Confidence in Parenting
A few months ago my oldest son commented that he used to think we were such strict parents but now he “gets” most of the rules we had and choices we made as his parents when he was a teenager. This came out of the blue and I was surprised. I’ve always believed my kids would “get” our parenting once they had children of their own. Then they would understand why we tried our best to teach them to be honest, accountable, and to serve others. Then they would understand why we had rules (and stuck to them) even though we knew it wouldn’t make us popular with them in the moment. Once they were raising their own munchkins, then they would understand why parents say “No” sometimes, even when we know it will lead to an explosion. But I’m not “Grandma” yet, so I was shocked to hear these words come out of my son’s mouth.
I mean, how often do you, as the parent, teach and teach and teach your teens, imparting the knowledge and wisdom to them that you’ve gained through your own experiences, only to be met with a roll of the eyes, the silent treatment, or an explosive reaction? How often do you give advice to your teen ~ advice you wish (now) you would’ve received when you were his age ~ only for it to fall on deaf ears because, of course, he already knows everything?
When you are in the trenches of parenting your teenage son ~ especially when you’re consumed with worry about the choices he is making ~ it’s so easy to get caught in the trap of believing that just because he isn’t following your counsel that you must not be saying it right or teaching him correctly. But what if that isn’t true? What if you have taught him in the best possible way even if he’s not doing what you’ve so lovingly (or not so lovingly!) taught him?
This is when I like to remind myself of the many things I have been taught over-and-over, things that never clicked until I was ready to really hear and embrace them myself. Like, how delicious fresh pineapple is (I was already a mother of three when I finally listened to this one). Or that I am a person of intrinsic worth simply because I exist, not because of all the great and wonderful things I’ve done (I learned this in my early 40s). Or that the quality of my mothering isn’t determined by the actions of my child ~ whether good or bad. While I’ve been taught these things for years, and even understood them in theory for quite some time (especially as it applies to other people), embracing these ideas and understanding how they really apply to me, couldn’t happen until I was ready to know for myself.
So, when it comes to you and your parenting, to you teaching your son (you know, the one who knows everything already) about relationships, drugs, or anything ~ it’s so important that you learn to recognize that just because he may not be listening and/or taking your advice right now, it does not mean you aren’t teaching him in just the right way at this particular time.
When my son ran away the first time a wise friend asked me, “Kelly, if someone asked your son what you would expect him to do or say in any particular situation would he know the answer?” I sat and contemplated this for a minute and knew that even though everything seemed to be falling apart in that moment, I could answer with great assurance that my son would know what I expected of him in almost any situation.
Lasting confidence in yourself as a mom can never come from the choices your son makes or doesn’t make. I guarantee there are horrible moms out there with children who grow up to be honest, good, and upstanding adults, just as there are wonderful moms, ones who loved fiercely and taught thoroughly, with children who grow up to be a menace to society.
Lasting confidence in yourself as a mom to your teenager ultimately comes from knowing you’ve taught him well (not perfectly) and loved him (even when you don’t always like him). So even if your I-know-it-all-already-Mom-you-can-stop-preaching-now son doesn’t seem to be listening, remember that doesn’t mean you haven’t taught him; it only means he isn’t ready to embrace it yet.