One of the biggest compliments most mothers can ever receive from other parents is
“You’re such a good mum.”
Most of us strive to be good parents but too often we feel like total frauds, as our kids drive us crazy, we lose our tempers and we struggle to see where we’re going to get the patience to get through another day. What makes this worse is seeing all the other mothers around us seeming to get it right as they post their perfect lives on social media and regale us with stories of little Bobbys latest achievements.
The truth though, is that most of the people who like to make us feel small by rubbing our faces into how perfect their children are the biggest frauds of us all…
When you reach your late 40s like me, oftentimes your kids are teenagers, or in their early 20s – reaching a time of life when, according to the text books, you should be getting them off your hands as they grow up and move off to have lives of their own… Yeah…that’s what they tell you. Increasingly though this isn’t the case, as kids stay home for longer and become independent so much later. Where little ones drive you mad whinging and fighting amongst themselves, I don’t think it’s until they reach the deadly teens and early 20s that you can truly appreciate how easy they really are at that age when almost any issue can be resolved by some time out and redirection, or even just a cuddle.
Teenagers on the other hand, need to take risks…it’s part of their DNA and for teenagers who feel secure at home, the best “risk” they can take is to revolt against their family. Being “revolting” can involve anything from accusing their parents of not understanding them, to staying out late without telling anyone where they are or what they’re doing, refusing to clean their rooms, or any other mess they make – and they make plenty – and screaming as though you’ve asked them to slice off their own head if you dare to insist that they do. At this age they argue with everything, ask your opinion and then scream if you give them the “wrong” one…they’re irrational, pig headed and really bloody obnoxious at times! Tiring…and as a mother of 5 between 13 and 25, believe me, there have been times when I’ve seriously thought “What the fuck was I thinking??”
Mostly however, at the end of the day, for all of the kicking and screaming they do, kids who feel secure at home will eventually grudgingly comply with the rules there, even as they loudly complain about how much they hate it…and you. I’ve learned not to take that personally.
As society becomes busier and busier and parents are forced to work more and more to keep up with the cost of living, kids can feel less and less secure and less able to impress their parents with their risk taking, or new skills and less able to make them angry with their silly choices, ugly clothes, turkey butt haircuts…because we aren’t there. So more and more they turn to their friends as an audience worth impressing. Society doesn’t really cater for kids between 13 and 18 – especially if they aren’t really sporty types – and so they will get together to impress each other instead, smoking, drinking, taking drugs and having unsafe sex.
In many ways, kids in this age group need their parents around them as much as an infant does. They’re physically independent but emotionally they still need to know that someone is interested in what they’re doing – in the effort that they’re making. They need people around them just as we all do, even if they act as though they couldn’t give a crap! You need to be around so that they can criticise the way you think, the way you dress, your political views, your crappy music, the ridiculous things you find interesting, the “old people” shows you watch on TVs. They need to have something to break away from, anything that can show that they are nothing like you and will one day be able to show you how to live your life better.
You have to be stable so that they can be erratic. So that they can yell at you and blame you and hole you responsible for every bloody thing going wrong in their lives. Their skin, their crappy hair, their bad grades, their poverty and their non existent social life. Don’t worry about “quality time”. At this age, they don’t want quality time with you…they need quantity time. That doesn’t mean gazing into their eyes as you have in depth debates about things or even being in the same room. It just means being there if they come out of their room and want to talk, or yell, or throw a tantrum, being there to see them rebel and to give a shit when they do. It means being there to give hugs when hearts are broken or just sitting next to them as they cry it out.
A few years ago as I was bitching to a friend about my selfish, self centred then 17 year old son, a friend of mine made statement that I haven’t been able to forget,
“What you have to understand hon is that at that age, all you are to him is money and a lift…if you can’t provide either of those things then what good are you??”
A house full of screaming kids and fighting teenagers and a parent who’s being thrown every curve ball is a healthy one, even if it doesn’t feel that way. That’s what shows that you are a good parent…a good mother…not the perfect Facebook statuses, or the picture perfect children who’ve never given you an ounce of trouble but the bitching, whinging ones who eventually grow out of that and wonder how you ever put up with them.