My oldest two are at a stage they’re really figuring out who they are, what they are, how they want to go about life. It’s an interesting, frustrating, gut-wrenching, beautiful time. Some days are amazing. Some days completely suck. I’ve said it a lot lately – I equate the difficulty level of parenting teens to that of parenting three toddlers at the same time. Yes, I’m still wearing that dazed/glazed look of a mother overwhelmed and disoriented.
Here’s the deal – because they are figuring out who they are, because much of their days are outside our realm of control, because we want them to learn about life and how to do life as much as they can while still under our roof and under our guidance/protection, we let them make as many decisions and choices as possible. There are times we make decisions for them – when we have to, when the choice has more long-lasting repercussions, or when it’s a safety issue. They aren’t always popular decisions. We just hope and pray they appreciate our intervention somewhere down the road.
But yes, we do allow them a bit of leeway. But no, I don’t always have their backs. I think that’s an important distinction. I don’t think we do our kids any favors if we calmly turn our heads the other direction when we don’t agree with their choices. My children are not perfect. I know their faults as well as I know their strengths. I feel a responsibility to offer my opinion when I don’t agree, and make them come up with arguments to support their choices. I don’t always have to agree with their decisions. I don’t always have to have their backs, particularly when decisions might hurt them, hurt someone else, or have results they aren’t considering. I let them know I love them no matter what, and support them always, but that I don’t have to roll with their flow at all times. I’ve gotten some backlash for that, which I totally don’t get.
We do our kids a disservice when we blindly back them in all things, at all times. I am their safety net. It’s my responsibility to help them learn to be compassionate, caring, productive, happy adults. That’s a fraught journey. If we don’t help them understand other perspectives, if we never make them think deep enough to be able to defend their decisions, if we always tell them they’re right but not telling them when they’re wrong, we are failing them. We have to allow them to make choices that matter, because they need to learn how to win gracefully, and how to recover from mistakes and missteps. I need them to learn how to fail, and how to get back up from failing while I’m close by to keep an eye on the process.
I don’t presume to be a perfect mom. I don’t always know the best, right answer. Lord knows I’ve made plenty of parental mistakes in the last 16.5 years. But I come at life with quite a few spins around the sun. My perspective is broader, I can see the bigger picture as opposed to just the decision at hand. I can see the gray, where they tend to see black and white. I realize one of the last things teens want to do is listen to their dumb parents, but hey, we kinda know what we’re doing most of the time.
I happen to love my precious children – I love them enough to not always agree with them, and still come out the other side with an intact familial relationship. I don’t just show them approval. I don’t just show them disapproval. I show them love, constantly. I show them the pride I have in them. I encourage and support, but no, I don’t always have their backs. Hopefully in the end that results in well-rounded, thoughtful, successful adults.