By Dana Rowland
I was reading an article the other day about how hard it is to be a parent when your babies are little. You endure sleepless nights and even longer days. You don’t know if you are doing the right thing or totally screwing up this tiny, little human. The article was spot on and one I wish I had read when I was in that phase. The problem is, we are way past that phase over here and guess what? This phase is just as hard. You see, my kids are teenagers.
Every phase of parenting comes with its own set of challenges. When they are babies, you are learning together. You have to decipher cries, go on little sleep, figure out feeding and napping schedules. It’s a whole new ballgame and it is very overwhelming. Then you move on to the toddler years where they don’t sit still for a minute so you can’t either. Everything goes in their mouth, from puffs to dog food, and it’s a battle of wills. Adolescence may mean a little more independence because they are in school but that can lead to a whole new set of worries from homework to juggling their activities to their social lives.
Well, guess what folks: roll all that in to one and you get the teenage years. You are back to sleepless nights because now they are driving and even though you are tracking them like crazy on Life 360, are they really being careful? You are still trying to figure out feedings because they will have friends over and eat everything in sight. And the naps? Well, they stay up until midnight so they really do need a nap after school. They don’t sit still for a minute because they are so involved — and if you aren’t, well, you may miss something! They test their independence every chance they get. Yes, they think they are old enough to drive out of town with a group of friends but they may not be responsible enough to get that permission slip signed on time. They juggle homework, jobs, extracurriculars and social media like pros but can’t manage to get their clothes in the hamper. Don’t even get me started on the hormones and mood swings!
Let me tell you, this phase may be the hardest one yet. While they are doing all those things you have to decide when to step in and help and when to stand back and see what happens. As long as we have children, we are never done parenting but I feel like this last phase may be the most crucial. Because you know what? If I screw up at this point, they are going to remember. And some days, I feel like I’m really screwing up. These are the years they are starting to figure out their lives, making important decisions like college and careers and possibly moving away. As parents, do we push them to spread their wings even if we don’t agree, or do we put our foot down because we can’t bear to see them make a mistake? I don’t know if I can push my babies out of the nest without a guarantee that they can fly.
When my kids were little I saw a sign that said, “The days are long but the years are short.” Now that my kids are 13 and 16, I feel like the days are short, too. I feel like we have such a short time to turn these kids into respectable, hardworking adults. We have so many chances to teach them and just as many to screw them up. They are going to do really stupid stuff and totally disappoint us. But you know what? They are going to do just as many things to totally amaze us. It may be something as simple as acing that Spanish test they’ve been struggling with to being kind to a stranger. As a parent, those are the things we need to focus on.
Parents of teens, hang in there. We have a short time left to turn these kids into amazing adults. Don’t beat yourself up when you have to make those hard decisions they don’t like. We are going to make mistakes and they are too, that’s why it’s called growing. In the end, we need to believe they can fly so they believe it too.
Dana Rowland lives in St. Joseph with her husband, two kids and crazy dog. She’s a student, volunteer, baker and freezer-meal maker. She enjoys spending time with family, reading and binge watching Netflix. Read more about Dana and her family on her blog, The Rowland Chronicles.