Being a mom to a 16-year-old comes with certain perks. Stop pursing your lips, rolling your eyes or shaking your head in utter disagreement. I know you think I’m crazy. Just give me a moment to explain.
Parenting a teen boy has its continuous challenges, sure, he was my “need to read every book and take every piece of advice” kid; my chance to prove I’ll be the best mom ever; my time to take what I thought were other mothers mistakes and do just the opposite. Who was I kidding? Reality has set in after all these years. He was actually my first round, my learning curve, my “go down this path blindly and see what comes out at the end” kid. I hoped that every punishment, every restriction, every timeout, every denial wasn’t just cause for a future life of therapy where I’d be the main topic of every session. I hoped, that each moment I sat with him enduring another episode of the Ninja Turtles, that putting on a smile during his high-pitched stories recapping his days at school, that biting my tongue every time he wanted to grow out his hair in to a long fur ball, would be enough to remind him what a wonderful childhood he had and that we WERE the greatest parents on earth.
11 years of accumulated worry and bam! Boy # 2 comes around and I shuttered at the idea of it happening all over again. The upcoming stresses of naught screwing up this little boys life. I push him out, go through all the happy new baby moments, take tons of pictures. Each moment passing as we encounter again the infant stage, then the toddler stage and then the dreaded Preschool stage. Did I go over the alphabets with him enough times? Have I taught him just the right amount of table manners? Did I stifle his happy moments every time I told him to stop jumping on the sofa? Again, the time-outs and the “absolutely not”‘s were upon me. Should he already know how to read by now? Darn it, I forgot to go over his homework.
Déjà vu, as my little one becomes 5 years old today. And I sit on the bus, on my way to work, thinking, did I screw them up? What have I done wrong, that maybe I can rectify before it’s too late? Should I consult a professional? Then I recall his little face light up at this morning’s announcement that he is one year older, that he’s one year closer to becoming a man. The excitement of one day, one occurrence, one milestone. He didn’t care that I told him yesterday to stop yelling, to slow down, to focus, to give me five minutes of silence. He didn’t care that I told him he couldn’t have one more cartoon or one more evening snack. And he’s totally forgotten the meltdown he had at the idea of going to bed earlier than the adults.
An epiphany; provided by both my 16 and 5-year-old. We have NOT screwed them up. We entered boy #1 blindly, and you know what’s come out at the end? A respectful and humble young man who loves to spend time with his family. And boy #2 continues to show us that all the stuff that these so-called contradicting professionals say make up great parenting, well, it just does not matter. That’s right. I said it, we don’t need their advice. I don’t need to worry about reading a book that says that I’ll hamper my kids emotional growth if I use the word “no”, and reading yet another book that say’s I’ll spoil them rotten if I never use the word “no”. You know who are the true professionals? It’s us, the Moms and Dads. The ones that actually go through each unique kid as needed. We decide how to customize life, along with the rules used in it, for each kid, for each scenario. If I want to provide two evening snacks one day while providing none on another day, then so be it. If the “soft” rules are ever so changing, then so be it. If we put our foot down one day after a tantrum while giving in to it another day, so be it.
I personally remember the moments my mom sat with me playing board games despite how bored she may have been. I remember her allowing me to stay up late on a school night to watch the Twilight Zone knowing how difficult it would be to wake me up the next morning. I remember her teaching me the words to her childhood songs. All the while she didn’t allow me to spend the night at any of my friends homes, or exchange phone numbers with anyone, or ever, ever go out on a date. She provided veggies but never enforced it, she pushed sweets on me in hopes that her skinny little girl would gain some weight, and her concern for neat homework trumped that of correct information. She showed frustration when I couldn’t understand that 8+7 yielded the same results as 7+8. She let Sesame Street teach me the alphabets, and she let the Facts of Life teach me about getting my period. She didn’t read any How To books. She played by her own rules. And her main rule, passed down to me as I pass it on to our boys, is that love trumps all.
And bam! boy # 3? Well, he’s a piece of cake, all thanks to Déjà vu.