Wishing my teen years back
When I was 16 years old I swore that if I ever had a daughter my age, I would understand her better than anyone. Well, I have a daughter that age and more than half the time, I struggle with knowing what’s on her mind. I try to listen better, I try to give her space, I validate everything she’s saying so I could be sure I heard her right — but in the end she still tells me I don’t understand. It’s frustrating to hear her say and makes me feel helpless, but I try not to take it personally. I only wish I could go back to when I was 16, so I could remember my exact thoughts and feelings. Maybe then we’d hit it off perfectly.
Sadly, I cannot wish my teen years back. As a result, I’ll never arrive to the winning point of being able to translate every mood, thought and feeling they express. But I do believe in the power of listening. I also believe that giving her space and practicing validation is key to keeping the communication lines open. I want to be available whenever they need me. My mom was a stay home mom and I felt incredibly lucky knowing she was home all the time.
I am not my mother though. Currently I work nights and allow myself a random night out every now and then, whether it be with their dad or a friend. Just the other night we went out for my husband’s birthday and my daughter told me just before we left, “Don’t drink mom.” Those words would never have been uttered from my lips at her age because my mother never drank. In fact, she’s never had a drop of alcohol her whole life. True story. It made me feel a bit guilty — knowing that she knows my vice. That I like to have a good time. My mother never went out. My parents never went out. My experience growing up is very different from my daughter’s.
It doesn’t mean it’s not right. It’s just different. Times have changed so much since my formative years. We didn’t have PDA’s growing up. We walked to our friend’s houses when we wanted to hang out or called them from our lan line. If they weren’t home, we waited until they returned and hoped they would check their caller ID (if compatible on their phone) in hopes that they would call you back. I didn’t experience instant gratification. I understood the meaning of waiting for something.
Both my kids got cell phones by the time they were in middle school (12 years of age), yet we waited much longer than most parents to get them their first phones. Their exposure to instant gratification is more familiar to them, but having phone rules and other limitations in our household has taught them to be more patient and appreciative. Of course, they are still teens who express importance for things they need and when they want something to happen. But overall, they are good kids who get how the world works.
Spring break is next week. I am going to make it a point to crave out some time to talk to them, real talk. We have these conversations from time to time. I want them to feel comfortable talking about anything with me. I never felt like I could with my mom even though we did talk about a lot of other things. I just couldn’t talk about my feelings or what I believed in. Now, it’s different of course. I love to share stories with my mom about the kids. And I look forward to doing the same with them when they are older.
I know I’ll never get my teen years back, but I do look at pictures every now and then. It helps me remember. It takes me back to a specific time and place, and sometimes if I focus real hard, I could recall a tinge of what I was feeling, what I was thinking and how grand that time of my life was. I just didn’t know it then. I really think my kids are probably just thinking the same things. It may be a different generation, but in the end — being a teen is just the same. We just want to be heard. And I promise to mine, I’m always ready to do just that.