In addition to having school starting for the kids, and just finishing up moving, I have been having a lot of stress with my kids. Well, I know for most people, that is fairly typical. But for my relationship with my kids, it has usually been characterized as ‘really really good’. I know I have been lucky with having that, but that still doesn’t prepare you for when it isn’t. My son, A, is 16, and my daughter, H, is 14 (almost 15!). They are both such great kids (almost real people). Sure, they have classes they struggle with, and they get a C or two. But they have always been respectful, caring, towards me. They are helpful. They listen when I talk, we don’t argue, I listen to them. They say (to others) that I am their best friend, the one person they would go to, that they know I have their backs.
But the last month or so has been marked by ‘typical’ teen behaviors; like suddenly my son has decided to convert to Mormon, his girlfriend’s religion. While I understand his need to make his own choices, to flex his new wings, even to rebel against what is is done at home…I’m not so ok with this that I can just accept it like its a new fashion trend. I want to be able to accept this…but I just can’t. Choosing a different (or no) religion is a big deal. Its more than just ‘teen rebellion’. If I do just accept this, then ok, we won’t argue. But I’m still his mother, he is still my kid, and I just don’t think he should be making these kind of decisions. I think at least we should dialog about it, go over the pros and cons, and the reasons behind why he wants to do this now–are they just to fit in with his girlfriend? Or is there more to it? Why this particular religion? But if I even try to go there, he sees it as me putting him down, not respecting his autonomy. And when he gets defensive, so do I. So, we can’t even talk about it now. I am glad he is so independent. That he knows what he wants, what makes him happy. But I am not quite sure how I am supposed to be his parent now. In 2 years, he’ll be moving out, going to college, an adult. But how do I parent him for these next 2 years–he is too much of an adult to just rescind his ability to make his own choices. Yet he is too young (in my opinion) to make these adult choices without input from me. If I just put my foot down, I will drive him even more into making hasty decisions, more away from talking them through with me, more into more rebellious choices.
The funny thing is, I was (I thought) prepared for this stage. I had prepared myself for if/when my son did drugs, got drunk, partied, had sex. I was ready for these typical teen behaviors. But instead, I get something completely different. I get a son who wants to change religions, and not to just any religion. I see that compared to the things I was prepared for, I should be grateful that he is not partying, having sex, drinking and doing drugs. I should see how good a kid/person he is that instead he is converting to Mormon. Shouldn’t I, as a parent, be saying how great it is that he is not into anything negative or dangerous–that instead he is into spirituality? And I am! I am so happy he is not into anything dangerous or illegal or unsafe. But just cause he is responsible most of the time, and mostly mature, doesn’t mean he is ready or prepared to make such big life decisions right now.
And as for my daughter, we have also usually had a very close, tight relationship. She often comes to me for advice on problems, on feelings, on issues with friends. And I listen, and I try to answer to what she is really asking about. I try to support her, and guide her. And usually, until recently that is, she is receptive and appreciative. But, again, in the last month or so, this has started to change. Now, we are commonly either not speaking to each other, or arguing that the other isn’t listening. She comes to me now with the same kind of issues, and when I try to give her my response, that is not what she wants. That is not the right answer anymore. What she wants now is to tell me a situation, and then agree with whatever she says, even if I think I understand the situation and have a different suggestion on how to proceed. She no longer wants input from me, unless is agreement. She has always been forgetful, always leaving a mess wherever she goes, and always forgetting what she needs. I have become accustomed to following behind her, gathering up her mess, and reminding her (repeatedly) of what she needs to have, or do. This has never been a problem between us, because she always appreciated that I made sure she was prepared, that I made sure she had the things she wanted because I gathered them up as she shed them and returned them. But now, suddenly, I am not supposed to remind her of anything. I am not supposed to gather up her shed items from various places in the home and return them to her. NO, she has NOT begun doing these thing for herself. Yes, she is still a mess in the making and and doesn’t remember what she needs or where they are. So, she still needs someone (me) to remind her. But now, she becomes angry with me if I do. Then, when she later is unprepared, she is angry with herself and with me for not telling her. So, I can’t remind her of anything without starting a fight. A fight where both of us, generally not wanting to argue, just stop speaking. Sometimes, for a few minutes, but others for the entire day. And if I don’t remind her, then it’s a fight later on because I didn’t. So, either way, she has quite really talking to me. I am supposed to either just agree, or not say anything. I am supposed to let her fly on her own and not remind her to be prepared, then she will be angry with me for that, or for not doing that later.
I have reached the last stage of parenting, I know this. I know it is all new rules. What I don’t know, is how to keep that deep, true line of communication present between us. What I don’t know is how to let them go and try to fly, and trust that what comes next will different but just as good. I am really missing the closeness we have usually had. And I’m really not sure how to do this next part, and I am really afraid they won’t come back and I will lose them.