I never quite know who I’m coming home to. There are two human beings in middle school who have the keys to the house and full run of the refrigerator. But I don’t know who I’ll encounter when I come home, or when I wake, or when I turn the corner.
There’s a heaviness in some moments, when individuating and testing out boundaries and personalities becomes a bit too much. There’s a lightness in some moments, when cuddling or silly puns and building forts is comforting and fun. There’s chaos in some moments when we all get whiplash with intense feelings and misunderstood intentions. There’s stillness in some moments when we feel validated and safe.
This rearing of Teens, it can be unsettling, fierce, confusing. If I’m never quite sure what’s around the corner and I’m the one supposedly in charge, it must be terrifying for the Not-So-Littles in this household. I’m finding it’s become more important to prioritize just being.
They need a home base where they can walk into from the rest of their worlds. Their worlds are filled with pressure to excel in academics, pressure to play well in their chosen sports, pressure to figure out who they are, and what they like and don’t like.
They need a home base that allows them to just sit and be, and shrug it all off before deciding what to do with each of these pressures. They need the space to be encouraged to use words, to find words, to describe what their insides feel like and to find and use words to ask that their needs be met. They need safety to be disappointed when their desires aren’t met, and safety to try out different coping skills to deal with that disappointment and frustration.
I am finding I need space to find the words to process how my initial parent reaction may not be the best response for each child. I am finding I need safety to feel disappointed that their desires and dreams aren’t what I expected or wanted for them. I am finding I need the space and safety to sit back and truly look at each child as an individual, and not “my baby” when deciding if I say “yes,” “no,” or “maybe so.”
I need stillness. I need to be heard. I need to feel safe. I need to be able to process how quickly my babies have grown up. I need to process who each of them are now, and how their passions and personalities and dreams have changed through the years. I need to process that all of these will continue to change. I need to process how best to keep them engaged in family activities to minimize teen angst and “omg everything is boring” while not catering to their every whim. There’s a fine balance in being firm while honoring who they are.
I know it is in the unscripted and unexpected moments between events and activities that are so important for teens to disclose or speak their truth. It’s also in these moments of stillness that feelings and thoughts distill and settle into our beings. I’m trying to add more of those gap moments into our lives by saying no to activities and invites, by putting away the phones and laptops, by slowing down the very pace of walking and talking and doing.
I’m starting to see the Teens examine and prioritize things in their lives now. I’m starting to see them become more mindful of their actions and decisions instead of reacting to things. I’m starting to see a mutual validation between the Teens and myself as we purposefully choose behaviors and decisions that honor each of us as individuals.
And in all of that, there’s become a lightness about us and with our family dynamics. We still fall prey to stress and over-commitments and hasty reactions, but we’re still practicing. We’re finding that there’s grace and kindness and empathy in this lightness of being. And this is very bearable.