I admit it. I am guilty of saying some parenting cliches I end up disagreeing with down the road. I have whispered to other parents with little children, “Don’t worry, it gets easier.” But that this isn’t true.
Parenting is a journey. You start with the needs of an infant and then graduate to the chaos of toddlers. You finally reach school age and an entirely different set of needs emerges. Children hit the pre-teen years, which is the most awkward phase of them all, only to reach the teenage years that we all remember so well.
Parenting doesn’t get easier, it just changes.
Parenting my pre-teen and teenage sons is more of a mentally exhausting game than a physical one. I am constantly trying to connect with them on a mental level, giving reasons why we do chores and teaching them responsibility before their 18th birthday. I have to be prepared for disrespectful comebacks and sassiness that is not tolerated in our home.
It can sometimes feel like a sick and twisted mind game. I can’t fault the kid who tries to creatively weasel their way out of something by concocting a fantastic story or excuse. That is just how it is at this point. The battles to teach respect, keep up on homework and how to deal with friend issues causes this mama’s head to spin.
Raising teens is an equal mix of joking with your kid and sharing the same interests but having to put your foot down when needed. I find myself comforting a hormonal child that can’t see the big overarching picture of puberty. I had to step back from the crazy to realize that raging testosterone mixed with awkwardness and insecurity can blend into a real cryfest on my shoulder. And my teens are boys! I am bracing for my daughter as she reaches her teenage years and will most likely deal with more affairs of the heart.
Other times, I find myself trying to teach my teen that being kind is vital. Seriously, you won’t get far in life without it. Those big life lessons are the ones that scare me more than anything. There is a finish line, and I need to get through to these boys in order for them to be nice human beings once they leave my house.
I may not be physically exhausted with late night feedings anymore, but I am feeling the mental toll of teenagers. I lose sleep over how to care for their emotional and mental needs because every stage of parenting is hard in different ways.
Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois. Visit her website at www.mamabearmoxie.com.
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