This week I’ve been musing on the raising of teens and just what a dangerous endeavor it can be. I suppose parenting in general, really. It’s this seemingly never-ending cycle of need and rejection that starts in infancy, cruises along, and really hits its stride in the preteen or teenage years.
Teens are funny creatures. No longer children, yet not quite adults, they reel you in with need and vulnerability, firing off every nurturing mama-nerve you possess. When one’s baby is struggling, it’s a visceral response that comes out. We want to help. We want to offer wisdom. After all, we have a lot more life experience to draw from.
So we start momming.
In my last post I wrote a grand set up for this 2019 Beautiful Truths #4, and now I find that I’m struggling to put words to it. In my attempts to narrow down and actually define this truth, I have lots of words and phrases that run through my head.
I actually wrote this piece several years ago. Today my son turns 20. Twenty. No longer a baby, no longer a boy scout, a dancer, or a teenager. He is really and truly a man, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
So take heart, my mama friends who struggle with kids who learn differently, kids who stretch you, who baffle you, who make you doubt your ability to do this momming gig. Our Father’s got them. And in His time, they will turn out to be far more than you dare to imagine…
Better Than I Imagined
My finger was bleeding. As I watched the crimson bead form on my fingertip I wished, not for the first time, that I was more skilled with a sewing needle. I reflexively put the injured digit in my mouth and looked down at the size 10 men’s ballet slipper resting in my lap. I had to get the elastics on before my son’s next lesson. Resuming my work, I smiled as I thought of all that had led to this rather surreal moment. My son, the ballerina?
My last nerve was exposed and raw, just waiting for a spark that would ignite it like the fuse on a stick of dynamite. When my daughter entered the room in tears, the match was lit.
We’ve been in the middle of rehearsals for a theatrical production and the choreography wasn’t turning out as she’d hoped. The grand visions in her head simply weren’t panning out in the sphere of reality and as a result, she felt stuck and unable to continue.
This sweet, smart, sensitive daughter of mine is my polar opposite in many ways. Most notably, she is emotionally expressive, while I am not. My daughter and I have a major disconnect in this area, and as I said, on this particular day I was already operating with the last nerve ready to be tweaked.
“Have you ever thought about trying some positive motivation?”
My friend’s words were spoken gently, with a hint of hesitation. Even so, I bristled. Spouting off some lame excuse, I ended the conversation, hung up the phone, and nursed my stinging pride. Positive motivation? What did she think I was, some screeching harridan, oppressing my children with my negative parenting? Harrumph!
Aiming carefully at my subject, I shot blind. Lifting the camera, I squinted at the LCD screen but could still see nothing; the brightness of the mid afternoon sun rendered it worthless. I tried again, choosing my angle with care, holding perfectly still. When the breeze died down enough for the vibrant, violet bloom to still, I pressed the shutter once more. Shrugging, I walked on, waiting for the next flower or critter or bit of beauty to catch my novice eye.
If there was ever any question that I am emotionally stunted, this morning laid all doubts to rest. For weeks after my daughter tied the knot, friends would ask how I was faring, how my mama heart was adjusting to the loss of one of my chicks. I would smile and assure them I was fine, that in my steely emotional fortitude, I hadn’t even cried on the day of the blessed event. Oh, I got all choked up and lumpy in my throat that day and I did almost lose it when they ran the gauntlet and drove away. But I managed to suck the tears back into my eyeballs and make it through just fine, thank you very much.
It took a full four months after the fact for the first tears to fall. I missed my baby. A few genteel tears fell like a soft spring mist one morning and that was that. So I thought.
With as much stealth as I could muster, I made my way to the dilapidated building. I paused for a moment, unsure as to how I should proceed. The enemy was somewhere behind me, of this I was certain, and my hesitation gave fear the opening it needed. A feeling of dread swept over me, a certainty of imminent attack making my blood pulse. Spinning around, slashing with my knife, I encountered only empty air. I raised my weapon, mean and black, and perused the area…
When I became pregnant for the first time, having endured several months of fertility treatments, I was confident that I knew exactly what I was getting into. I’d read books and articles, I’d studied other parents in my sphere, and in my youthful arrogance I was sure I’d be the perfect mama.
Then, after birthing my daughter, reality walked up and b*#ch slapped me, knocking me flat on my smug posterior leaving my ego bruised and bloody. Dazed, I realized I didn’t know squat. This motherhood gig was HARD.
I saw a woman wearing a muumuu today. Walking her tiny dog, a drop-kick dog, my husband would call it, she moved gracefully down the sidewalk. Her multicolored, animal print muumuu swayed with her steps and the sight of it brought a smile to my face.
In fact, I smiled all the way home, memories of another lady in a muumuu warming my thoughts. It was a long time ago, early grade school if I recall correctly, when a strange and fascinating woman took charge of our classroom for the day. Our substitute teacher was a large woman, with a pleasant voice, and she wore a shapeless, flowy dress. A muumuu, she called it, and the word rolled off the tongue in a delightful way. It was from Hawaii, she informed us, a gift from her son, and spreading her arms out wide, she made a slow circle so we could admire the colorful raiment from all sides.