I pick my kids up every single day…same time, same place. And, every day our conversation always looks pretty much the same. They’re hungry, they’re tired, and they’re emotionally wiped. Respecting your teachers all day, playing nice on the playground, and working hard in every class is hard work!
Recently, I grabbed all three of them, and we headed to the car. My oldest was unusually quiet, but I let it be. If I’ve learned one thing the hard way in this season, it’s the importance of not asking any questions until we are privately and safely in our car.
Per the usual, my boys argued over whose day it was to sit in the front with me. It was an odd day on the calendar, so that meant it was the younger one’s turn. My oldest said something nasty to his younger brother, and then like clockwork, the younger one retaliated with something even more unkind. I hadn’t even buckled my seatbelt before I was yelling, which is not the way any mom ever wants to be reunited with her kids, after a long day apart. It took about thirty seconds for my oldest to throw his things in the back seat and report that his day was horrible…his worst one ever in the history of all days. ever.
Before I could even respond, he had buried his face in his hands and the tears were free-falling. He’s tender hearted, but it’s not often that I see tears, so I knew that his day being horrible was surely more than just not getting to sit up front with me. Once we got home, he headed straight to his room. I wanted to follow him and pry my way into his heart, but I’ve learned another lesson the hard way…
if I tell him I’m here to listen and I give him some space, he’ll almost aways give me a chance to, when it’s his time and his idea.
After a little while, I heard his door open, and he yelled downstairs in his deepest, most solemn voice, “Mom, can we talk?” As you can imagine, I bolted. We laid on his bed for the next twenty minutes, and he literally snuggled up into my arms and cried and cried and cried. Once he started talking, I realized he was sharing so many more details that had nothing to do with that particular day.
Yeah, a few things had happened that had served as a breaking point for him, but it was all the other things from all the days and weeks prior that were weighing heavy on his heart. None of it seemed all that earth-shattering to me, but to him it was all consuming. The relief that came over him from getting it out and being able to have me hold him and listen to him was indescribable. His countenance changed. He asked my opinion and listened intently to my every word. I had earned his trust, and he felt accepted and loved; He knew that he belonged.
I don’t know if there is anything more substantial or more impactful that we as parents can give our kids, as they are entering these teen years, than a true sense of belonging and acceptance and extreme love, care and support.
The rejection, hostility, ridicule and sarcasm that our teens face in their worlds create heaps of inferiority, shame, regret, and frustration that overwhelm them. Most of the time, they aren’t self-sware enough to know what they feel, let alone why they feel it. Inevitably, they lash out at their families.
These years are going to be stocked full of mood swings and raging hormones. The last thing my boys need is me taking it all personally. I’m determined to be their biggest fan and their soft place to land.