Last night, I got back from Paris…
I ran into our house and enveloped the boys in bear hugs. They looked like they’d each grown a foot since Tuesday, and it was such a happy reunion.
For the next hour, we had tacos and hung out, and then I shifted into Mom Mode™ and announced that it was time to turn off screens, take showers, and get ready for bed. We were all exhausted, and this scene ensued:
“Can’t I just play video games?” asked one of them.
“No, it’s time for bed,” I answered.
“Come on, Mom, please?!!”
“No, honey, it’s definitely bedtime.”
And then came those dreaded words of an overtired preteen: “Ugh, Mom! I hate you!” and the bedroom door slammed.
Standing there in the hallway, at first, I grouchily thought to myself, FINE! I do so much for you guys, and I left for only five nights so I wouldn’t be gone for too long, and I’m awake for you right now even though I’m jet-lagged and tired… I wanted to stomp my foot and go into my room and not say a word so he’d feel bad and have to come find me — a melodramatic approach I might have done to a friend back in high school.
But then! Then!!! I came to my senses and remembered this comment from Caroline, a CoJ reader: “Let your teens have the last word most of the time. Don’t give up your expectations or consequences, but let them let off a little steam and frustration… by being a bit angry or sassy. They have heard you and are digesting your advice or limitations on their behavior.”
Of course, I realized, I wasn’t going to play mind games with my CHILD. He gets to express his big emotions to me. He gets to be his whole self around me. He gets to have ‘upper hand’ with me, if he wants or needs that right now. I am his rock and can show him grace. He should always know and feel that my love is constant and steadfast and unconditional.
I took a quick break in my room. And then, since he’s 10 and I’m 44, I went to his door and knocked.
“…yes?” came the voice inside.
“Hi, honey, I love you, and I’m sorry you’re upset. Would you like company or alone time?”
“Alone time, I guess.”
“Okay, I’ll just be in my room, if you need me.”
A few minutes later, he drifted into to my room, climbed onto my bed, and put his head on my shoulder. And, to help him feel it deep in his bones, I said again: “You can and will have all sorts of feelings toward me, and that’s okay. I can handle it.” And I added the sentence my mom always told us: “There’s nothing you could do or say that would ever make me not love you.”
Makes me teary just to think about. Ahh, it’s hard! Honestly, I want to write it down here so that I will remember: Life and relationships are complicated, even (especially?) between parents and children, and it can be tempting, especially with older children, to slip into sulkiness or battles. But I’m going to try my best to lead with warmth and empathy, especially on the hard days when they need it most. I’m working that muscle and hope to strengthen it more and more through their teenage years.
Thoughts? I would LOVE to hear what has worked for you, since I’m new to this teenage game. Please share your insights below, if you’d like… thank you!!
P.S. 21 completely subjective rules for parenting teenage girls and teenage boys.
(Photo from the movie Ladybird.)