There’s a ridiculously lonely space in motherhood.
I call it the space between little kids and graduated kids.
Also know as the teenage years, but that seems to earn it’s own title of oh you have a teenager and loses the title of oh my your hands must be full. Trust me, our hands are full, just in a crazy different way. Somehow that latter thinking makes it seems like us moms of teens have all of the answers and are just on the home stretch.
If this is the home stretch it is a bumpy, dark middle of the night drive, with everyone sleeping in the back of the van or telling me they’re hungry or late and I’m not quite sure where I’m going. Not only do I not fully know the direction, I am also low on gas, the phone is ringing and when I ask for help all of a sudden they’re too busy. Oh yes, and I am tired. Not that newborn sleep deprived tired, but the kind of tired of not really getting sleep for the last twenty or so years and putting your heart out there hoping that all the time you gave and still give matters.
I think that’s the real tired of a mom of teens.
We have this tension of clinging tightly to the last moment and proudly letting go and still hoping they make wise choices. We no longer have this tapestry of time in front of us with our kids, but rather now, there are days when the college applications pile up and the bills morph into car insurance for them and our time is spent sitting in bleachers cheering and instead of wondering when they will learn and grow up we are now wondering what in the world they will do because they’re about grown up.
And in case you’re wondering – that’s pressure too – that and what is your child going to do after high school kind of pressure. It’s like some ridiculous game, in a way, and it’s way too easy to put a pass/fail grade on ourselves in those situations. I discovered the greatest gift we can give our kids is to teach them to figure out their own hearts and dreams and teach them to be financially sound – and sometimes it means college and sometimes it doesn’t and that doesn’t determine worth.
I don’t have all the answers of motherhood just because I have teens.
I had to walk those years. Try, fail, stumble, cry, rejoice, cheer, try, fail and again and again.
My oldest is 22.
Sometimes I wonder how we made it through, honestly. But, truthfully, it is the same, day by day, night after night, good day, bad day, just a day strategy as when they were young. I call it fake it until we make it. Because that is the TRUTH of motherhood. Who actually knows how to deal with a rebellious teen until you are the one behind the slammed door crying?
We may be seen as the experienced mom, but friend, we are experiencing a new place in motherhood. Hormones, dating, social issues and us letting the baby that once thought we were the queen of the world who now wonders if we are the worst thing ever go. And even if they don’t have the rebellion or slammed doors we are still now on the brinks of letting the person who once fit in the crook in our arm walk out of our door to their new home.
Oh the heart of a mom, right?
You love them so much you let them go.
But back to this teenage article drought: I tend to think that perhaps there are less articles out there about the teenage years because it’s just less instantly redeemable than the toddler years. You know, a toddler can make a giant mess or scream or make a fuss but at the end of the day, at least most of them, they’ll come running back to your arms. We can chuckle about the permanent marker on the wall or make a cute post back then. I’m telling you, teens are like Febreze and stinky socks and chip bags left out and Taco Bell and gym shoes and first dates and too much cologne all smashed into a package. That’s not exactly stellar for Instagram.
To add to the lonely and tired we can go online and read post after post about color coding our schedule and making sure nap time fits and wondering about kindergarten, but when you have those older kids, sometimes it just doesn’t fit and it isn’t the answer to the kind of tired where you waited up for them to get home and you worried because they were driving.
You never know the mood you’ll receive. In some ways it’s like the terrible twos but with a whole bunch more of attitude that you cannot carry into a room and give them a time out. It’s kind of like playing the lottery at times wondering if you’ll be ignored or be met with grunts and one syllable answers.
Fine. Yes. No. Seriously. Fine. Ok.
(that’s the extent of the vocabulary some days….)
And if you’re like me – you’re tired, you feel like you’re winging it, your teens drive you crazy and make you proud, you worry, you stay up late and you feel like you don’t have a clue what to do. Well, except buy a whole bunch of food at the grocery store because they do eat us out of house and home. You show up, you love. You work hard, you hope. You learn, you try. You deal with them questioning your love as you give them more love.
So moms in these gap years of motherhood – I see you. I hear your heart. I feel the bittersweet letting go.
Just because we have teens doesn’t mean we don’t need friends or that we have all the answers.
We’re just in this new phase.
And it may not be as cute, nor as Facebook-worthy. We might not be sharing first day of pictures with handmade signs or strategies for the best Elf on the Shelf hiding spot. But there are things that are the same – the no sleep, the worry, the joy, the letting go, the giving of our heart. What matters isn’t perfection, isn’t a car without scratches, it is that you keep on driving. You keep moving.
Even when you don’t exactly know how this teenage story will end up. We just have to talk about it – just as much as we did when they were little.
It’s the feeling of alone that makes it challenging. But if we keep being the village, keep showing up, keep loving each other in this phase just as much as when they were little and we’d deliver meals – well, then, we can get through. And honestly, I think we should start up the meals for moms with teens….just saying…
Breathe, mom of teens, you’ll get through. And you, my sweet friend are not alone in the slammed doors, late night waiting up, text reading, bleacher sitting, college app applying, tears as they grow up journey. They still love you. Trust me. You might go through a giant drought of that love but there will be a day when they look back and think wow, my mom showed up for me.
I remember the day my oldest left and the day she was born and the memories in-between.
There isn’t a season of life, of motherhood, where I stopped loving, stopped giving, stopped trying.
And that sounds like you.
So mom in the teen years – keep on carrying you.
You’re changing lives. One pick up, one text, one talking about the hard stuff, after another.
If you’re looking for a book to challenge your thinking about motherhood and the patterns we get stuck in – my book The Brave art of Motherhood is available now. Get it here -> Autographed or Amazon or Bookstores near you.