The early years of children are so noisy. Squawks, yells, tattling, and so many words about things like superheroes, dinosaurs, princesses, trains, cartoons, and everything related to the toilet.
I nearly lost my mind trying to navigate the constant racket of three boys born extremely close together. There were many days I really wasn’t up to the task. Then we had a baby girl, making me Mom to four kids under five years old, and I died. #jesuscomesoon
Mothering little people pushes you to the end of your capacity and then takes one last withdrawal of your sanity for kicks. We die a thousand deaths when fevers spike at midnight, teeth take too long to come in, and bad words are practiced in unfortunate public places.
Then all of a sudden, we passed through the storm of life with little people, into the land of teenage children.
This is new territory. It’s very quiet here. There are earbuds in their ears. There are books in their faces. There are electronic devices in their hands. There are thoughts that they want to hold close to themselves, so they can sort them out. Our now-unrecognizable babies come home after school, hug us, and then close a door so they can have some peace and quiet. Maybe they used up all their noise when they were little. Maybe they have to find their sound again, with a little less of mom and dad woven into the melody. Maybe we are just boring old people. It’s hard to tell.
Parenting little people is like playing tether ball. The parent is the pole and the kid is the ball, never still and constantly swirling around you. There is never a break in the action. We dream of finding a pause button.
Parenting teenagers is like catch and release fishing. It takes patience. It requires a lot of sitting above the dark places, holding out tempting food and waiting for those kids to finally decide they need a bite. It is a blessing they eat so much during this season, or they might never come downstairs.
Kids don’t realize how scary it is for parents here in teenage land. The people who used to need us so desperately are trying to figure out how to not need us so very much. It’s horrific.
Being needed feels an awful lot like being loved, so this is all quite confusing. We have to remind ourselves that the love is bigger than the need, and that once you find your new sound you’ll let us hear it. We tell ourselves this growing up thing takes time.
The problem with time, though, is we parents are fully aware that the time is ever-shortening. We know exactly how many years we have left with our kids still here at home. We know how many summer vacations we’ll have before your life will make vacationing together impossible. We are counting the Christmases before you move away and can’t afford to come home. The days are long for teenagers and parents trying to find new ways of relating to one another, but the years are ridiculously short.
We want to hold onto you a little too much. We remember when you wouldn’t let us put you down, and now we can’t seem to find a way to hold onto you that doesn’t annoy you a little bit. Please allow us to apologize for our white knuckles. Be gentle as you pry our hands off your choices. We are new at this letting go thing.
You have the whole world ahead of you. Isn’t it amazing? If we stop and stand very still, we can remember what that felt like when we were your age. All of life is spread out in front of you, and you have so many beautiful adventures you can’t wait to take.
We don’t know how it will all work out for you. We hope the joys outweigh the pains. We hope the wisdom we have given you is adequate and accessible in the tough situations.
We pray the light shines into the dark nights, and that you find a Light that will never fail you. We are basically singing Forever Young over your future, because both Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan nailed all the angst of growing up, although I personally prefer Dylan.
We made it through the noisy years together, kids. We will make it through the quiet years, too. We’ll take a few steps to the side and let you go at it with all you’ve got. But we will learn new ways to hold onto you without you realizing we’re here so much. Parents can be quiet, too. (We know you don’t believe this, though.)
Lots of things are changing these days, but one thing will never change: Your parents love you. Even though you won’t understand until you have kids of your own, we need you way deep down in our souls, the same way a tether ball pole needs a ball and a fisherman needs a fish.
Just come on down and grunt a simple “Please, Mom.” or “Thanks, Dad.” Or text us if that’s a better way to open up the lines of communication.
The love and needing go without saying, which is convenient, since you have so few words for us these days. Just remember we’re still here, downstairs, by the ice cream in the freezer and the gas money you’ll need once you finally get your license.
(Incidentally, your chores are all down here, too, waiting for you to be awesome at them. #lifeiswork)