Good morning, Mamma. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be close to your teenagers – you can stay close, even through their teen years.
This truth was a gift given to me by a woman I met in passing, many years ago. As I recall, my daughter was about ten years old at the time. Over a working lunch, I mused out loud about how I dreaded the teen years and how daughter and I would inevitably drift apart.
“Nah, that’s SO not true” lunch-lady said, getting my attention. “There’s no reason you can’t stay close. Don’t buy into that crap. Just keep talking to her.”
(It amazes me that this comment, made in passing by an almost total stranger, changed my life. God moments.)
Our oldest was about fourteen at the time. The next time he got a little surly, I said to him, thinking of my lunch-lady-sage, “Hey, honey. I know that you are turning into a man. I know that you are going to need to grow into your own life and be independent from me, make your own decisions, be your own person, I get that and I respect it. I get that you need to separate yourself from me to make that happen. I will let you be independent. I will let you be your own person. You don’t have to push me away, okay?”
The effect of this little speech was shocking. My son’s guard came crashing down. He went from pushing me away to something more like, “Wait! I’m not ready to be independent from you yet!” He thanked me and hugged me and said something about how he still needed me.
I repeated the speech to son maybe once or twice more over the years and added, “I’m still going to call you on your decisions if I see you going somewhere I think is beneath you or unhealthy, but it’s because I want you to be the best man you can be.”
Somewhere around age thirteen, I said the same to daughter, again, not more than two or three times total. It had the same dramatic effect with her. The same stop-the-presses kind of moment.
I let my kids know that I recognized and respected that they would need to be their own independent self, and that part of that would include a separation from mom. I also let them know that I would continue to love them, no matter what. I framed my advice as just that, advice, and not an effort to control their lives.
For us, it worked. Thank you wonderful lady-at-lunch. A thousand times, thank you.
You can still stay close. Even as they are breaking away. Expectations are so very powerful. And truth, and love, and respect, those are powerful too.
You’ve got this, Mamma.