"It gets easier," is something mothers of young children desperately want to hear. Many people tell new mothers that, and it is true. It gets easier when babies start sleeping through the night, when little ones go to the bathroom without cajoling or assistance, and when children can articulate their needs with a modicum of clarity.
But I think the more factually accurate reassurance would be "These challenges won't last forever." The unspoken caveat with that phrase is that there will be new challenges along the way, one that haven't even crossed your mind yet.
I'm pretty sure that parenting never gets easy, no matter how old your children are. I am also fairly certain that parenting a teen is not for the faint of heart.
That's not to say that parenting teens isn't doable. It is. And people have been doing it and doing it well since forever. But it is far from easy. I mean, galaxies away from easy.
"A strong family life during the teen years is no accident. It takes hard work," read a photo that I recently shared on the Between Us Parents Facebook page.
I shared it because it made me feel better. Finding family time during the first few weeks of school, intense practice schedules, work deadlines, and more has been a huge challenge.
But what surprised me is that several people reached out to me to tell me that they thought they were the only ones who felt that way. That they thought it was just them.
It reminded me of "duck syndrome" which I read about recently as a description of students at Stanford, who on the surface appear to be gliding through college but are actually paddling like mad to just stay afloat.
It may not be an exact analogy, but as parents we don't see the immense effort, the tears from all sides, the worries and struggles that go on behind closed doors.
Here's a key fact: teenagers brains are not yet fully formed. And you have to figure that anyone living with a person whose grey matter isn't fully cooked faces challenges.
My adolescent has made several choices this week alone that have blown my mind, and not in a good way. They all relate to topics I have written about here, and have been the subject of multiple discussions between said child and I.
A lot of thoughts ran through my (apparently fully formed) brain, including: What am I doing wrong? Where did I go off the rails? How could I have done better? Why aren't I better at this parenting thing?
I consulted a few experts who assured me that, despite the best parenting efforts, teenagers sometimes do things that make zero sense. And that makes parenting hard.
So, if you're feeling the hardness of parenting today, please know that it is definitely not just you.
You are not alone.
We're all paddling really hard under the water and encountering choppy water, though at different times and for different reasons.
The people with whom I spoke this week assured me that our kids will sometimes blow our minds in good ways, too. And one in particular stressed that this time really will go quickly. I don't doubt that.
After all, these challenges won't last forever.
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