Being a parent of teenagers and adults is a lot like walking around with PTSD, all while the trauma reoccurs over and over again, day after day, of which no amount of counseling could ever help.
I feel like if you could take all the exhaustion you felt in the first five years of their life and turn into heartache, that’s what parenting teens and adults feels like. But no one talks about it. No one talks about how your kid getting bullied hurts exponentially more than the worst thing any kid ever said to you in adolescence. No one ever tells you that watching your kids deal with and try to overcome sin will crush your heart and make you hate the devil with a new and intense passion. No one ever tells you that the WIFI world we live in will exhaust you to the point that you will feel absolutely hopeless when it comes to protecting your kids from all that is preying on them, working to steal your kids’ minds, hearts, and even their bodies.
We live in a unique time when parenting young adults is beyond exhausting. It feels impossible.
I remember complaining as a young mother of young children, to older more mature mothers, how exhausted and miserable I felt, and there was this look they all gave me. I couldn’t understand the totally foreign expression on their faces, but now, with one adult child out of the house, 2 teenagers, and one pre-teen in my house, I understand the look all too well.
The look says, “Oh honey. If you only knew that, while it is absolutely physically exhausting right now, these are the easiest times of your journey in motherhood. If you only knew the pain and suffering that is on its way, and there isn’t a thing you can do about it except suffer in silence like every mother that has gone before you. If only you knew the physical exhaustion you feel right now doesn’t compare to the emotional and spiritual exhaustion you will feel in the future. If you only knew.”
It was the look of teen induced PTSD on their face. They were wondering, should I tell her? No, that will re-traumatize me, and I just can’t deal with all those emotions and feelings of failure again. I need to survive this.
Because honestly, we all know if we said that to that young mother, she would say what we all said, “Not MY kid!”
Yes, Mama, your kid.
Not only that, but who wants to be the Debbie Downer? Not me.
I get it now.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my almost grown-up kids. They make me proud every day in all different ways, but the heartaches they endure and create in me have taken years off my life.
The funny thing is, I knew it the day they were born. I knew it because I knew that I had given birth to a sinful human being, just like myself, and I knew what a wretch I was. I knew they would be no better than I could be, and no matter what I did or how hard I tried, they would be just as wretched. I knew my heart was gonna break in ways I could never have imagined, because it loved in a way I had never imagined, and for the first time, I understood God’s love for me, even when I break His heart. I whispered to each one of my babies as they slept close to my heart, “Please don’t break my heart too much.”
The best part of the teen and adult years so far (I’ve only been dealing with them for 8 years), has been the wins. The hardest part is recognizing the wins because they fall in the midst of the most difficult and traumatic moments as a parent.
For example, today I had two BIG wins, but in reality they feel like HUGE failures.
Kid #1 experienced a great deal of conflict and trauma within his relationships with others, some of which he is responsible, but he felt the manner in which he was treated was not fair or acceptable.
At first I felt that I had encouraged the wrong choices for him and put him in a place he should not be. I prayed through it, trying to believe God is maturing him and teaching him conflict resolution, even when it is most difficult, but it feels to me like I am leaving him in harms way, which is the exact opposite of what my instincts as mama bear tell me to do.
This morning I was praying through it, again, when I realized, this is a HUGE WIN!
He was faced with a difficult and, what he felt, was an unfair situation and treated poorly. His final response was a humble apology and the desire to learn to do better as well as remorse for losing his own temper in the midst of a heated discussion.
Was he at fault? Yes. He did some things wrong. Was he treated unfairly? Yes, and most young men would have immediately begun to fight and defend, not humbly apologize.
He may not be perfect, but what I’ve wanted more than anything for him is to become a man of integrity and godly character, not a perfect human being. His response was the result of his godly character. (Insert huge heaving sobs as I begin to understand my own shortfalls even more, praising God for a son that chooses love, humility, and kindness over vengeance and retaliation. As well as begging for forgiveness for not having the same character).
Kid #2 is caught red handed. I ask. He lies. I begin to investigate because I know he’s lying, so he confesses.
The win was not only in his confession, but it continued following his confession.
“Mom, can I have a hug?” (Insert more heaving sobs as I hold my baby that is much bigger than I now).
I was curious, “Why did you ask for a hug?”
“Because I felt really lonely in that moment, and I did something hard.”
Oh, my word! Isn’t that the goal? Not a perfect human that never makes bad choices, because we all know, they are gonna make bad choices. As a parent we need to teach them what to do next when they make a bad choice. We want them to grow to be an adult that can do the hardest thing of all on this planet, that is admitting when we are wrong. That’s the goal! That’s the win!
Not only that, but he immediately wanted me to comfort him. He didn’t stomp away angry at me. He didn’t yell at me or make excuses. He just asked for a hug from the one person to whom he had to admit his shame.
In that moment I could see Jesus, arms open and smiling. “Come home, Child. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, come home.”
I was reminded that my job as a parent isn’t to teach my kids to be perfect, and their bad choices don’t make me a failure as a parent. My job as a parent is to teach my kids what to do when they mess it all up. My job is to teach them that when they make a bad choice, as we all do, and when other people mess up, to seek forgiveness and reconciliation and come home to the arms of Jesus.
In all honesty, I have a lot to learn from both of them. I want to retaliate and be angry. I NEVER want to confess my bad choices. I am still working on those two godly traits that they seem to have mastered.
Now excuse me while I try to heal from the PTSD caused by this one day in the life of a mom of teenagers.