DAMMIT, I'm different.

Weaning from the bottle or binky, sleep training and potty training; pffffth….simple! Fielding questions about vaginas, boobs and wieners, how babies are made and whether or not Santa and the Easter Bunny are real; these are just a few of the things that are easier than the dreaded yet inevitable discussion I had with my son a week ago. If you have a teenager, you probably know what I’m talking about, the “I FEEL different” talk. I was dreading it.

For reasons personal and unique to every child going through this phase of development, they FEEL different and can’t wrap their brains around the idea that pretty much everyone else their age is feeling the same way and struggling to understand the changes they are experiencing. The fact that my 11 year old son and I spent a few difficult and tearful hours talking about growing up, making friends, fitting in and figuring out what all that shit even means makes him the opposite of different. This shocked him. Other people feel this way? Yeah, Kiddo, pretty much EVERYBODY!

 This kind of conversation is a common, normal and important for a kid in the process of growing up. Although it is common and normal for a tween-teen to FEEL as if they are completely unique and that nobody could possibly understand their struggles, it can be a difficult for them to initiate conversation about this kind of thing. The conversation is often the result of a frustrating and negative experience such as bullying, educational problems, sexual identity issues or even some good natured ribbing from a peer that is taken the wrong way by a hormonal tweeny-bopper when the kid is already overcome with emotion. DAMMIT!

Unless there is a precipitating event, kids often struggle through this time quietly and without emotional support. Not that we parents aren’t always trying get our kids to talk about their lives, but sometimes they make it really fucking difficult, right? I am always asking a zillion questions, trying to pry even the most basic information out of our loin fruit. “What did you do at school?” I ask.

“Nothing,” they answer, or “I don’t know.”

BOOM! Don’t know about you, but those answers trigger the smart ass in me and I start in…….

 “Wow! If you are doing NOTHING at school, I need to get in touch with the principal to tell him that your teacher sucks and lets you do nothing all day. That bitch is going to be SOOOOO fired. It's sick that our tax dollars are going to waste paying these incompetent jackwagons. I got your back. Big time. From here on out you are going to learn and learn big. ”

 Or

 “You don’t know? Maybe you have a brain disorder and I need to take you to the doctor because if you don’t KNOW what you did today, you could have a flesh eating brain virus or even tumor. GOD I HOPE IT’S NOT A FLESH EATING BACTERIA! But maybe it’s not too late, I mean you can still walk and talk so if we get you to the doctor fast you might be ok and not end up jabbering nonsense, shitting your pants and drooling for the rest of your life. I don’t know. Get your shoes; we are going to the ER. “

 That kind of manipulative gibberish usually gets me a few sentences of fake enthusiasm sprinkled with paltry details about whatever No Child Left Behind standardized stuff being rammed into their grey matter that day. But most of the time what I’m really wanting to know when I ask my kids about their day is just simply whether or not they are safe, relatively happy and comfortable -  physically and emotionally.  My gut instinct has guided me as the mother of little ones, but that’s because I was heavily present and so involved in every aspect of their lives. Now it’s a crap shoot. I have to pay much closer attention now, which sucks because it really cuts into my leisure time. Kidding, sort of, because really doesn’t every parent WANT their kids to gain confidence and increased independence as they grow up? DAMMIT AGAIN!

The good news at this point is that all my smart ass responses to my son actually paid off. My gut told me he was struggling and I asked him directly. He knew that if he didn’t answer, the snark would descend in a major way.  Boy did he answer and I realized just how much I missed the days when a clean diaper, Band-Aid, snuggle or making up funny songs about mythical creatures or genitals made everything better. It was just so much simpler. A couple hours and a couple tears later, I can’t be sure that I really helped him at all because I can’t see into his mind. He is becoming a complex emotional creature. He needs me less in a physical way, but he needs me MORE in a spiritual and emotional way and that shit is way harder…….WAY HARDER than making sure his pants aren’t on backwards or crafting elaborate lies about Santa Claus so that his childhood innocence can survive one more Christmas. I don’t know if I’m helping. DAMMIT THIS IS DIFFICULT.

Now I’m the one wondering if I am different than other parents. Do they feel this way too? Do they feel constantly challenged and frequently heartbroken at the powerlessness that comes with letting go and learning to help heal a completely different kind of boo-boo?  DAMMIT I NEED FEEDBACK!

And like I said before, it’s really cutting into my leisure time and making me grow and learn which I think is total bullshit. I was hoping I’d have things figured out by now like everyone else. DAMMIT.

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  • Good job, mama. Something tells me you're doing it right. Exactly right. My kids are younger, and I know the years ahead will become more complex and more emotionally difficult. But I'm kind of looking forward to it, in a way. You know me, I'm an emotional guy. I tend to think the more emotional experiences are the worthier ones, even if they are difficult at the time. Great post.

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    omg... you are NOT alone!! My daughter is 13 and we have had no less than a dozen of these manic laughter and tear-filled conversations in the past 3 years... Yeah, girls go through it earlier and probably for a longer time!! The best thing I ever told her? Kids your age are assholes. It gives her a LOT of comfort. Keep it up mom... and way to go. The older I get, the more I know I'm still growing too... f*%k.

  • I am going through this same thing now with my kids....you are definitely NOT alone. My 12 y/o seems to be breezing along just fine SO FAR. He is a happy go lucky type who is always smiling, always cracking jokes; he is quite popular and seems to have a lot of friends, and is quite active in a lot of sports. I do worry though, because other than his major attitude change toward me in the past year or so, he hasn't really shown any signs of "the change". But it is not him that concerns me.

    It is my 9 y/o son, who, for the most part is VERY quiet, and seems to have anger issues. He is doing fine in school, and has many friends, BUT HE WON'T TALK! Drives me crazy! He is so quiet (except around his siblings) that when he gets mad and flips out, it concerns me. He also is so lazy compared to his older brother. I think he has the "younger brother" complex, and I think he will carry this through life. Terrifies me. But I know things are going to get so much harder the next couple of years with him as he begins "the change", because he already seems to have a mood disorder of some kind. He even blurted out that he hates himself one day to me when we were arguing about something. :(

    Now my 2 daughters.......I don't even wanna think about what they will be like. My 6 y/o already has a major attitude (sometimes) that mirrors a 16 y/o. And my 2 y/o? The baby? Bossiest, loudest, little girl I have ever seen. Only time will tell what SHE will be like. No....don't want to think of them as teens or even "tweens". *shudder*

    So I just wanted to comment and let you know I am right with you. I loved the blog and appreciate your humor. I totally "got" every word of what you were saying. I agree that potty training is NOTHING compared to realizing that they are just slowly growing away from me, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. :(

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    You KNOW you're not alone in this one! Everyday is a crap-shoot. Some-days I feel like I rocked it as a mom, and other days I am certain I have caused irreparable damage emotionally. I think our kids should throw US a party every year on their birthdays, just to thank us for keeping them alive one more year.

  • yesyesyesyesyes. It kills me. How do I get them (11 & 13 year old boys) to open up just a teeny bit!? Great Job Momma. You got them to the toughest place in the world trusting you 100%. Good Luck with the next 10 years.

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    I am SO glad that you wrote this. I have an 11 year old too and we have started having these conversations as well. It breaks my hear to think that he is growing up but I know it's life and I have to let go a little (just a little cause you know if you let go a lot they'll just take advantage of that shit). He has a 13 year old cousin that has apparently exposed him to internet porn (great) and his dad and I aren't together so I don't get to supervise all of the time. It's scary to think about them being self sufficient but I feel the same way you do...this shit's way harder than when they were younger...and it takes up A LOT of time...you know, snooping, prying, talking...all that parent stuff. What I'm wondering is...since he's the oldest...will it be easier when the next one turns 11??

  • Often, the truth sucks, but we all have to face it in our own way. You are doing more good for your people than you know. Some parents prefer to ignore their little people soon - too soon - turn into big people. Big people who need big, big love. It is clear you're rocking the love thing, so go on with your bad self. In doing so, you are inspiring an entire legion of minion mamas (who drink and swear) like me to follow the truth you tell and practice it with kindness and humor ourselves. Feedback? Yup, you're different - and you kick ass.

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    Being the mom of teenagers is really hard. As physically stressful as being the mother of toddlers is, it is nothing compared to the emotional stress of being the mother of teenagers. Mine are 19, 15, and 12. Sometimes I feel like I have raised them to be kind, honest, and thoughtful only to go and throw them into a sea of cruelty, lies, and ignorance. Way to go, Erin. At the same time, how could I have done differently? Love them and accept them as they are and accept the fact that they and you will make mistakes and that's really all you can do. It's all about finding the balance of letting go and staying involved.

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    In reply to Erin Zito:

    I meant give you the feedback you asked for and say that I think you're an awesome and inspirational mom because you're so obviously plugged in, BTW, but then I got all teary and forgot (I'm such a sap!). Love your fuckin' blog. You rock!

  • Again, very well written. I think the very best job you are doing is that your son did tell you about his feelings. It is so important that children know that they are not in this alone, and that we communicate that while growing up is hard that these feelings are normal and it all gets better.

  • As the mother of two teenagers and an 8 year old, I am, quite frankly, emotionally and physically exhausted. However, I have three of the whackiest kids you'll ever meet and I have to admit I've encouraged their differences. It not only means (I hope) that they can talk to me with only minimal snark (OK, sometimes major) but that they don't feel too worried about feeling different. Coz lord knows, I don't want boring kids!

  • I hear, ya. I went through that same struggle raising my two sons. They had different but no less challenging experiences growing up. The thing is, they are grown men now and I'm still trying to help them understand themselves - that is when they are not flippantly trying to tell me how the world works (See, I'm too old to understand what's going on today). So gear up for a lifetime of sorting out life. And if you continue to do a good job, perhaps some of your wisdom will rub off on them and they in turn will help you through your changing process.

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    I get one son off to college and the other is a Sr. in high school, about to be off to college and then BAM we get full time custody of my husband's 11 year old son and 8 year old daughter. I had forgotten that all 11 and 12 year old boys are brain damaged and spend more time in the shower than I have over the last 10 years. He is going through the "feeling different" stage and I was so glad to see your post mentioning sexual identity issues. He's all boy and has always loved the ladies but I recently hacked his fb account and saw a message to a homosexual male that made me wonder. It was not offensive or crude, but it raised a serious eye brown. GOD I have fucking forgotten how to do this and to be honest, I don't want to do it again! My boys are two amazing young men but goddamnit it almost killed me getting them there.
    I absolutely LOVE your fb page and your blog. I would imagine your words will guide me over the next year and a half.

  • Nikki, this is for you. My 20 yr old son and I have always had a pretty good relationship and he can talk to me about anything, though he hasn't always chosen to. A couple years ago he said "Thank you Mom." "For what?" I asked. "For being involved." (We were talking about school, so I assumed...) I laughed and had to ask "What are you talking about? I never went to conferences, none of my encouragement or nagging had any effect, I failed you. I couldn't give you the keys you needed to succeed." He shook his head smiling and explained thanking me had nothing to do with school. Every day he came home, I asked how his day was. I asked what he did. Those little things, no matter what path he took with school, told him I loved him, was interested in him, and let him know how special he was and valuable. He told me that most of his friends parents never bothered to ask their kids. The parents were so focused in on their lives and goals, they never bothered to find out what their kids goals and dreams and daily struggles were, and many of them felt lost and drowning because they had no anchor. They felt they were on their own. He wanted to let me know that he appreciated those little things. Maybe his ADHD butt couldn't finish traditional schooling, but he did get his GED and moved on to graduate a massage therapy course, knows how to handle his money, and is the one of our 6 kids I probably won't ever have to worry about "getting their act together". Just keep doing what you're doing babe :)

  • Your asking means you care, which is more than some kids are not lucky enough to have. I wish I could say it gets easier but the difficulties are actually very rewarding.

    They cry, I cry. They're happy, I'm happy. It never stops. But the bottom line is YOU ARE THERE for them. And they're gonna need you ALOT. XO

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    I don't think I could be of much help,but I will say that my son is 6 and I worry over all kinds of stuff with him. Mostly, because he is in school and not home with me all the time anymore. I think it is great that you are trying to grow and be helpful to your son. I comfort Myself by thinking that maybe even if I didn't have all the answers that I did listen to him,love and respect him. And maybe that will rub off on him and he will never lose the love and self respect he has for himself. Good blog.

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    I don't know about this stuff-I'm 9 years behind you with a 2-1/2year old and 3 month old, but I'm truly impressed you even had a convo with your son, period. If either parent tried that with me when I was that age, I probably wouldn't have written so much shitty angst-ridden poetry and cried in my bedroom every night.

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    All I can say is...You are doing a great job...a seriously great job, keep it up! And keep up with the swearing too...'cause you make me laugh...a lot! :0) Love it all, keep up the good work Hot Mama

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    God it is good to know I'm not alone as I spew the same shit at my practice child (aka...the eldest) not knowing where my rants may lead US! We have had a rough year and I've lost count of the manic convos we have had. Damn I ahoulda recorded those for recycling on the other 3 in a couple (fingers crossed) years! Pretty site some of it was good!

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    "Nothing you do can do can fix this, or make me happy... I'm only happy when I'm around my girlfriend... But don't take it personally!"

    This was my answer to my *you have come home with the seemingly mandatory cats bum face on again today*, "You ok, wanna talk about it?" question for today.

    Mr 13 year old recently wants to be dropped off at the end of the street to his school or I no longer get a kiss and love ya goodbye anymore. Questions get met with grunts or eye rolling. Hugs are a thing of the past unless he's ill, or no one else is around.

    BUT.... I demand an open line of communication, I started it years ago at the dinner table and they know it's a waste of time arguing, because I can, and have, out sat them until I get told about their day. From there I can pretty much gage how they're doing and if I need to get my concerned Mum hat on.

    I can also camp out in their bedroom (take a book) until I get at least a basic answer to why they're upset.

    I've read the books (He'll Be Ok: Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good Men by Celia Lashlie was the most helpful) and I understand boys need time to think and process, but by golly they will know their Mother loves them and gives a shit, even when they're being rotten, hurtful, insensitive little fuckers.

    Evidently that is all they need to grow up and be well adjusted men, so annoy, persisting and sucking up is what I'm doing.

    Good luck :)

  • Just want to let you know how much I truly appreciate your blog, as I'm sure so many others do. Not only does it make me laugh out loud (yes, I spelled it out)...it makes me feel not as crazy and alone as I did prior to stumbling upon this goldmine of Mommy Knowledge. So, thanks. And Merry Christmas. =)

  • I love you more everyday. Just recently had the tear filled drama talk with my 11yr old. God... I have been bragging all of these years b/c I've got boys and they are waaaaaay easier, right?!?!?! OH HELL NO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for spewing your life out so that I don't feel so nuts.

  • I dread those days. My wee ones are 5, 6, and 8, and the 8yo has special needs, so I should have some time before these kinds of talks.
    I admire you, Nikki. I'm pretty sure you're doing the right things! I look to you for advice and inspiration, so I sure hope you are! LOL

  • I'm late reading and posting to this but after reading this all I can say is...ahhhhhh! I have no idea what might be wrong or right, I just know that you are there to listen and give support!
    oy, going to block this from my brain since the baby is still so little!

  • In reply to ac311:

    block. deny. have a drink and snuggle your baby. all will be well. xo

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    This IS my life! Two boys this age, and two teen girls. I've had this conversation countless times with the 15 1/2 year old girl. She spent a good deal of time angry with me because she did not like that she wasn't "special" in her feelings.
    Now it's the angsty 11 year old boy, who insists on wearing a lab coat to school, but doesn't understand why kids think he's weird. I hope he'll grasp the "screw it" attitude soon enough and embrace his weirdness.

  • In reply to Kelley Prather:

    kelly, check out relational development intervention. stuff you can do at home to practice helping him understand the social world a bit more. xo good luck.

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    You know what no, You are not different. I have a son who is 16 1/2 and I have gone ahead and have the "talk" Honestly when he was younger, I took him t a counselor that helped me with this experience. My son is happy and healthy. I think we as parents need to help them through the experience and initiate the conversation when they are old enough to understand it. And keep talking openly and honestly

  • Of course you're different...in exactly the same way the rest of us parents of teens and tweens are...sucks doesn't it? I've often thought that if I can "successfully" get my kids off to college without multiple visits to the Betty Ford and without killing them...or them killing me...or anyone killing anyone, really...that I would feel ok about parenting. But with one in college and one in high school, I'm just more worried that I haven't prepared them enough, that they'll be douchey boyfriends or worse, douchey husbands. Or that they'll let people walk all over them because their mother doesn't know how to fucking say no. Because just when you get them through all of THEIR stuff? You really start to worry about how YOUR stuff affected them all those years. I just hope they find good therapy, write sickeningly great books and make us all rich off the dysfunction. Here's hoping...

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