By Debby Shulman
This month we are all about LOVE.
And I can promise you the biggest crush, the greatest joy and the most emotional heartbreak you will ever have is living upstairs, with dirty underwear on the floor and loud music reverberating off the walls. It’s one-sided, it’s brutal, and it is the most profound love EVER … sapping us of all sound and rational behavior. It requires infinite amounts of attention; sleepless nights and screaming in your car with spewing snotty tears, because it’s the only place you can be alone.
This crazy love affair is exhausting.
Parenting is beautiful and backbreaking, offering snippets of glory for those of us in the trenches. It’s a never-ending battle that rarely garnishes a victory without some sort of drama. As I see it, raising these little buggers demands the dedicated energy of a Navy Seal, possessing the guts to say NO and actually meaning it … and maintaining confidence when you know your parenting will bring cruel words, slamming doors, and unrelenting chaos.
As our teens get older, the stakes get higher. Saying “no” to taking the car, having a raging party, and attending Lollapalooza incites riots worthy of a Xanax chaser.
And what our teens don’t understand (nor will they until they have children of their own) is that it’s harder on us than it is on them. It’s hard walking into a battle you know you’re going to lose – and not because you concede, but because the hate they project is so devastating and hurtful.
Saying ‘no’ sucks. I know my kids have resented me for it and I’ve learned to be okay with that. Loving them fiercely means knowing you WILL get the evil backlash.
Face it, there will be hell to pay if you exercise your right to comment, question or press an issue … knowing that by stirring the pot, you’re going to possibly get more than you bargained for. I will not avoid a discussion or a meltdown because I feel something needs to be addressed. And while I am not always right – because there really isn’t a parent out there who hasn’t royally screwed up – I lead with my heart because I wouldn’t be doing my job if I feared the backlash.
And that is what makes this so one-sided at times.
Teens rebel and argue and make you the lucky recipient of all their pent-up rage, attitude and despair.
There’s no pretending we don’t feel like a punching bag every now and then because the loves of our lives treat us as nothing more than an inconvenience.
Often times I can move past it (Understanding Mom), other times I wait and discuss the behavior at a later time (Therapist Mom), and sometimes I reel back in such defiance and resolve I need an exorcist to intervene and drag the devil out of me (Batshit Crazy Mom). But regardless of how I handle it – it is my right. And much to their credit, they eventually recognize their badass behavior has nothing to do with me; it’s the injustices of adolescence, getting dumped by a crush or screwing up on a test. More often than not we get the quiet apology, the downcast eyes and a good hug that smells of genuine regret and true love. I hold on to that way too tight … using it as reserve for the next time I must go into battle.
I endure their panicked late-night phone calls. I endure the rolled eyeballs and throaty sighs. And, I endure the constant early-morning-desecration of my closet so that she can wear my jeans, my yoga pants, and my sweaters (which up until that VERY MOMENT were considered, “Old Lady Clothes.” But truthfully … nothing makes me happier than having her dress like this ‘old lady’ because this old lady wears clothes that cover her PARTS.)
I micromanage when called upon to do so. I’m aware that every parenting expert from Mr. Rogers to Dr. Phil warns of the hazards of stepping in too much … but even when I am consulted as a last resort, my love compels me to fix it. Dad can’t fix it because his emotional wiring has two buttons: On and Off. My emotional wiring has very intricate and sensitive levels of perception: I am the Mother Drone.
I have the ability to decipher AT ANY MOMENT AND FROM ANY DISTANCE when one of my children needs me … and while Dad is amazing and really good at making omelets, I AM THE FIXER.
I fix it because I love them.
Ask any of our teens right now, who will be called upon to fix the bad stuff that goes down; the traffic tickets, the English paper, the car battery; the broken heart, the friend puking on the driveway. It’s me.
I give you this love, this unconditional, without question, naked love because my capacity to do so knows no bounds. It’s like the deepest, widest canyon – call out to it and all you hear is an echo. But what we put out most certainly comes bouncing back.
So as the world turns on adolescence, and boys become men and little girls became young ladies, figures emerge that no longer resemble the angry knights we went into battle with. All the passionate energy we spent trying to teach right from wrong by serving as the target for all displaced frustration, slowly manifests itself into creatures that resemble human beings.
They are kind. They are nice. They do the right thing.
And it doesn’t happen overnight.
And it’s not to say that we are finished going into battle, but it’s the light at the end of tunnel that signifies the love survives. They come back from the depths; it is always worth the fight.
Raising children is the most selfless act we know but without experiencing this challenging, endless, and all-consuming love we have no barometer with which to measure anything else. It is the beginning, the middle and the end of all I know. They are my heart and soul.
The unconditional power of Mama Love … Happy Valentine’s Day to my wounded warriors.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Debby Shulman is a college essay consultant and academic tutor with a private practice in Northbrook, Illinois. She also professionally collaborates with Amy Simon College Consulting in Bannockburn, Illinois. Debby also blogs about Motherhood/Teen issues for Your Teen magazine (www.yourteenmag.com). Check out her valuable advice.