The Uncertainty Of The Teen Years

by Maureen Stiles
Originally Published: 
teen years
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I yelled.

And once I started I couldn’t stop. My voice ricocheted like bullets all over the room. I had tripped the safety and that trigger was hot. Normally so measured and careful with my words, I found it liberating to just let the fur fly.

Lost in my heated release, I never focused on your face. My anger blurred the edges, obscuring the hurt and astonishment. That is, until I stopped and took a breath.

I saw the full force of my assault and overreaction reflected in your flushed cheeks and wide eyes. In that moment, all the swagger of your 17 years dissipated.

“Just stop yelling,” you implored. “I’ll do anything if you just stop yelling.”

Your words stunned me, and I immediately collapsed on your bed—defeated, remorseful, and without ammunition to defend my weakened position. But I attempted to explain anyway.

I know you think it is ridiculous that I went on a rampage because your bags, clothes, and shoes litter every room despite multiple requests to pick them up. I know you see this as a gross, irrational response to a normal situation, so sure that I am making mountains out of the molehills of daily life.

What you don’t know is that I yelled because I am scared. The waters of parental fear run deep, and the weight of the teen years anchor us far from the safety of our emotional shoreline. We second-guess every turn, sure that we are going to run aground in our efforts to chart your course.

I know the stakes are high every time you walk out the door. Gone are the days of worrying about potty training and developing fine motor skills, which all seemed so overwhelming at the time. Teetering on the edge of adulthood and anxious to bid childhood goodbye, you make decisions without me every day. You navigate things small and large—driving responsibly, social situations with drugs and alcohol, college applications, a job, and schoolwork.

There is a spring in your step as you leave the house, flush with freedom. But on the other side of that door, I lean against the wood, grasping the deadbolt while willing myself not to fling it open and call you back to the safety within our walls.

I remember too well the bad choices I made as a teen. Some were inconsequential and others could have had serious ramifications. Because we were not nearly as informed as your generation, our sense of glorious immortality made us plunge where we should have waded. Today, many a conversation among my peers centers on the fact that we are lucky to be alive.

And I want you to live. To rise and fall. To hurt and feel so raw you will struggle to stem the bleeding. To learn what and who fortifies your soul. To mature but never lose the ability to laugh at yourself. I want it all for you. Yet the reality of you slipping away to attain it drowns me some days.

Like today.

I panicked and flailed and clung to anger like a life preserver. I yelled because the dam of fear broke wide open and debris swirled to the surface, because I know too much about life’s journey. I yelled because I remember your first day of kindergarten and how hesitant you were to release my hand. Sadly, I know that time is a temptress, seducing us with dreams of forever and mocking our protests as she advances without our consent.

You see, son, it was never about today; it was about all the uncertainty of the tomorrows.

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