your own rules, we both lose — and we are not going to lose. Do you hear me? We aren’t.

You are older now, and I believe in you. I can’t be with you all the time, and I won’t always know what you are doing (try as I might). It’s a reality I must face, as hard as it is.

I will always be here though. Not always with you, but always here for you. I won’t always be able to pick you back up if you fall. You will have to do it yourself. I will not be able to fix your mistakes. You must own those and make them right, and that might look different to you than it does to me, and I’m going to need you to remind me of that truth more than once.

I am sorry you have to experience this first with me. I wish I knew better. I wish I could give more. I am going to fumble, yes, but I’m never going to apologize for loving you this damn hard.

Just please promise me you will go out there and make it count. That you will be kind. That you will live your best life. And know that I will try with all of my might to let you do it your way — as hard as that might be for both of us.