I sat on the front porch feeling a little numb and a little defeated. That's what parenting tweens and teens can feel like sometimes. They aren't being bad, they are being tweens and teens. They are testing you, pushing you, challenging your love.
I know that, but there are moments when I feel defeated and exhausted and like whatever I say doesn't matter.
As I sat on the porch, I started to understand why my mother left. I was 16 when she got married and moved to California. She wasn't planning on taking me, she was running away, escaping.
I probably rolled my eyes a lot and snapped at her and complained to her and tested her and pushed her and challenged her love.
Looking back with my older and wiser 41-year-old heart, I have compassion for my mother. I get that life doesn't always go according to the best-laid plans. I get that jobs get lost, people do too. I get that bad things happen to good people. I get that bad luck and bad genes are a bad combination. And now that I have tweens and teens, I understand what it's like to feel like you don't matter as much in your kids' lives.
That's the problem with being a person that's been left or rejected: it can haunt you. When someone, even your tween or teen, pushes you away all the feelings of being unlovable can come back fast. Part of you wants to do whatever it takes to make them love you and another part of you wants to run away. It's habit, lack of coping skills and survival.
But you can't leave your kid. Or at least you aren't supposed to. And I won't.
Instead I will fight the urge to take everything personally. Instead of wallowing or thinking about my own fears of rejection I will get outside, go for a run, call a friend, cry in the shower or whatever it takes to feel better. I will look at the big picture. I will parent my kids through the rough patches. I will love them through it all. They can test and push and challenge me and I will not leave. I will show them what unconditional love looks like, what it feels like.
My mother used to tell me what a bad teenager I was and how hard I was to love, and then she left. Her words made a lasting impression on my heart, on my confidence, on my whole life. I refuse to put that on my kids.
The other day I saw the new Meryl Streep movie, “Ricki and The Flash” and there was this line that hit me hard. Rick Springfield's character is trying to make Streep's character feel better about ironically leaving her kids years earlier. He says, “It's not their job to love you, it's your job to love them.” That's it. Thank you Rick Springfield.
Life is messy and complicated. We all make mistakes. Teenagers challenge and test and push. The easy way sometimes is to leave or just check out mentally. It's harder to stay and love them through it all, but that's what I'm going to do. That is badass.