Welcome, Mamma Crew, to our first episode of 2021!
Unbelievable! I’ve been doing this for a year and a half! This year will be the start of the second year. Who knows, right? The important thing is that we’re still going. So, what is this first episode going to be about? Well, it’s going to be about parenting in 2021!
Now, believe it or not, in 2020, my most significant concern or my biggest challenge was not the pandemic (Check out 11 pandemic parenting lessons!). It was that my girls became teenagers. Now, they have been giving me a taste of how parenting was going to change in 2020. But I did not realize the challenges I would be facing until December. Why did you ask? Because previously, only one of the girls was acting “teenage-y.” Now all three have gotten in the game! And it can be such an incredible challenge.
Number one, because I had to let go of the fact that they were no longer children. They’re teenagers, and there’s a big difference in the way that they behave. When they were children, they had their challenges, but overall my kiddos were sweet, good kids and did what we asked them to do. Now, they’re teenagers, and they challenge everything. Everything! “Pick up the dirty dishes you have in your bedroom” becomes a thirty-minute discussion. And as a parent, that can be incredibly frustrating! You have so many other things to do, and you’re sitting there wondering, “Why am I discussing this? Just pick up the dishes and take them to the kitchen sink!” But no, it turns into a thirty-minute discussion.
So, yes. Things have changed. So that means I have to adapt, right? They can’t control their emotions right now, and they can’t control their actions a lot of the time. So, the one that has to be the captain of the ship is mom. And yes, dad. Dad has to help the captain. Do you hear that, dads? Have to help mom. Because let’s face it, for the most part, mom is the one that handles the kids. We are the default parent. And for me, it’s a wonderful privilege, but even so, it can be exhausting. So exhausting!
So, first things first. What I find is that I have to keep reminding myself that even though the girls look more like adults, they are not adults. And this is so hard because you are looking at them (in my case, I have three that looked like grown women). I have one that is as tall as I am nowadays. And you want to treat them as adults, and they’re asking you to treat them as adults but yet can go from behaving like an adult one second to behaving like a two-year-old having a tantrum the next. But you have to respect the process. Their brains, their bodies are swamped with hormones that they never had to face before, and they’re still developing. No matter how sophisticated your teen is, they’re also naive about what’s out there in the world.
Now you might say, “Well, you don’t know our circumstances,” and that’s very true. I don’t. But I can certainly remember what it was like for me. I was a teenager with way too many responsibilities, who knew about things that most adults don’t learn about until they are in their 20’s; and was part of a family in which things were discussed, not just honestly, but often brutally. I thought I was very mature, (and I was!) — but I was still naive. I still didn’t understand how interrelated actions and consequences are. Nor did I understand that the most innocent act can have unforeseen consequences. I really thought that things were black and white, kind of clear cut. There was a right and a wrong, and they were no shades of gray in there.
And today, when I’m having discussions with my teenagers or arguments with my teenagers, I find myself reliving those moments. And frankly, it’s a good thing because it forces me to stop, slow down, and see their perspective, which, trust me, when you have the fifth argument for the day, is not that easy to do. And I have to be honest with you, being an older mom at this stage both helps and hinders. It helps in that I’m probably more patient than I would have been if I was thirty-five or forty. But at the same time, I get tired easier. You know I’m starting to get age spots. I’m starting to slow down (and that has nothing to do with the health issues I have. That’s another story altogether!).
And sometimes, by the end of the day, when they get into one of their… (what should we call them — discussions, to be neutral?). I just really want to say, “Just shut up, and do what I’m asking you to do.” I never have, and I hope I never will. I do sense it when I’m exhausted, and I just need it to be over. And at that moment, I am forcing myself more and more to take a breath, take a pause, remember that they are teenagers. And that lucky me, I have three that are exactly the same age—thirteen years old. So, I really try to back up. Take a breath. Tell myself it’s going to be okay, and then move forward.
Second point—and a very important point—is teens behave as though every decision they make is the final decision, right? In today’s society, it’s easier for them to explore gender than it ever was before, and they flip-flop back and forth. Yet you have to respect that they are searching for their identity. They are searching for who they want to be, whether you agree with it or not. And oftentimes, you need to remember it is all temporary. This is the way that they feel today. This is not the way they’re gonna feel tomorrow or maybe a month from now or maybe two months from now. They’re just starting their journey. And they’re not just exploring gender; my girls are also exploring politics. Are they Democrats? Are they Republicans? Do they like the candidates? They all agree they don’t like Trump, and they definitely agree they don’t like Biden. So, they don’t like either candidate. So, what are you supposed to do when you don’t like or respect either candidate?
What about their cultural background? They’ve never explored the fact that their mother is Mexican. So, what does that mean for them? All of a sudden, they’re exploring their Hispanic Heritage, something they have really never looked into before. And they’re asking more about my history, my parents’ history, my grandparents’ history. They’re exploring what it’s like to be a woman. Whose definition of womanhood are they going to use? The media tends to portray women as weak, constantly in need of help, or as bitches that no one likes, or live alone in a hovel with six cats. Or are they going to find something in between? Are they going to define themselves the way that I define myself? No way, Jose! Let me tell you, that’s not gonna happen because right now, they are individuating. They don’t want to be like me even though they respect me. They don’t want to be like me. They want to find their path.
So much of our teenage years are about rejecting our parents’ values and who our parents are. It doesn’t matter that down the line, we incorporate a lot of who our parents were into our lives. In our teenage years, we reject it. And I have to remember not to be offended by that because sometimes they say something perfectly innocent that is so incredibly hurtful. I feel like they just got a knife and plunged it into my heart. But that’s not what they’re doing; they’re just finding their way. So, I have to balance respecting that search, their quest, that we all have gone through without losing my temper. I am not lashing out just because they’ve hurt my feelings or because I’m tired, or because I’m losing my patience. I need to give them that space.
So, this is challenging not just for them, but for me, because again, it’s a constant reminder: Don’t take offense. Take a breath. Listen to their perspective. Listen to their point of view. Help them on this journey. Facilitate this journey. Walk to the side, not in front and not behind, because there will be times in that journey when they will stumble. And oftentimes, we have to allow them to stumble. We have to allow them to fall. We should not pick them up. They need to learn from their mistakes. And that is so hard! But when they fall, when they’re hurt, I remind myself that it’s my job to sit next to them (Ugh! Tears are coming), not pick them up, be there for them in the way my girls need me to be by allowing them to get up on their own, to be independent, to be their cheerleader, and be a shoulder to cry on when they need to.
Just like when they have great success, I need to be there—not to demand the continuation of that perfection but to encourage them to continue on that journey, to congratulate them, to be their cheerleader. And it’s so difficult because as parents, we’ve been intervening; we’ve been active participants, and now we have to stand on the sidelines. It’s a very difficult transition.
And I have to remember, point three, that teens often feel overwhelmed. We don’t understand because we’re thinking, “Okay. We have to worry about our roof. We have to worry about meals. We have to worry about medical insurance. We have to worry about our children. We have to worry about so many things as adults, right?
And then, in the middle of something wrong in your adult life which you have to balance with your family life, your teenagers start telling you how stressed they are. And you’re like, “What the hell are you talking about?” You’re homeschooling in your comfortable home. You don’t have to rush from class to class. You don’t have an overwhelming amount of deadlines this year. You have a supportive group of friends. You have parents that are supportive and that provide things that I only dreamt of as a child. But here are my privileged teenagers that had a great, fantastic Christmas that technically get a second Christmas on Three Kings day. Yes! Hispanics, we have a second Christmas. And they’re stressed, or they have an anxiety attack, or they’re acting out for no apparent reason.
Again, I tell myself, “Take a breath.” Take a breath. Just because their world is smaller, doesn’t mean that in that small world, they’re not facing challenges, they’re not facing anxiety, and they’re not stressed out, okay? Their world might be small, but it’s still their world, and they still live in it, and they can have challenges, anxiety, and all the plethora, all the rainbow, all the cornucopia of feelings and stresses that we feel. It’s how they begin to learn how to cope with stresses later on in their lives. So, I have to help them navigate something that, to me, doesn’t seem like a big deal, but that I know, I know, and I have to respect that it is.
Point four is I have to help my husband not lose his mind, okay? Because he often looks at the girls, and he’s like, “Where are my girls?” They’re gone. They’re gone. They’re not girls anymore. They are young women, okay? They are young women who are dealing with hormones in a fast-changing, fast-paced society, and they have a lot going on in their little brains—lots to juggle.
So, when my husband starts to get really excited, I remind him about his mother and father, who said, “I wish, I hope that I live long enough to see you deal with teenagers.” And, of course, my husband scoffed cause we had great, fantastic kids. So, my father-in-law is still around, but my mother-in-law passed away. She didn’t get to see the girls become teenagers. But when my husband starts to get really excited, I remind him that his mother must be having a good laugh in heaven because she tried to tell him that he had been a difficult teenager. Of course, my husband doesn’t remember that. My husband remembers being perfect. Like we all remember being perfect, right? So when he starts getting overly excited, I say, “Yeah. Your mom is having a blast right now. She’s just sitting there laughing at you.” It always makes him chuckle and calm down.
And of course, the final point is I remind myself this is temporary. This is temporary. When the girls come on the other side of adolescence, when hormones finally even out when they are in their twenties, I’m going to reap what I’ve sown. And I think I’ve done a good job as a mom. I may not be perfect, but I have always tried, and I love my children. And that is a basis for my parenting—love, not perfection. I try. I am willing to adapt. And most of all, I am willing to acknowledge that I am not perfect and apologize when I make those mistakes because I want them to learn from example. My example!
So, there you have it, those are my goals for 2021, to be a good parent to my three teenage daughters. And Bugaboo, don’t worry about him; he’s still easy. He’s only five.
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