Do you have a new baby? A child entering Preschool? These are exciting and overwhelming times. Congratulations if you can even read this! I remember all too well the endless cacophony of crying, shrieking, whining and babbling. Fortunately, you will find endless blogs, Pinterest boards, and even real time conversation on navigating the throes of young motherhood.
Do you have a tween who is having a hard time navigating his tumultuous friendships? Or a teen who hates school and whose burgeoning interests differ greatly from your own? Your house is likely a little quieter, and while you've dreamt of a day you could hear yourself think again, you didn't know it would be because your child's mood is sullen or because they are angry at you. Sorry, there's not a lot for you to glean from a quick google search. Don't look for Facebook posts either, they hardly exist. It's a lonely time in parenting when your child becomes their own person. Suddenly they have a story and identity of their own and you can't post the crazy/adorable/heart warming/exhausting moments the way you can with younger children. (Or you can, but with their permission.)
And this is ok. It's appropriate. Our parents didn't have platforms on which they paraded their parental successes or conversely, exposed their struggles. (Thank. God.) Can you imagine if your whole childhood didn't live in a photo album, but instead existed online with comments and "likes?" EW. If our parents dealt with our issues at all, it was live and in person with their family, friends, community, and possibly a shrink.
Some of us have people with whom we can be frank and vulnerable. But even then, when your son or daughter reaches a certain age, you get this sinking feeling that your child's story is their own and to share it will betray them. This can be a very isolating time for parents. I am in this stage now. I walk the fine line of celebrating my kids and who they are, all the while careful to protect their privacy and super fragile egos.
I start to feel like a really old person when I think about the internet and how it changed EVERYTHING. (I mean we all basically carry COMPUTERS in our pockets!) Our kids contend with age old issues of adolescence, but now minuscule conundrums are magnified on social media, and sadly we don't have to imagine their tragic endings—we've seen them in the news all too often.
So what's the solution? While the moms at the playground rattle on about full day kindergarten or half, and new mamas struggle with when to start solids and whether or not to let baby cry it out, what does the Mother whose daughter is lonely in high school do? Or the parent of a boy who cuts himself to deal with his pain and inner turmoil? Where does she go to vent and talk and breathe?
The answer depends as much on the mom as it does the child. For me it has meant slowing down and putting up boundaries. Saying no to things I once would jump at in order to make myself more available. One never knows when the adolescent child will suddenly share something significant, so it's good to be around when you can. I spend more time alone in prayer. Seriously. Sometimes I just roam my apartment and sort through crap, but I am praying as I go. I might say I am working from home (and I really am a lot of the time, promise.) But sometimes I am just breathing and listening and waiting and hoping and praying and reading and every now and then, calling or texting a trusted person. Moms who are older (in parenting years) and are willing to talk are some of the best resources. If you have such a woman in your life, TREASURE her and do nice things for her to keep her close. Most likely she is safely out of the trenches, and therefore more willing than those still fighting on the front lines to tell you what is what. I've been talked off many a ledge by a friend who helped me identify what is normal, but also what to look for and pay attention to.
Of course you could always go back to your own youth. (GULP.) For me this is rarely a good idea. I was an insecure, self-centered, anxious mess in high school, (pretty popular, though!) so I'd rather not assume my kids are going through the exact same thing. Sometimes I wonder "How bad could it really be?" then a visceral memory from high school will flood over me and then I'm all "Oh SHIT, they are going to die! How will they survive it?"
I am not the kind of Mom who has read every book out there on fill in the blank issue; potty training, sleep training, genius training, (but I am writing a book on ninja training). I'm pretty picky and have plenty of self-help books and reality television to consume in my spare time. (Never claimed to be Mom of the year.) I think parents need to have more faith, less judgement, and exercise common sense. Again, I go back to my decade old parenting advice: What would the Huxtables do? However, there are a handful of books that I am very glad I read, and I recommend to others regularly.
Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman. Girl stuff be crazy. Hormones, periods, cliques, popularity. It's enough to make you want to grab a Le Clic camera and take angsty photos of your friends!
Wild Things by Stephen James and David Thomas. Boys be crazy. Hormones, physicality, ego, pride. There are more words, but I am a girl and despite being married to a man and mother to two boys, I just can't talk about some stuff.
The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine. We have to combat the privilege and fast. You don't have to be the 1% to have privileged kids.
Now that your home is a bit quieter and the physical demands of parenting have subsided, take care of your heart and soul. This goes for Moms at any stage of parenting, but truly and especially for the ones whose babies are taller than them. Take the scenic route on your next drive or walk. Read the book that ISN'T about parenting but you can't stop thinking about. Watch the show that transports you to another place if only for 48 minutes. And let someone in—a spouse or partner, a friend, your Mom. Anyone who loves you, loves your kid, and will walk with you through the silence.