Once a Parent, Always a Parent
Published November 2014: The Messenger – Faith: A Fresh Take
Once a Parent, Always a Parent
Once my children reached teenage status, I was entered into a whirlwind journey that I can clearly admit that I was not prepared for. It’s no secret that teenagers can be moody, more opinionated or even combative and know-it-all human beings seeking more freedom. I knew all of this. What I wasn’t prepared for was the loneliness I would feel when they reached this stage of independence.
Unfortunately, at first, instead of embracing the idea that my children were developing into adults who yearned to think for themselves, accomplish tasks on their own and develop their own beliefs, I was resentful that they didn’t need me as much. Yes, they still needed lunch money, someone to make lunches and wash their laundry, but neither my son or daughter needed me to mend a scrape, cuddle with me at night or talk about their day.
I felt a deep sense of sadness that I was no longer needed. As a result, I became needy.
As they continued to move into the teenage years – a process we are in the midst of right now, I began to notice there was more isolation. Long gone were the nights of all of us sitting on the couch watching a movie and the norm moved into me sitting alone while they stayed in their rooms. They needed privacy, time alone and I longed for company and our nightly talks.
I struggled to find a balance between letting them find themselves and embrace the freedom of the teenage years with maintaining family time and interaction with each other and myself.
It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a colleague that I realized I was not alone. She asked me the ages of my children and when I said 14 and 16, she sighed. “I just remember the time when my children turned into teenagers as being a time of complete and utter sadness,” she said. I was confused at first and then she explained that she felt lonely and shut out as they discovered who they were. She smiled and said, “This, too, shall pass.”
After this conversation, I felt worse. Is my role as a parent over? I wondered. What in the world do I do now? When you are a parent, your world is consumed by your children. From soccer games, dance competitions and football practices to field days, fundraisers and PTA meetings, the calendar and the gas in your vehicle is consumed by parenting.
When my daughter started driving, especially, I found myself lost with the free time available. I prayed about it, I asked God to guide me and when I lost my way and was frustrated when an organized family activity failed miserably, I relied on my faith as a means to cope with the changes.
I realized, though, that even though I have been mourning the loss of my parenting younger children, I still have the opportunity to parent – just in a different way. I’m no longer the one to fix those boo boos, I’m no longer needed to glue together an art project or help with math problems. Instead, I’m just there. I’m still the parent and that is exactly what teenagers need – the knowledge and the comfort of knowing parents are within reach, always.
This was evident the other night when I walked by my daughter’s room and she said, “I can’t sleep. Can you sit with me for a bit?” I resisted the urge to jump up and down and scream with excitement. Instead, I played it cool, sat down and had a conversation about her day that ultimately put her to sleep.
It’s hard to parent teenagers and it’s even harder to let them be teenagers. I rely on my faith to prevent me from begging them to watch TV with me or tag along to the store when they want to be alone, but I do know that they still need their mom, just on their own terms.
— Shannon Philpott