When my boys were still in elementary school, I remember hearing older parents say that “girls are easier to raise when they’re young but harder when they get to high school. Boys are just the opposite– harder at first but much easier to parent as teens compared to girls.” They were referring to female wiles, tears, mood swings, and relationship drama.
Of course these are generalizations and there are always moms who feel differently. Take me, for instance. I thought, little boys are difficult to parent? What are they talking about? My boys are fun, intelligent, loveable, and loving! I often went to bed a happy, confident mom. Hands down, I found other aspects of life and other relationships more stressful and aggravating than mothering sons. Rambunctious, active, and mischievous they may have been, but still the young boys were no match for this clinician mom’s therapeutic parenting skills.
As I go into more details in my memoir/self-help book, these tried and true interventions include attachment parenting, Love and Logic, the Nurtured Heart Approach, nondirective play therapy skills, parent child interactive therapy skills, and 123 Magic, among others. It probably helped me as a young, perfectionist mother to have all the books and training in my professional work with clients be relevant to raising my own kids. Though the children did not present with special needs, such as attachment issues, developmental delays, medical needs, ADHD, or other mental illness, I still found the therapeutic approaches to be very helpful to raising the boys from infancy.
Come teenage years and the road became riddled with unexpected, intense emotions that burst like boobie traps. Then there’s the relationship drama like the darkness filled the air. Rebellious, disrespectful attitudes pepper-sprayed with limit testing and other unpredictable events filled this part of the journey. Nothing from my parenting toolbox seemed to work. It seems that as the kids gain their confidence and voice, you start to lose yours! Either it’s the hormones, the cortisol brain that looks like it’s on drugs, or if you’re me, it might very well be the notion that I had jinxed myself by writing a best practices book on parenting when I was not quite out of the woods yet! Really, how did my journey become so backwards compared to other moms? Where did I go wrong? I’m going to re-read my book again to get this parenting thing straight!
I’m not suggesting that my happy, mannerable, smart boys have turned the opposite as they’ve matured. No, their dad and I still feel blessed to be their parents. But the day to day feelings that parents go through while raising teenagers, girls or boys, if they haven’t hit you during the children’s preadolescent years will hit you later. It finally caught up with me while I was writing my book, and overtook me just after I published it. I’m still clearing my way out of the ambush as I write this piece. It’s possible that the journey became rougher because I became more sensitive to my adolescent and my teen’s every remark, criticism, or unhappiness. Cue the sleep deprivation, doubts, anguish, paranoia, fears, etc…
What about you? Do you find yourself struggling with daily frustrations, doubts, or worry? Are you in one power struggle after another, one drama after another with your teen? Do you wonder if you’re really equipped to do this hard job? Maybe for the first time, you are considering therapy or medications for your precious child–who doesn’t need some extra support? And the toughest question you might have entertained, in my opinion: how did I screw up so badly?
Well, join the club! Chances are, if you are asking these vulnerable, raw questions now, you are a conscientious parent on the right path. At least that’s what we can comfort ourselves with. While we journey together through this thick part of the forest, let’s encourage one another. Let’s cheer each other on, share helpful tips learned through the school of hard knocks. Let us judge less, compare less, shame and guilt trip less often, whether to ourselves or to our fellow sojourner parents.
And see ya on the other side! I hear that it gets better!