365 days and counting

“You think you got it bad now,” other moms cautioned when my kids were young, “just wait ‘til they’re teenagers.”

Like the weird sisters of Macbeth, they’d give each other knowing glances and chuckle, as they watched me nearly amputate a foot while trying get my screaming toddler’s stroller onto the escalator at the mall.

I thought those moms were too old and summarily dismissed their annoying prophecies. Besides, back in the “olden days” kids played outside unsupervised all day while their mothers lounged around in crinolined skirts, smoking cigarettes, polishing silver, and watching “I Love Lucy.”

No wonder their kids turned out to be horrible teens. I firmly believed that whatever stage of parenting I was experiencing was the worst one, and no one was going to convince me otherwise.

This month, my eldest child turned 17, and it occurred to me that only one year of his childhood remains. I’m not sure if I should celebrate or burst into tears.

The first time I held my son in my arms, I felt an awesome sense of love and purpose. In an instant, my own needs shifted from my top priority to a distant second, and the funny thing is, I couldn’t have been happier about it. I can’t take credit; it was merely a consequence of animal instinct, and like any mama bear, squirrel, or flamingo, focus on my own survival automatically switched to the endurance of my offspring.

Although it is initially a joy to put our children’s needs ahead of our own, over time the task of parenting gets bothersome, frustrating and let’s face it, downright terrifying.

Nowhere does this fact of life become clearer than in parenting teens. I hate to admit it, but those cackling witches at the mall were right as rain.

When my son turned 13, his head didn’t spin, his eyes didn’t roll, and foul expletives didn’t burst forth from his mouth. No, he was the same kid he’d always been. When he turned 14 we saw subtle changes – his first shave, a deepening voice, reluctance to accept affection. How cute, we thought.

We drifted contentedly into our son’s teen years, comfortably secure that our teenager would never be a problem, because we were good parents and had raised him right.

But soon after the candles on our son’s Rubik’s Cube-shaped 15th birthday cake were extinguished, a new period of parenting ensued, which might best be described as “Armageddon.”

Suddenly, the bathroom door was permanently locked. Our son stopped making eye contact. A foul smell hung like a green fog in his bedroom. He snickered secretly into the phone behind his barricaded bedroom door. When we managed to come face to face with him, he was always asleep.

In what seemed like an instant, the sweet boy we had known all these years turned into a smelly undisciplined stranger who, apparently, hated our guts.

At night we lay in bed, our minds racing with anger, frustration, guilt, and panicked thoughts of our son’s future. Desperate, we listened to other parents of teens, and found out that the hell we were experiencing was actually quite common.

Apparently, just as new hairs sprout from a teen’s body, a budding new attitude develops in the teen brain. The once dependent, reverent child suddenly thinks:

“There’s nothing that I don’t already know. I will now run my own life. I find you totally embarrassing, and reserve the right to roll my eyes in pure disgust whenever I see fit. I will, however, continue to associate with you so that you can buy me a car, electronics, clothing of my choice, pizza for me and my friends, and a place to sleep until two in the afternoon. Oh, and don’t forget to save upwards of $100 K to send me off to college so that I can reenact ‘Animal House’ at your expense.”

With one year left before my son leaves the nest, you’d think I’d be chilling champagne and making plans to fumigate his room. But ironically, I’m melancholy and must resist the urge to become one of the witches, warning young moms to appreciate the days when their biggest problem is getting the stroller onto the escalator at the mall.

Instead, I’ll remind myself that every day of parenting a child is precious, and I’ll savor the next 365. And counting.

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Comments: 18

  1. Too Many Titles « The Elocutionist June 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm Reply

    [...] 365 days and counting (themeatandpotatoesoflife.com) Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  2. kavenson June 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm Reply

    my oldest is 15. I don’t anticipate this present rocky experience with my 13. 11 and 3 year old. time will tell.

  3. zmanowner May 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm Reply

    Dont have children myself…but everyone always says Kids fun to make tough upkeep. You will look back and smile about times past but more happy and proud about what your children accomplish in life….zman sends

  4. Jess May 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm Reply

    Things will likely swing around again and then it will be their turn to feel “an awesome sense of love and purpose.”

  5. kdevries May 2, 2012 at 10:49 am Reply

    Ugh. Really that’s all I’ve got. Ugh.
    It’s such a stupid mix. My post yesterday in my “Motherhood Manual” series was “Somebody needs to push me down.” I know I’m going to feel that way again when my sons are each graduating from high school and probably many times before that.
    As I said before, ugh.
    Parenting sucks (and is the best thing ever… which just makes it suck even more!)

  6. i mayfly April 30, 2012 at 7:18 pm Reply

    The words, “I’m a MAN” are ringing in my ears… even ‘good’ kids can be very foolish when the hormones are a’ raging. I won’t rat-out my now 27-yr old, but the nine-yr-old scene makes me laugh still.

  7. energywriter April 30, 2012 at 5:54 pm Reply

    When my son was born I thought, “What did I do? I’m not qualified to be a parent.” Then I settled into the job and 18 mo later delivered identical twin girls. “oh, no” It was fear in triplicate. Son was very rebellious as a teen, girls were more subtle about it. Son left for Marine boot camp four days after graduation. The Marines should have given me at least a couple weeks more with him. The girls left for Army basic trng about a month after graduation. They were my babies. Couldn’t the Army wait a little while longer? They all turned out to be wonderful adults. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm Reply

      Wow, Sharon, TWINS?

      • energywriter May 1, 2012 at 8:51 am Reply

        Yes, identical – fun and frustrating when they were little. They have become wonderful adults who take good care of me. No longer identical looking because life has etched their faces differently. Sarah weighs about 10 lb more than Linda and constantly fusses about being overweight. She’s not. Linda is underweight.

  8. fabiggyz April 30, 2012 at 4:09 pm Reply

    My eldest is now 13 and I am just plain scared. Things calm right now in general, but I know a storms a coming.

  9. katiepede April 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm Reply

    I really want children, but the thought terrifies me……….

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 30, 2012 at 12:48 pm Reply

      Be afraid, be VERY afraid….. but seriously, no matter what kind of hell my kids put me through, I’ll never regret having them — it was the best thing I ever did!

      • katiepede April 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm Reply

        I am so broody….. I think it might be my age, and that all my friends have babies, but I am terrified of teenagers…. I fell like they could quite easily bully me!

        • Lisa Smith Molinari April 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm Reply

          I used to be afraid of teens too, but really, teenagers are just little kids in adult bodies. They are more scared of you than you are of them, trust me.

  10. lauras50by50 April 30, 2012 at 11:06 am Reply

    I can so relate! My son is almost 19 and finishing up his first year of college. Now we are waiting to see whether he will return home for the summer or work at the school…he thought that even without a job he could sub-let an apartment. We are very carefully offering up grown-up advice “adult to adult” about things like needing an income before signing a lease…This is finals week, so I’m waiting with baited breath to see if he will decide to come home or have to be convinced. He has shown that need for independence since he was 12, so it is a very strong thing with him and a very delicate dance for us…

    • Lisa Smith Molinari April 30, 2012 at 11:40 am Reply

      YES – a delicate dance is a good way to put it. I have often thought parenting a teen is like a tightrope act – juggling lit torches while balancing on one toe!

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