by Sarah Tolmie
The gap between boy and man is a perilous zone. It is a minefield particularly unsafe for mothers.
My sixteen year old and I are currently occupying territory on either side of an exclusion zone.
It feels like an ancient battle – like the Middle East – I don’t know how it started, it really wasn’t either of our own personal fault, there will be no winner and we both seem blind to solutions.
His bedroom is sovereign land and I am the enemy invader. Neutral territory is the kitchen and food is the language of peace. If I can feed him prior to any hunger induced time bombs going off, we have a temporary cease fire.
I feel the guilt of responsibility that as the parent I may have created ‘the beast’ with too much WiFi and gaming freedom. But, when he adopts his best impression of a man, I am fooled into thinking he is old enough to be more responsible and then get disappointed when he’s not.
His best is reserved for his friends. It must take a lot out of him, because when not with friends all he does is sleep. Suddenly he doesn’t like the beach or anything outdoors or active. In the holidays, he didn’t really rise before midday. Promises to get a summer job dissolved into thin air.
I’m told it’s not unusual. He’s a teenager. It will pass.
But it is hard to watch, and even harder to exert much influence. As the boy and man dance around each other, like the turn of the tide, there is a still zone of inertia. The boy is still there, taking no responsibility and when signs of the man emerge, all parental effectiveness is completely blocked. It is an uncomfortable impasse.
I give gratitudes and touch wood that he is healthy (although he could be vitamin D deficient and needs a good dose of sun), he seems happy (when not with me), he is not interested in drugs, drink or girls (he’d have to leave the house for those!). He is smart and knows what he wants with his goals for school and University and has more than a good chance of achieving them.
So why do I feel so IRKED and UNEASY?! I feel so frustrated and angry too…and it is often directed at him (oh dear…bad mother guilt on extreme levels!) I feel a failure mother and wonder how I could have avoided this. As a mother, I suppose I feel very excluded from his life now. It feels like a painful rejection. Not only that, he actively mocks, belittles and opposes any insights I have to offer. Is my job done? Do I have no influence on him at all anymore?
Well, yes I do. My lesson here is to continue to assert healthy family and life values. They will embed somewhere deeply and all the good groundwork of happy, secure loving will prevail!
I need to not take this personally (an essential life lesson in any situation). I need to remember he is his own person. He is not me. He may have grown in my womb and been raised in my love, but he is NOT ME. Gosh, it would be so much easier if he was me, or at least, a bit similar to me, but he isn’t, he is so different!
He makes his own choices, his own mistakes and chooses his own pathways. I can continue to guide and reflect back and give him the insight to be accountable and mature. Even though it is hard and I may not like this situation and some of his choices, and still I can love, love, love him…and the loving…well that is easy. So I resolve, I will hold him in constant love…it’s the acceptance that is the hard thing, and I am working on that.
It is with a long lens and patient perspective I need to adopt when I look into the future.
Mothers and fathers of teenagers, I salute you. I reach out to you. I am with you! Yes this is hard.
But they, and we, will get through it!