Currently, there are one gazillion articles floating through cyberspace about holding your babies longer because “time passes so quickly and before you know it they’ll be grown.” And yes, those of us with littles need to be reminded of that ON THE DAILY. It is physically exhausting chasing little kids and constantly being puked on, pooped on, peed on. I have holes in my walls and stains in my carpet as battle scars from my two active little boys. I never go to the bathroom alone, and taking a shower alone (or at least without someone screaming at me) is a luxury as well.
As moms of littles, our mommy guilt usually involves thoughts of “Would I give them more quality time if I was working away from them?” or the opposite – “Am I missing out on too much because I work away from them?” Or maybe even the occasional, “Am I screwing them for life up by letting them have candy for breakfast because I don’t want to hear another tantrum?”
But there is something missing in this ongoing conversation topic. When the days of toddler tantrums are over, the years of elementary school performances and participation trophies are long gone, what is left? Does time speed up now that we’re done with those long, difficult days?
They tell us “the days are long but the years are few.” I disagree.
The battle scars of the toddler years are nothing compared to the battle scars of the teen years.
While those early years are physically testing, the teen years are EMOTIONALLY draining. The tears, the misunderstandings, the feelings… they completely wear me down. These are the years that drag on and on and on.
I face my deepest insecurities and issues as I attempt to relate to my firstborn. When she shuts me down and wants nothing to do with anything I suggest, my instinct is to give up and stop trying. Sometimes I look at her and think, “who are you?” Surely this isn’t the same little girl who climbed into my bed at 2 in the morning and refused to go back to her own? The same little girl who said, “hold you” and wanted to be my “baby kitty cat?” She is filled with ideas and theories and philosophies that are completely her own. She is independent and self-sufficient in many ways. At 14, she clearly doesn’t need me anymore.
It would be really easy to consider my job done. I’m so busy surviving the little ones, that it’s easy to forget I have another living human to take care of. She does her own laundry, makes her own food, finishes schoolwork when she’s supposed to… so my job is pretty much done.
However, I believe she needs me now more than she ever has before.
And that is why I share all this. The teen years are brutal. They are hard. They DO leave wounds, for parent and child.
But this doesn’t mean I stop holding her.
This doesn’t mean I let her go. This is the time to LEAN IN. To be more present than ever before. To continue to pursue hard conversations. The dialogue that happens during this time can be life-changing for her. The words that I share with her, the confidence I instill, will be part of her internal monologue for life. I know this from my own teen years, yet I still fail at this, over and over again. I hate myself for it.
But just as there is grace for my failings as an exhausted mom of toddler and preschooler, there is grace for my failings as an emotionally exhausted mom of a teen.
I’m preaching to myself most when I say this:
Moms, hold your babies close, but hold your teens even closer.
Savor each moment. Make every effort to engage. I don’t live for Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco, but I’ll go to every concert if it means I get to bond with her. I’m (shhhh) sick of the Avengers, but you better believe I cried through Infinity War. When she wants to go to Hot Topic to spend her money on yet another band t-shirt, I squeeze that double stroller through and fight off the little hands attempting to grab at every appealing item in that black hole of a store… or I wait patiently outside (it’s seriously NOT designed for a stroller or eager toddler fingers). When she wants to dye the bottom half of my hair, I let her. When she wants to dress me up in the right colors for an upcoming concert, I let her.
I know I’m not doing it all right, and I’m sure I’ve screwed her up in some way, but I’m doing the best I can. And I don’t want to waste the few years we have left. Even if they are painful and hard. Even if it breaks my heart.
She’s still my baby. And I’m holding on for now.