"How does it need to look as kids heal and are moving forward, but still needing to be kids?"
"Since you get to live this out before me, be sure to figure it all out and write a book. K? Thanks!"
These are all things I have said. A lot.
Being a teenager is hard. Middle school (what we called "junior high" back in the day) were the hardest two years of my life. High school got better, but it was still a giant pile of "When will this be over?".
I've known for a long time that I would be parenting teenagers who had navigated some very difficult and challenging circumstances in their lives. I wasn't sure how it would look. I wanted to be a good parent to my teens. I also wanted to be a good parent to my healing teens. I want to be a good parent to my biological teens who have their own issues with neurological disorders. And honestly, I wasn't exactly sure how to do that.
So many of the things you are taught by the experts in the field of therapeutic parenting seem to contrast with the things that experts in the field of teenagers are saying. One of the best pieces of advice I have received is from my friend, Billy. He said, "If you're not sure if what you are seeing is from previous trauma or if it's just normal teenage development ... air on the side of normal development."
The other great piece of advice I received was from a woman who has long since raised her healing kids into adulthood. She kinda' chuckled and said, "You're already doing a great job. Just keep doing what you're doing and you'll figure it out."
Both of those things have carried me.
It's true: I'm drowning. I'm drowning in teens. Any parent of a teenager understands the challenges and utter thrill that this is. Your home is now full of young adults. They are becoming more and more independent. They are learning how to navigate life while also determining what you will still do for them (read: NOT have to do for themselves). They ain't no dummies. They are figuring out how the world works and they're practicing on you. They love it and they hate it.
I remember that. I remember feeling these things. I used to hear moms complain about how difficult it was to parent teenagers, and I would mumble to myself, "No. That won't be you. You still remember what it is like to be 15! Don't forget! It's hard!"
It's true. It is hard being a teenager. It's also hard parenting a teenager. Throw in any amount of special needs, and the pressure of wanting to give them all they need and do it right and ... THIS IS HARD. And exhausting. And magical. And such a gift. And fun.
And hard and exhausting.
I think my four teens would all say the same thing.
We have been going non-stop since summer. I officially have four high schoolers. As I was reorganizing my calendar last night and saw that my oldest turns 18 in 2014, I had both a rush of exhilaration and utter terror. I'm guessing he feels the same way. I don't plan to be the person to write the book. I'm pretty sure no one would pay $9.95 for an ebook that says:
"Lean to the side of it being normal development, and not necessarily due to their special needs. Keep doing what you're doing and you'll figure it out. Just keep caring. Listen to the care in your heart. And good luck."
I'm still figuring it out. All of my kids are very, very different. All of their own individual feelings on any given day are very, very different. Oh, right ... and all of my individual feelings on any given day are very, very different. It is a privilege to be able to help them navigate this. At the same time, I catch myself wishing it all away when it's hard; wanting to speed up the clock. When it's good, I feel panicky and want to slow it all down.
I'd say I'm doing it right.
|My gawwwwd, aren't they gorgeous?|