It’s another parenting morning during which I can feel the hairs on my head repainting themselves silver and the fist in my gut tightening. A typical morning with a teenager under stress and it’s become the rhythm of every morning for the most part, and I’ll sum it by saying: it’s rough.
No matter how terrific your teenagers are, they are young. They are learning. They are inexperienced. They also think they know best. They’re teenagers! And their view of the world and their own capacities reflect that very youth and inexperience – not to mention the desire to cut loose.
And who can blame them? Can’t we remember those days?
We do our best to teach them to prioritize, to stay organized, to manage their time and track tasks, but they’re kids. Parents assist – each of us in ways we deem appropriate. When there is only one parent to assist – or whomever the caretaker may be – it’s that much more of a strain.
Even with two parents, bad days with teens aren’t unusual. We are required to call on every skill set we have. But some days, it’s brutal.
Brutal to keep the anger in. Brutal to keep the tears from flowing. Brutal to say nothing rather than to yell. Frustrating beyond measure when you try everything you can to encourage a change in behavior, and it gets you nowhere.
Running away from home
Yes, this morning I am at my wits’ end. Like millions of other parents. My. Wits’. End. If I could pack a little bag and run away from home – to somewhere that would enable me to turn off my brain and equally, the blood supply to my maternal heart – I think I would. And of course, like any little kid who tosses a few treasured items in a paper bag and storms off, stalwart in his resolve to leave, I would quickly turn and come back.
Because wit’s end or not – I love my children more than breath itself. And I cannot quit on my son, and I cannot quit on whatever it takes to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table and his dreams alive because it is my job as his parent. And I owe him that. And I couldn’t live with myself if I behaved in any other way.
At what point do we throw our arms up in the air – even when our kid needs some sort of help – and just say I give up? Or I can’t do this one more day?
Where do I put my guilt that I haven’t done enough? My guilt, if he doesn’t get his dream, despite the extraordinary effort he’s put into the past two years?
Where do I put my anger at the stress I know he has absorbed over lack of money and skirmishes in the background?
Where do I put my fatigue when I have meetings ahead and need brain power to focus?
Kegs of coffee. Right. And yesterday – strong and affirming – extra eyes and extra hands did appear to assist with some critical research that must get done in the next week or so, and that will help. I am immeasurably grateful.
But I cannot face that it may not be enough. That more than a decade of pulling out all the stops for my kids won’t be enough. That I will falter in these next weeks. That we will both run out of steam. And I blame myself. I should have been wiser, smarter, stronger. Different.
Parenting is a profession
I’ve said it over and over like a broken record. Parenting is a profession – for some of us, at least. It is the distillation of the life skills we’ve acquired, the expression of making up for what we didn’t have in childhood, the gift we hope to give not only to the children we raise but to those whose lives we hope they will touch.
It is hard. It is harder alone. Those who do it day in and day out know this – whether they are married and carrying the lion’s share of responsibilities, or doing it on their own. Parenting is lightened by the kindness of friends, relatives and strangers who come into your life unexpectedly and simply help. They help, because they understand that if we don’t help each other in this world, what kind of world are we creating?
But today, again, I feel as though I’m fighting a losing battle. Every day is a tiny war against very real limits – physical, emotional, financial. And time, in more ways than one. I keep bumping up against walls and the bruising hurts. Worse, it’s weakening my ability to care – not about my son – that’s resolute and immutable. But to care about his dreams, to care about the impossible workload he took on months ago. To care what happens next, because I am so deep in the darkness that I just want to sleep and there is no sleeping.
No fix, only this
I love my son and believe in him with every fiber of my body. But every morning is the same struggle to wake him, the same stress, the same rushing, the same searching for whatever is lost, the same guilt when I see how tired he is, the same guilt when I look around and think about the surroundings he is trying to function in – the disarray, the mess, the lack of space.
I am doing a poor job at this job. I can see it. I can feel it. I can’t seem to make it better. And yes, this is the spillover of a morning of anger and silence and slamming of things. It hurts. I hurt. And fatigue is shutting me down.
There is no fix. There is venting – here – which offers a small measure of comfort, though I know those who may read don’t find this a pleasant experience. Who doesn’t prefer a lighthearted tale with an upbeat close? But I cannot find those words today. I cannot generate their manufacture. And there is no fix. Only a piece of hope that somehow things will have been “good enough.” That my son’s dreams will still be possible.
Let’s be real
There are bad days. For many reasons. To pretend we do not feel these emotions, to pretend we do not struggle, to pretend that “toughing it out” is anything but simple is to yield to the social pressure to present a happy face at all times. There are days parenting sucks. Today is one of them.
More often than not I can pretend. I can find the positive spin, and go with it, hoping its momentum will carry me along. Not today. Today, the world seems dark and yet I know I have to peel away enough darkness by afternoon to deal with my son. From a place of calmer self, distant from my own churning emotions.