Teen Anticipation

“Are you excited?” I asked as we backed out of the driveway.

“I’m terrified,” he replied, rubbing his palms on his thighs.

“You’re awesome either way,” I told him, “and you’ll know tonight.”

“I just want it so bad!” he said, looking over at me. The fluorescent logo on his t-shirt glowed in the morning sun. I merged onto the main road, hoping for traffic slow downs on the way so I could enjoy his company for a few extra minutes.

I looked over at Jack and remembered how, three years earlier, he hadn’t wanted to join the marching band. Now it wasn’t something he would consider not doing. The boy that always says, “let’s just forget it and go home” when things don’t go well is the one who gets up an hour early on the days he has band.

“Aaaahhh! I just wanna know!” he says. Then something catches his eye in oncoming traffic. “Ooo, check out that black Ferrari,” he says, grateful to the break in anxiety.

“Nice,” I reply, and wink at him. Every day we’re on the lookout for super cars.

He switches the radio to the iPod and turns on our favourite driving song. We’re only one song away from school now.

“If I make it into drumline I still get a new drum pad right?”

“Of course. You need something better to practice on.”

He brightens up.

“I’m full of knots!” he says, fidgeting in his seat.

I drop him off and I notice he has a hop in his step. Halfway to the door he stops and turns and runs back to the car with his sunglasses in hand. “I forgot,” he says and hands them to me.

“See you later! I loooove you!” I tease him after seeing that there is no one around to hear me.

On the drive home I put our song on repeat even though I feel like I’m cheating on him in some way. I’m full of nerves too. He’s worked hard but we both know it’s not a given that he gets a drum. I say a prayer of gratitude for what this nervous anticipation is teaching him about patience and perseverance and I thank God for bringing us here. I also pray for patience and for wisdom so I can comfort him if things don’t work out.

the story of a young mother

I thought I would tell you the story of a young mother that used to yell at her kids so loudly that she wouldn’t be able to talk for hours afterwards. Her throat would burn and her head would throb like a beating drum. She would put her children in their rooms and sit in the hallway sobbing as she forced herself to not go in and throw them against the wall, over and over again. She would shiver and shake and cry until her clothes were soaked through, all the while visioning the violence. When she went to classes to get help, either no one believed her or they told her it was all her fault and she should just stop. Everywhere she went people said that anyone who hurts a child was a monster and should be locked up forever. But she didn’t feel like a monster all the time, just some of the time. The rest of the time she was a fun and caring mother that would take her kids to the park and make Thomas the Tank Engine characters out of construction paper. She didn’t know if she was really a monster inside or if she was really good inside; which was her true self?

If I was telling you this story I would tell you that one Tuesday afternoon this young mother put her kids down for a nap and turned on CityLine. There was a therapist on, Joe Rich, talking to Marilyn Denis about perfectionism and what it looks like and how harmful it is. It looked like drawings of her were coming out of his mouth, swirling around the stage, the TV, and then around her. She called her husband and her parents and asked if it was true.

“Of course you are.”

“You’ve always been that way.”

“It’s just the way you are.”

The young mother sat on the cold tile floor in the kitchen and cried. It was a different cry than her usual sobbing. Finally she understood why she was so awful. Finally she had hope that maybe the monster wasn’t her true self. She wanted to change forever right then but change is much harder than that. But day by day she worked on it. And day by day she got a little bit better. And one day she went to bed and realized that she hadn’t been angry at all that day. Another day she was able to be compassionate instead of angry when something spilled on the floor. And slowly she shrunk the monster. It will always be there, but thanks to that one Tuesday afternoon, the monster only comes out once in a while. At least that’s the way it would end if I was telling you the story.

the twinges of having teens

I wasn’t expecting to be emotional when my oldest got a job. He already had a driver’s license and he’d been away several times without us (I was emotional then too). He had looked for a job for a couple of months, sending out more than a dozen resumes, and then when he got the job I was quite excited for him. It’s such a big life moment! It was when he got the call from his boss with the starting date that I suddenly wanted to cry. I don’t even know why! I don’t know if it was just an emotional week or the clutter in the house from the renovations but I wanted to cry for his first two days. It was probably good that he worked five days straight for his training.

There was this ridiculous part of me that felt like he was leaving. Like he’d chosen the job over me. It’s so stupid, and I knew that it was stupid of me to feel that way, so I worked to get over it and not express that nonsense to him. It’s not like I really feel that way, it’s just some bizarre perversion of feelings that I had on his first two days. It’s so much fun to hear about his day and get to hear all his stories and I am so thrilled that he is enjoying it. He’s now on his fourth day and I’m not emotional about it anymore, although it does feel like the clock is ticking to the day when they’ll both be gone. And that’s okay too. [Insert deep breath here]

The whole point of parenting is to raise your kids to be successful, independent adults. Keeping them dependent is not the goal at all, yet sometimes my emotions make me want to keep him here forever. Maybe my emotions were pride too, I’m so very proud of him and how cool he is. I was not like that at all when I was a teenager. He’s so mature and awesome.

I think the emotional upheaval will be the norm for a while. Everything they do without me gives me that little twinge and I remember the days when I got to carry them on my hip and help them with everything. It’s so great for them though, to be out on their own without me, doing things that they want to do. I listen to parents of little ones and they are so busy with all the little things that come up every day that they can’t wait for their babies to be independent. I want to tell them it will come far too fast and they will long for these baby days but I don’t say anything. I remember hearing that when I had little ones and I hated it because it seemed so hard at the time. And I didn’t believe it until it happened to me. So now I enjoy the old memories and create new, different ones. There are great and wonderful things about each stage of growing up, including our growing as parents.