Engaging our teens: Keep trying

IMG_8572-1291.jpgI don’t know about you, but as a mom of two teenagers (boy and girl), I am always trying to figure out the best way to engage with them and, in marketing terms, ‘stay relevant.’ 🙂 I feel this pressure now more than ever to try to communicate all the last drops of wisdom and guidance that I can as they begin their journeys into high school and beyond.

But I’m old and they are young and of course I have no idea what I am talking about.

I’m not a parenting expert. I’m just a mom who wants to stay connected to my children. I have always tried to parent with purpose and that will never change no matter how old they are. Yet I feel the very nature of our relationship changing every day – I am still the parent, they are still the children. But my son isover 6′ tall. He picks me up and carries me around the house (I am 5’3″). He has to bend down to hug me properly. He has hairy man legs and size 11 feet but still likes to hold my hand in the car on the way to school. My daughter is taller than me too, but she is a young woman, more inclined to want to borrow my makeup than play games with me. Now we share clothes and I ask her how I look before I go out. (She has great fashion sense.)is over 6′ tall. He picks me up and carries me around the house (I am 5’3″). He has to bend down to hug me properly. He has hairy man legs and size 11 feet but still likes to hold my hand in the car on the way to school. My daughter is taller than me too, but she is a young woman, more inclined to want to borrow my makeup than play games with me. Now we share clothes and I ask her how I look before I go out. (She has great fashion sense.)

I am realizing that as they change, I have to change the way I try to engage with them. Otherwise, how will I know what is really going on?? (I know, I know – I may will never really know.) I have to meet them where they are. I figure, if I am struggling with this, someone else must be, too. (Please say yes!)

Here are a couple of things that I am adding to my parenting ‘mix’ to keep it real and stay connected – please share your ideas, too!

  • Meet them where they are. My son plays xbox religiously. So I am trying to learn Halo Reach. (I think I said that wrong but you know what I mean.) The split screen gives me a headache and I really don’t get it. I get distracted by making my ‘guy’ do funny somersaults and I can’t seem to make him crouch on the bench thingy. But I try. I watch “The Walking Dead” even though I am terrified of zombies because he likes it. Now he covers my eyes during the bad parts.My daughter is on Snapchat and Instagram. So guess where I am?? I try to be quiet and discreet on there (“MOM, why are my friends liking YOUR posts?”). But nothing makes me happier than having my daughter explain something to me that she is an expert in – and getting messages from her there. If it keeps her talking to me, I’m all in.
  • Speak their language. My daughter loves music. We text YouTube videos of favorite songs when we are not together. I see her embracing music that is new to her but that I loved – well, a long time ago. It’s fun to see her reaction to it and find out what she likes about it. She introduces me to new music I never would have found on my own. I learn more through her music about who she is, how she thinks, and what she feels than I ever would any other way. I want to understand her better and music is a language that we both speak. But I share music that tells her who I am, too. Who I was. This feels important.
  • Keep it silly. Sometimes I think – ruh roh, I am being too goofy again, need to tone it down. Like when I make voices for the dog and have pretend conversations with her where she is being quite sassy (she is a 20-pound cockapoo and more cat than dog, she doesn’t have a sassy bone in her body.) But as long as they are still laughing and we can be a family around something so simple and silly – especially after a tough day – I say, keep the goofy coming. They still talk about the time I drew eyebrows on the poor dog. (I tell them she wanted eyebrows like mine and I finally caved.)
  • Keep talking – and hugging. I can’t take closed bedroom doors for too long. I have to knock and then burst in and see what’s going on, sit on the bed, look around, give them a big bear hug or break out with a story that I have to tell them like, right now. Sometimes I just hang out and ask questions. I love to listen to my kids. They ramble. They vent. They show me stuff they did in school. They ask me questions. Sometimes we have deep conversations. Sometimes they sigh. I know I am annoying. But I am like a pesky fly. No matter how many times you shoo me away, I keep coming back. Checking in is important. I learned this recently when my son told me that he missed me texting him while he was at his dad’s house for a few days – normally, I text them every day no matter what. Just to say hi. I’ll send a special photo or quote I think they might like. He doesn’t respond much, so I wasn’t sure it mattered. But he made it clear that it did. Duly noted. 🙂
  • Stay tuned. It’s so easy to just assume they are okay and you’re doing ‘enough.’ I learned this the hard way. I have learned to notice the long stretches of closed doors, the quiet responses, the heaviness in the shoulders from carrying the weight of the world. I try to balance their need for privacy with the need to help them when they can’t or won’t ask for it because – they are older now. It’s different but the same. It’s not easy. I am overprotective. I talk too much. I want to fix everything. But I can’t. So I do a lot of watching, waiting, listening. I try really, really hard to be patient. Really. I hope I am getting better at it. I am sure I will hear about everything I did wrong in five years. 🙂

Recently, I had a vision during an acupuncture session (highly recommend it, btw). I was walking down a path lined with huge leafy trees. My son was on my left, my daughter on my right. We walked for awhile together. Then my son went off on a different path to the left. My daughter went down another path to the right. We were on parallel paths but I could still see them through the trees. (When I told my daughter this, I said I waved to her through the branches and she said – “Yeah, and then I went, ugh, mom!!”)  My son waved back at me from his path and said, “Hi Mommy!”

It was strange, seeing my children, my babies, walking down these separate roads yet still feeling – connected. I guess this is my mind’s visual way of preparing my heart for the letting go. I felt the positive direction of their lives in my bones. This sustains me during stressful times when I am not at all sure where things are going.

In the meantime, I keep walking and watching. And waving. 🙂

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Engaging our teens: Keep trying

  1. This is a great post. I love the way that you know when to keep your kids close and when to let them go. Your kids are lucky to have such a wonderful mama bear! 🙂

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