Monday, October 28, 2013

There's not a book for this

"What is it like when they are teenagers?"

"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? 


3 Mile High said...

Lovely peeps! All of them, including you, Christine! You are doing it 'right'whatever that means.

Glori B. said...

Yes, yes they ARE gorgeous. What a journey we're all on, Christine. I'm so glad to get reports from your travels through life.

Jen said...

with you! our ages are now 16, 14, 13, 13, 12, 12, 10, 10, 7, and 6. whew. We have a jr. high and high school youth group at our house ALL the time. And, seriously, I drive the jr. high boys van every single day. But, also, what fun. and I LOVE that advice. and agree. err on the side of normal teen development, and keep on loving them. you're doing great!

johnsonweider said...

We've really tried to live this theory of err on the side of normal development - have lived with that as our mantra for over a year - and last week that mantra failed us and now we realize we're into the realm of special needs and really challenging challenges - heaped on top of the normal adolescent issues. And that is a scary, crazy web to try to figure out.

Christine Moers said...

I recommend that parents who are helping children with a history of trauma receive assistance from a trained professional. And we are to this point, now, after several years of therapy and and a long period of intense therapeutic parenting.

johnsonweider said...

Yeah, we've swimming in trained professionals at the moment. :) As I keep telling people - I'm so glad to have all of these wonderful people to help us - and yet I really wish I didn't have to know any of them!

Brenda Nelson said...

We had 4 teens at once but not as close in age as yours. I would say what helps me was a couple of things. One when they asked to do something and I started to say no, I stopped and examined the other words I said yes when I could and sometimes it involved me looking into why I don't do some things. I found out for some things it was merely because I was raised that way and there was no reason. The other thing is to constantly reassure them I love them and am on their side. I want to understand so if "you think I don't get you, then help me too. Be sure I want too." Otherwise they will find some who does get them and that can send things in a very bad direction. They look great Christine.

marythemom said...

First, it was so great seeing you at the conference! I was so excited when I saw your name on my program! Second, YOU GOT THIS! Just keep swimming!

Mine are 20, 18, 17 and 14. It's a huge balancing act to parent them "where they are." The 20 and 18yo have "trauma brains" and are not developmentally really teenagers, but they really WANT to be. The 17 and 14yo are neurotypical biokids who are driving, college bound, "normal" teens - with all the craziness that goes with that. Honestly I think the hardest part about parenting kids so close together in age is remembering to parent them where they are emotionally/ developmentally while still respecting their need to be treated as an "adult." I'm working on it.

Anyway, was so cool that you remembered me! Sending hugs and prayers!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to tell you I LOVE your blog and the nuanced way you approach things. I have many similiar thoughts and ideas and I never feel I can express them to anyone. (Yes, I think abortion is a bad option most of the time but I also think it must remain safe and legal for all kinds of reasons.) People tend to just hear the part that offends them the most and ignore the part that agrees with them. Anyway, the point is..... love your writing, love your attitude, log the blog. I may have some questions for you one day about becoming and adoptive parent. (my blog listed as a contact has been out of commission for many months but it was fun while it lasted)