It was the Monday after daylight saving time and I’d been traveling all weekend. Exhausted, overwhelmed, and trying to catch up, I sat down for a moment to breathe. That’s when the text came through from my oldest, “You want to come watch the team play?” She was at the tennis courts watching her team play in her first high school sports season. I read the text to my husband. I sighed, and then we both smiled. I got up and gathered my things to go.
“You’re a good mom!” my husband called after me. I thought about his comment as I drove. We are in new waters now. Parenting a teenager. It’s an interesting phase, really. On one hand, they are asserting their independence and preparing to fly from the nest. On the other, they still really need you to be there for them and help them navigate this uncharted territory. Some days I hear about everything. Other days I hear about nothing. Some nights I lie in bed and the tears stream down; knowing that our time with her in our home is going by too fast. Some mornings we disagree about the silliest things and it feels like the clock barely moves.
I second guess myself and my parenting skills like I did when my kids were toddlers. I replay our conversations in my head. I talked too much. I didn’t say enough. Teenage problems are harder to solve. I’m no longer the referee in toy fights or land rights. The stakes seem much higher and the requirements have shifted from meeting physical needs to meeting emotional needs seemingly overnight. Am I being too harsh? Am I letting them get away with too much? I’m worried I’ll wake up one day and I’ll be pinning on a cap and ironing a gown. And I’m not ready.
As I drove to the school, I thought about how to really show love to our teenagers in the time we have left with them at home. They don’t need us for all the little things they needed us for before, but maybe they need us now even more. And I think what they really need from us is sometimes the most obvious and hardest thing.
They just need us to show up.
Showing up sends a simple, but powerful message- I see you and you are important to me. We all want to be seen, known, and understood and our teens are no exception. Our teens need us to show up for the sporting events and the band concerts, of course. That’s the fun stuff. But they also need us to show up and be present in the every day moments. In the moments they retreat and the moments they share. They need us to be there for the celebrations and to lean in for the challenges.
When it comes down to it, I think 90% of parenting teens is just being there.
And much like those toddler years, teenagers need us to show up when it’s inconvenient and hard. When it’s not on our time schedule and there are a million other things to do. We need to show up for the stuff that we think is amazing and for the stuff that we don’t even get. When it comes down to it, I think 90% of parenting teens is just being there. It’s a privilege to be present and available for those brief windows of time when they let you behind the curtain and tell you all the things that make them their own unique human being.
So, I guess that’s my plan. To keep showing up and hope that the message that they are loved is received. I keep a picture of my oldest from when she was just a toddler near my desk. I find myself looking at it more often since she started high school. How was she ever that little? How did she grow up so fast? Being a mom is a tough gig isn’t it? Just when you think you have it all figured out, they go and change the game on you.
Right before I walked out the door to head to the tennis courts, I got another text from my oldest. This one read, “Can you bring me a snack?” You bet kiddo. I’ll bring you a snack. I’ll drive two hours to watch you play for 15 minutes. I’ll buy your favorite treat when you’ve had a hard day. I’ll sit and talk with you until we both feel better. Thanks for sharing your life with me. I promise, I’ll show up for you.
I’m on my way.