Duck!

I’m not talking about duck as in a bird. Nor am I telling you to duck. You know what autocorrect does to a certain word? Yeah, that.

I wrote about the kids laughing at Little Man last week.  He’s been reluctant to go back to science class since. I’ve seen the return of all his aversion techniques…going to the nurse’s office, leaving class to go to his quiet space, outbursts, tears, meltdowns. Friday, the nurse called about an hour after school started. He was in her office with a headache that wasn’t getting better. He had fallen and hit his head on the ground at soccer practice Wednesday night, and although he’d had no symptoms since then, she didn’t want to take any chances. I brought him home.  He was fine all weekend, outside of a meltdown Saturday  morning over getting woken up to get ready for his soccer game. It wasn’t pretty, and lasted about twenty minutes, but then he was perfectly fine at his game as well as the rest of the day.  He was great on Sunday – no meltdowns, no outbursts, no physical complaints.

An hour into the school day Monday, the nurse called me again. He was back in her office with another headache, and would I bring him some ibuprofen so we could try to get him through the day. So I took him some ibuprofen. Two hours later, I got another call. He was back again, the headache wasn’t any better, would I come pick him up. Back to school for the third time that day, and I brought him home early.  Yesterday, he made it the entire day (I’d told him that morning I wasn’t coming to get him early at all), but when  I picked him up, he told me he’d “freaked out” at recess, that kids were laughing at him, but he couldn’t tell me what the situation actually entailed, nor what had happened before or when the kids started laughing. He could not talk about it without getting really upset.

I emailed his team last night. Something is going on, and it’s affecting him intensely. His SAI let me know they’re aware something is happening and they’re looking into it.

Today, Little Man called me. I was in the middle of work, and asked him to ride it out for a bit, see if his headache got better. He called twenty minutes later. I took him ibuprofen again, and, as I had to leave town for work, told him he’d have to call Dad if anything else happened. Not to make it sound like I put work ahead of him…..I’d never do that if I believed in that moment he was dreadfully sick or really needed me, and only me, to come get him.

My phone rang while I was driving. It was the school counselor. Little Man had spent much of the day with her, most of that in tears. He’s unable to verbalize to her what’s happening when the kids are laughing at him. And he told her it would be better if he weren’t alive anymore. Dear Lord. My breath caught. I explained we do take him seriously, every time he says this. We can’t not take him seriously, but we also know he learned those words are a ticket out of whatever situation he doesn’t want to be in. It’s a very fine line to walk. I ducking HATE this. I hate it. I hate that he hurts. I hate he can’t tell us why. I hate we can’t just snap our fingers and make it better. I hate the anxiety, the social deficits that make him reach this point. Duck! DUCK! DUCK! DUCK!

I did ask if we could add speech therapy back to his repertoire. I feel he needs help with pragmatics again, as social situations and dynamics have shifted over the last two years. His peers are in an entirely different place, and they are very aware his issues, which are once again much more obvious. And we know how very mature thirteen year olds are. We’re also going to call his old outside therapist and see if he can have some sessions with her. The problem with that is he doesn’t want to talk when he’s supposed to talk. Does that make sense? If it’s on his terms, he *might* talk. If it’s a scheduled thing, he’s more likely to push back and shut down. DUCK!!!

I’m exhausted. I’m fearful for my boy. I’m emotionally tapped. I feel I have to be with him all the time, have to be on my guard all the time, have to utilize everything I have in me on him. Which then leaves the question, what do I have left for Spouse, for his siblings, for my friends, for my job? How is it fair to any of  us, much less Little Man. DUCK!

My heart just ducking hurts.

Pretty Sure

I am pretty sure that I completely suck at mothering teenagers. This. Is. Hard. Stuff. I haven’t felt so incapable since I was a brand new momma. My biggest goal right now is to somehow keep them all from hating me the rest of their lives, and to get them through this growing-up process to become not-a-hole adults. But, oh lordy, I fear I’m failing.

I don’t know about you….if you’ve already mom’d teens, or are in it, or are heading towards it, but this phase has brought out all my own teenage insecurities. I know I’m not good enough. I know probably every other mom of teens is way better at this than me. I know I’m second-best. I know, despite my desire for the best for them, I’m failing them in every way possible. I know I suck at this. Every eyeball roll, look of disdain, or angry/impatient response reinforces the idea I am the “Worst Mother Ever”, or at least the dumbest.

Half the time, I don’t know how to respond in the moment, so I shut down, keep my mouth closed. When I’m not sure if what they’re telling me is a “Big Thing,” or just something that seems big but should be chalked up to typical teenage reaction, I go mute. Pretty sure that isn’t helping anything, but I’m flying by the seat of my pants over here. And my kids are good kids. I pray God we don’t have to face real trouble, particularly since I feel I’m incompetent as it is.

The thing is, I had a grasp on this mom thing. I’d figured out their personalities, knew who they were.  Those people are still inside the growing beings inhabiting my house now, but so much is changing, and I’ve felt that grasp slip away.

I don’t want to fail them, but I’m terrified every single day that’s exactly what I’m doing. I guess I’d be worse off if I weren’t afraid of failing them.  However, I am fairly sure I suck at this.

It’ll be a close thing

If I survive my kids’ teenage/high school years, it’ll be a close thing. Oh, they’re really good kids, trust me. But holy wow…I feel like I’m walking a minefield all the time, and that I’m totally flying by the seat of my pants. You know those nightmares you have when you walk into a class you haven’t been to all semester and, SURPRISE!, it’s the day of the final? That’s exactly how I feel, almost all the time.

Here’s the deal – I get stuck, because I’m trying really hard  to not screw them/this up completely. So sometimes they’ll tell me something, or ask me something, or do something, and I’ve got nothin for them. I need a minute to process, to work out the best way to respond, handle the situation, without alienating them, or ruining them for life. Sometimes, you don’t get that moment to process, you just have to roll with what’s at hand. In those moments, you either hit a home run, or spend a couple of days undoing the damage.

My most-important criteria is them knowing they’re loved, that I have their best interests at heart, that I need to protect them, that I’m proud of them, and that I trust them, trust how we’ve raised them thus far. Although in all honesty, those aren’t always the first things that come to mind when those boggling situations arise. Generally, my thought is, “Well, this is a cluster of epic proportions…I have NO CLUE what to do with this.” And then I wing it. I wonder if all other parents of high schoolers are as feeling as lost, confused, befuddled. Sometimes I’ll even tell them, “Hey, I’m new at this parenting teens gig. Gimme a minute to figure this out.” I don’t know they’d rather hear that, and have me get it right, than have me act superior, all-knowing, and set off that minefield.

I hope, when they’re all grown and out of the house, I can look back on these years, and realize I didn’t do such a bad job, that I did more right than wrong, that I didn’t completely screw up my kids. I hope they can say that, too.

Invisible

I’m learning that when you are the parent of teens, you must become invisible in their presence, especially if any of their friends are around. This is really hard, as I spent years figuring out how to stop making myself invisible. I feel like I’m becoming smaller, disappearing from their lives, that I’m not really allowed to be part of their day-to-day stuff.

When your kids are in the car, you are to be a silent chauffeur. Don’t say a word, don’t ask any unnecessary questions, don’t comment on their conversation, don’t greet their friends, don’t even let them know you’re there. Above all, don’t even consider singing along to the music as you normally do. Just drive, wherever they need you to drive. You are an “old person” and not the least bit cool, so just keep anything you have to say to yourself. You can tell your spouse about it later, and whine over wine with your friends.

Pretend you don’t notice your kid is on her phone. Don’t ask who’s texting her, or what her friends are up to. You aren’t even supposed to know their friends’ names most of the time. Don’t acknowledge you’re aware who’s on what team at school, or who is dating whom. They seem to forget my friends – whose kids are in the same school – post status updates and photos all the time, and that sometimes, I actually have MORE information than they do. So there!

I have learned if you’re a silent observer, and can become invisible in their world, you hear more and see more. I’ve learned that sometimes, if you play your cards right and their friends aren’t around to witness it, they will actually talk to you. They might even talk about their day during dinner. If all the stars align in just the right way, they might – SHOCKER! – sit on the couch and watch a game or movie with  you. Very, very occasionally, they might allow you to hug them (just don’t even dream of that happening in the school parking lot when, “SOMEONE MIGHT SEE!”)

I keep finding myself struggling against these restraints. I know – we complain for years how needy our kids are, then suddenly they want us to essentially disappear, and we complain all over again. I don’t like having to be invisible. I’m used to being smack in the middle of their lives. I like knowing everything that’s going on. But now, I find myself telling myself, multiple times a day, to keep my mouth closed, and to become invisible.

They come back from this stage, right? At some point, I’ll be able to be a real, talking person around them? Tell me I won’t have to be invisible forever……

Please Promise Me

Will someone please promise me I’m going to survive my kids being teenagers? I was sucked in for the longest time, believing my kids were going to relatively coast through these years. They hadn’t give us much grief, and Big Man  has been a teen for three years. But it seems in the last six months, the beasts have been unleashed, and it’s a close thing, on a daily basis. I saw a meme today that said, “You think I drink too much. I say, my kids are still alive.” Yup, that about sums it up lately.

I spend more time shaking my head, no words left to say, than I do anything else. I talked a couple weeks ago about that dazed/glazed look on the faces of parents of teenagers. I had to bring the hammer with Big Man yet again this week. I remained calm through the conversation (is it a conversation if I’m the only one talking while he sits there stoically, giving one-word answers?), laying down the expectations, the consequences, his current situation as far as social life goes. Then not an hour later, he told us something else, and I completely lost my mind. There was yelling. There were a few bad words. I had to leave the room. I was nearly unhinged. The phrase, “What the hell?” is a common response these days. Basically, I shake my head and ask “What the hell?” every day, all day.

The worst part is, I know they won’t listen to our advice. In their minds, we’re complete morons who know absolutely nothing. I’m sure I didn’t take my parents’ advice nor listen to their stories of their teen years when I was in high school. But parents are the people who’ve already lived it, seen the world and all it can bring to them.

My stomach is in knots. I’m stressed out. I’m praying for the end of each day by about noon. I dread them coming home from school. They can be so mean, say the rudest things. Then they’ll turn right around and ask for money. Oh, we do get the oh-yeah-that’s-the-kid-I-know moments, when their manners and reason return, when they hang out and watch tv with us, ask our opinion, let us know what’s going on at school, at practice, etc. But someone please promise me we’re going to come out the other side. I need something to hang onto right now.

It’s Humbling

Having kids is incredibly humbling. If it isn’t, you’re not doing it right. First, toddlers and little kids have no filters. Whatever comes into their brains comes out of their  mouths. Trust me, I’ve blushed my way through many a toddler no-filter moment….”I am NOT touching my penis!” (yelled by Little Man in the middle of Target, immediately followed by a loud snicker from the next aisle over, and me leaving the full cart to take my child and walk out of the store). “Mom, why are you bleeding???!!!” – asked, loudly, in the stall in a bathroom at O’Hare airport (the kids were all under 6 years old, and thus, with me in the family/handicapped stall after a long flight). “Ewwww…doesn’t he know smoking can kill him? Why do people smoke, Momma?” – asked, within two feet of the smoking man, who immediately put out his cigarette. We won’t even get into the comments regarding other’s unusual appearances, food choices, hairstyles, cars. Suffice it to say, I’ve perfected that, “I’m so very sorry…..You know…kids will say the darndest things,” look.

I was so relieved when my kids grew out of this phase, although,  with a child on the spectrum who doesn’t always get the social niceties, we sometimes get a return to this place. Now, I have two teenagers, and one nine months away from being a teenager (Lord save me!). It requires an entirely new kind of humility. Teenagers, in their need and effort to pull away, to become independent, can say the meanest things, and in a tone that will leave you wondering what alien invaded your child’s body. My older two are pretty decent kids, but it’s the natural order for them to fully believe they know all, and are right about everything. They rarely fail to inject that “Are you a complete idiot?” undertone whenever they speak.

I was shocked and hurt last night to hear that come out of my sweet child’s mouth…angry, superior, rude. Spouse and I both called him on it, and will continue to do so as respect is the first rule around here. I know it’s the natural order of things, a developmental phase, part of them becoming adults. I don’t, however, have to tolerate it. I do need to develop a thicker skin, a new type of humility. They’re growing up. We’ve worked hard to help them reach this place. We will continue to guide, to reinforce rules, to require respect and responsibility. But we humbly begin to take a backseat. Personally, I’d rather have the toddler phase back. (Never, ever thought I’d say those words out loud).

 

To be seen, and not heard

Yesterday the Princess made a point of informing me I’d embarrassed her at dance class the night before when I’d laughed loudly at something another person in the lobby had said, at a time the music wasn’t going, and the whole class heard. And so it’s happened. I’m the mom. She’s a teenager. I now need to essentially disappear when we’re in public together. I’m just the body driving the car, to be seen and not heard. I started trying to remember all the rules I wanted my mom to follow when I was a teenager, and as a public service announcement to other parents of teens and soon-to-be-teens, I thought I would share them.

  1. Don’t talk to your teenager in front of her friends. You aren’t really there. She isn’t related to you.
  2. Don’t sing the lyrics to the latest pop song when her friends are in the car. You’re old, and you’re not supposed to even listen to that music, much less know, much less sing it.
  3. Just drive. You don’t need to be part of the conversation going on in the backseat.
  4. Pretend you can’t even hear the conversation going on in the backseat.
  5. For heaven’s sake, don’t give your opinion
  6. You’re not funny, so don’t even try.
  7. Don’t tell her friends what level you’re on of the game they’re playing. Again, you’re old, and you’re not really there anyways.
  8. Don’t ask her friends questions.
  9. Don’t do anything which in any way calls attention to yourself.
  10. Accept your place.

She’s almost fourteen. I have at least five more years of remembering these rules. Does it hurt? Oh yeah, it hurts a bit. I try to remember what it was like….you’re trying to figure out who you are, become your own person, separate from your parents. I know I’m not cool anymore. I’m just an old mom. I also know when her friends aren’t around, she will snuggle with me, giggle with me, be as silly as she ever was. I was embarrassed and hurt that she was embarrassed. My initial response wasn’t awesome, and I will defend my right to laugh when someone says something funny, regardless of whether she’s there with her friends. And there will probably be times I break the rules just to remind her I can, and I am a person, not just a chauffeur.

What was it like when you were a teenager? What rules would you add to the list?