Parenting teenagers can be lonely.
I mean, it can be hilarious, energizing, challenging…but also really quite lonely.
May I share a few reasons why?
For starters, a parenting fact that has been scientifically proven is that eventually toddlers grow up.
Our itty bitties gradually then rapidly turn into adult-sized people. And as much as they change, so too does our parenting journey.
Before these ponderings, allow me to rewind a decade or so.
My second born was a biter. And my first born liked to be mostly naked. An unfortunate combination. Biting tendencies + exposed flesh = wails/yelps/tears.
So I did what every responsible mom does. I googled.
The obvious searches such as “How to stop a biter.” “Nine simple steps to cure your toddler from biting.” “Will my biter face a life of imprisonment?”
And in my cyber scavenger hunt, I found a glimmer of hope. A pearl of wisdom that would surely end the unfortunate battle of Diapered Chomper vs McNaked.
I sat the victim down and explained that the answer to his flesh wounds was hot sauce. Just a teeny, tiny, probably legal dab of hot sauce on Diapered Chomper’s lips at the next scene of the crime would solve this problem indefinitely. And allow all scars to heal.
Did it work? First I needed to find a safe place to go for real answers.
Finding Parenting Support Early On
I quickly realized as a Mom that I needed community. When the walls closed in, children sat on each other’s heads or one kid’s teeth found their way to another one’s belly.
I craved friendship and encouragement unlike any other stage of my life. And I am so grateful I found it.
Have you experienced that deep exhale of relief? The one that comes from soul sharing with another parent.
When they look you in the eye and tell you that you are not alone. That their kid did THE EXACT SAME THING only even worse.
I love that feeling. Sigh.
My Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group became my safe haven in the early years of mothering. A humble group of moms rolling in weekly wearing yoga pants accessorized with coffee-to-go.
We established rules early on. No judgement, just support. We would arrive frazzled and leave refreshed. Exchange insecurites for empowerment. Heavy shoulders for postures of hope.
It was at such a group that I heard a story from a mom further in the journey who had also raised a biter (not on purpose). And she too was certain a life of violence filled his future. Guess what? He did not spend his life in prison. He grew to be a responsible human being.
I know – I could hardly believe my ears.
I left that morning with hope even though I still had a biter. My situation had not changed but I knew everything would be okay.
But Parenting Teenagers Can Be Lonely
When you parent a teenager a lot changes, almost overnight.
- They likely stop biting.
- Even if they did still bite, you could not talk about it because you wouldn’t want to embarrass them. Teenagers care about privacy far more than toddlers do. Every challenge feels deeply personal, often for good reason.
- You care for your teen deeply and want to protect them from the judgement you are sure would come if people knew they were a…”biter.”
So parents of teens find themselves splashing around murky uncharted waters. Alone. Which is perspective draining and lonely. Indescribably lonely.
We can’t share the stories like we used to. The smiling quips or eye rolls that begin with “You’ll never believe what little Johnny did this week….” Biting is funny. The teenage version of challenges is not.
And the stories are no longer ours to share freely.
But we still need that support. Clarity that comes from voicing the struggle out loud. Wisdom that arrives gently in community.
I am learning that this stage of parenting requires a different kind of community. One or two trusted friends who will still listen without judgement. And offer the kind of wisdom the internet never can.
Find a safe person who will hear your sad. And your mad. And keep quiet confidences while still reassuring that it will be okay.
Chase perspective. Run after hope. Do not stop this pursuit until you find these.
So what happened to my biter?
At the mere mention of hot sauce, my eldest said, “Please don’t do that Mom. He probably just thinks I’m a piece of pie.”
Soon after, this sentiment was forgotten. McNaked hauled off and chomped the Chomper himself. While I wouldn’t have suggested it, this actually worked much better than any cyber ideas. As for me? I got a good story to tell.
While they were still young.
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