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Raising Teenagers Raising Cain.

11 Aug

I don’t know when it happened, this shift from this all being kinda fun, to the part where I went: ‘OK, this is not what I signed up for. This is not fun anymore.’

My dream, from the time I was a little girl myself, was always to grow up and get married and have babies. I had a single-minded vision, and when the day finally came that I was a mother, every dream I ever dreamed about it came true. My baby was perfect. Perfectly healthy, perfectly beautiful. Then, a combination of several factors led to a rather considerable time-span between perfect child #1 and perfect child #2. Years between them, but worth the wait. She also was perfect. Perfectly healthy, perfectly beautiful. This one even got passers-by to stop on the street and exclaim how beautiful she was. I was so proud. Child number 3; not exactly planned, but joyously received right from the start. Not exactly perfectly healthy, but a manageable, fixable issue, and he was the happiest baby, and really beautiful. As perfectly perfect as I could hope for. I had been given my three chances to make the world a better place. I had succeeded!

The one thing I did not need was advice. I was a supremely confident mother. I was an early-20-something, but I knew what all their cries meant right from the get-go, when they bothered to cry. No colic in my house. Breast-fed is best fed, and my children were shining examples of the ease of breast-feeding. I didn’t need to change my diet, I could nurse while shopping, etc (discreetly, of course) and I carried a little tiny diaper bag, because they didn’t need anything other than a few diapers and the occasional change of clothes. I was militantly intolerant of women who said:

‘I tried it and just couldn’t get it to work!’ or

‘It’s so inconvenient!’

(What?? Are you kidding me? How is unclipping a snap on your bra less convenient than buying formula every week, midnight trips to the grocery store when you realize you forgot to buy formula, having to microwave water to warm formula, mixing, cleaning bottles, replacing nipples…as you can see, it remains somewhat of a hot-button topic with me.)

When they graduated to baby food, I made it. They rarely ate restaurant food, but when they did they were well-behaved, and when they weren’t, we sacrificed our dinner to remove the kids from the restaurant. They learned early on how to be respectful in public.

Our kids were smart. Early-readers all three, and every moment was considered a potential learning experience. We considered and dismissed the idea of home-schooling; my husband was a public-school teacher, and we valued the social-engagement aspect of a public education. We hand-picked every teacher they ever had, and did not miss a parent-teacher night. I felt that my kids had the best of both worlds, because they got their ‘real’ learning at home, but got their social interaction at school, in clubs and on sports teams.

Our kids went everywhere with us; we did not have lives separate from them. Shopping at the grocery store was an opportunity to work on math, reading, spelling and helping mama. Going to restaurants was an opportunity to work on our manners. We went for drives on the weekends to cover history and science. We would listen to music in the car, and I remember being so proud that my kids knew the words to and sang Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra

The list goes on and on. I though I was the shit. No, I was the shit.

Luckily I raised my kids in the days before blogging really took off, because most of my self-righteous ramblings were confined to self-dialogue, muttered under my breath every time I encountered someone who really seemed to be screwing up the whole motherhood thing. ‘Jesus! How hard do you need to make this??’

My husband and I would watch parents who yelled at their kids and said things like (my personal favorite:) ‘You better get over here or I’m going to leave you!” or “Stop that right now! Stop that I said! You’d better stop that right now! If you don’t stop that I’m going to spank you! One…two…two and a half…!!” and we would look at each other knowingly, and smile smugly.

I know this about myself, because I do it today, when reading all the blogs that new mothers are writing these days, but instead of wondering why it seems so difficult for them to get through a simple bout of colic, I read their ramblings and think: ‘Just you wait-your kids aren’t even mobile and you think you have problems?? oh, hoho! Wait til they become teenagers!

Because that’s exactly what happened to mine.

There are blogs a-plenty about Moms + Babies. Gathering places on the world-wide web where mothers go to offer advice and consolation about all manner of baby-care. These blogs are a particular hit for the moms who didn’t exactly practice motherhood before it arrived on their stoop wrapped in a little blanket. They ask questions like “How can I tell what my baby needs when he cries?” and “what’s the best Baby Einstein video?”

And I realize that babies are born helpless for their first year so that they won’t wander off while we’re busy trying to figure them out. Wait ‘til you’re trying to stay one step ahead of them when they have the car keys.

I have noticed a stark absence of blogs about teenagers. Is this because so much of the cute-factor is gone? Nothing like looking at a blog with pictures of a snarling don’t-take-my-picture countenance. Now, I must admit, I haven’t exactly gone looking, so I really couldn’t tell you if there are a ton of them or not, but I do peruse the w.w.w. on a fairly consistent basis, and I frequent the circles that one would assume such blogs to be in.

Nothing.

I will say, however, I won’t go looking for blogs-about-teenagers for the same reason I won’t watch reality television: I have enough drama, and tears, and screaming, and door-slamming in my own life, I don’t need to sit down and watch it on television, and I doubt that reading about someone else’s door-slamming drama will make mine any easier to swallow.

Don’t get me wrong. I have great kids. They are all doing pretty much what we set out for them to do, they are all on track to graduate from high school…but I can’t say that they all get straight A’s anymore, and I can’t even say that at least a couple of them haven’t ever been in trouble with the law. What I can state with absolute certainty is that raising teenagers is something I should have girded my loins for, by having colicky, nasty, horrible small-people, and the reason I am blogging now is that I am in the middle of an ocean that I am barely navigating. No, I am not navigating. I am in a storm-tossed tempest, and since my husband and I have the oldest kids we know, there is nobody with whom I can compare my kids, or confide my fears. So I’ll set it all down on virtual paper–trying very hard to respect my nearly-adult childrens privacy, (even though it would never dawn on them to reciprocate) and hopefully out of the mist will come a measure of peace, or at least solidarity.

And if you were one of the people on whom I passed such harsh judgment when our kids were little, I humbly beg your forgiveness. Mea Culpa.

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