Let’s take the reins
Happy New Year! I love new beginnings!! It’s a time for the possibility for something to be different, an opportunity to alter my course; sometimes it’s even an opening for a fresh start. This isn’t to say that things cannot change at any time, but since a New Year is upon us I want you to consider this: “How do you want to show up with your teen or young adult child?”
You might be thinking, “Wait, do I really have a choice?” Yes. Yes, you do! Whether your son is completely out of control or you just find yourself consumed with how he should be doing things differently, showing up from a place of anger or fear is not the only choice available to you.
Soon after my son ran away from home we met in the parking lot of a department store for a little chat. As I look back on that experience now, I’m not sure what I expected but I know I didn’t plan for the mean and hateful accusations that were hurled at me. Initially I met his belligerence with my own anger but when I realized I had been sucked into a no-win situation I walked away. Over the next few hours and days I made a conscience choice: for the time being, I would choose to not engage in any type of communication with my son unless I could do it from a place of love. I didn’t make this decision lightly. I didn’t make this decision for my son’s sake. I made this decision for me, because that’s the kind of mom I wanted to be throughout this experience, so I could love myself through this struggle, so at the end of the day (and hopefully at the end of this difficult experience) I could be at peace with my own words and behavior.
Now, please hear me! I am not saying that I always felt love and thought nice, lovely thoughts about my son throughout his time away from us (nor do I always experience loving thoughts and feelings as we continue down a somewhat bumpy road). What I am saying is I (mostly) chose not to engage in interactions with him, whether in person, over the phone or via text, unless I could do so with love as the driving emotion. If he reached out to me or if I had something to say to him, I wouldn’t respond to or engage with him if I was angry, hurt, emotionally exhausted, disappointed, sad, or anything that didn’t resemble love. Although I’m sure this affected my son’s experience with me, my main reason for making this choice was so I could stay true to myself and be OK, at the end of any interaction with him, with my words and behavior. I wasn’t always perfect at it, but I can say that making this choice left me with far fewer regrets than I would have had otherwise.
So, what kind of mom do you want to be in your own experience with your teen or young adult child? I encourage you to really take time to think about it because sticking with your reaction-by-habit is not your only choice.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
Do you think if you drop the anger he’ll think you’re OK with what he’s doing? Sometimes our emotions take us to crazy land and we really believe that unless we’re yelling things will just keep spiraling out of control. What if all those heated exchanges only keep the emotional chaos front and center?
- Do you think if you drop the fear it means you don’t really love him? Sometimes we believe that if we really care about what is going on then we must worry or it will all get worse. But prolonged fear generally gets in the way of inspiration. It also gives the false hope that if we’re scared enough that will encourage our son to make different choices. But, does it?
- Do you believe if you stop being highly disappointed it means nothing will ever change? It’s so easy to believe that somehow your disappointment will eventually make your son give up his ways. But instead, continual disappointment seems to blind us from seeing anything other than disappointment ~ even if little changes are happening along the way. Negative emotions rarely help us behave in ways we can be proud of later, and they almost always ensure we show up in ways we don’t want to. What is your disappointment doing for you?
- What if your son’s current choices are just the experience he needs to learn the lessons he needs to learn? I’ve actually been contemplating this for a while now and have gone from being mostly resistant to it (and almost offended by the suggestion), to seeing how it might be possible, to actually believing it’s highly probable. The other side of this coin is that it just might also be possible that this experience with my son is teaching me the lessons I need to learn in my own life. Is it possible we might look back on this time in our lives with our teenage and young adult children and realize it all happened just the way it was “supposed” to?
What emotion drives your parenting? Is it helping you show up the way you want? It’s easy to believe we cannot control our emotions in the midst of challenge and tragedies, but it’s more helpful to remember we have a lot more power in this than sometimes we think we do.
If you need some help processing some of your answers to these questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A PIECE OF MY HEART: My Goal ~ Stay Connected
We’ve been focusing this month on how we want to show up in our relationship with our son. I understand how it can seem like he has all the control because anything you say or do doesn’t seem to make a difference, but it really isn’t true. Today I want to share an experience I had over six years ago with one of my sons, and with the gift of time and distance I can confidently say today that my choice back then, sitting across the table from my son, has made all the difference for me and for our relationship.
When my 15-year-old son sat across the table from me, telling me he just wasn’t sure he believed in our religion… and that he never had ~ it was as if time stood still and a million scenarios ran through my head at warp speed. I’m sure as a mom you can understand the angst I felt as one of the major things I had spent time on teaching and nurturing in all of my children was kind of being thrown back at me, with a “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I remember that my immediate thoughts centered around what I had done wrong, what I should’ve done differently, etc., but almost simultaneously it was as if there was someone standing in my brain, waving a sign at me that said, “Stay connected to him.”
Things were still moving at “warp speed” in my mind and I thought about the people I knew who had children leave their religion. I knew that for some this change in course from their child had created a huge wall between parent and child, and in that moment I decided that would not be our fate. I didn’t really understand where everything my son was saying was coming from but there was one thing I did know: I wanted to stay connected to him throughout this experience.
So, in the days and weeks and months that followed I chose to become a mom who could listen to a different perspective and share what was important to me. I eventually realized that I don’t have all the answers… and that’s OK. My relationship with his particular son grew and deepened even though his ideologies about life in general and religion in particular grew farther apart from my own.
It’s been over seven years since that conversation with my son but just recently he told me and his Dad that our willingness to listen that day and not just automatically throw out his ideas as hogwash even though he knew we disagreed, even though he knew we wanted him to believe the same things we believe in, showed him that he could trust us and turn to us no matter what. It wasn’t my natural inclination to be understanding as my basic belief system was being heavily questioned but I’m sooooo grateful today that I made the choice to stay connected. It’s made all the difference!
What kind of relationship do you want with your son in five years? Remember, how you show up today matters. Also remember, have a choice. You really do!
QUOTE: Are you a prisoner?
I was watching a documentary a few days ago when I heard this statement made by an Army soldier who fought in Vietnam:
“We tend to fight the next war in the same way we fought the last one. We are prisoners of our own experience.” ~ Sam Wilson
While any student of history can see the truth in this statement, when I heard it I immediately thought of you and how this is good information for all of us struggling in the “fight” with our teenage or young adult sons.
Have you already tried meeting his anger with your own?
Have you already tried being consumed with worry, thinking it will eventually make him change his ways?
Are you becoming exhausted from the roller coaster ride you’re on because you’ve given him the reins?
Just like civilizations and weapons change with time, so do we as moms and so do our children (no matter how old they are!). If you are showing up in the same way you always have and nothing is different, what have you got to lose by answering the question,
“How do YOU want to show up with your child?”
If you haven’t answered that question for yourself, now is the time to discover how you want to show up; then, work to make it happen.
If you get stuck, let me know how I can help. I’m here for you because I know we don’t have to stay miserable or scared or exhausted ~ no matter what our kids are doing. Remember Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Is it time for you to jump off the insanity train?!? Schedule your very own private mini-session with me and we can talk about how you can create your own experience within this shared experience with your son.