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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Okay, Heroes. If you’ve looked at posts on this blog from waaaaay back when I began it (7 years ago this week!) you’ll find that I wrote all of them and that they center around one topic: the boys.

When the older ones hit their teen years I started censoring what I wrote to protect their privacy as well as avoid embarrassment for them now and in the future. It has felt more than a little strange to only publish informational articles, as I’ve been doing, because the point of this blog in the first place was to give and get support. I think that we can do that if I simply describe events without identifying which boy or boys are involved. It’ll take some creative labeling, but we’re all adults here. We can do this!

And to be honest, I’ve been struggling a lot lately especially with one boy in particular. I’ve also been learning a lot. Some of the lessons are painful, but I think I’m growing as a result.

So. Consider this the first day of a new era here at Earnest Parenting, in which we discuss the difficulties of getting along with teens. I’m going to focus on boys because that’s all I know, but I’m certain that parents of girls can teach us all plenty and maybe we can help keep each other going a bit.

All right. Where to start? There’s so much.

Okay. I’m going to go back to last summer with this first story.

Last August, one of the older boys approached me and asked if he could go shopping in the city with a female friend of his. It was her birthday, and her mom and brother were going to go along. I was impressed that he was asking a week in advance, and promised to discuss it with Hubby. A couple of days later, we did discuss it and agreed that he could go. Nothing more was said about plans for the trip.

The boys were taking their first Driver’s Ed. class, and I found myself carting them back and forth to town multiple times per day. There was one day that month that I drove back and forth to our town 5 times, then twice to a nearby village. Crazy!

We were also getting close to school starting, and with the busy-ness of everything I was a little nervous about getting any back-to-school shopping done. As it happened, my schedule was open the same day that Teen Boy was going to shop with his friend. That’s when the idea struck: if he picked out items he wanted I could swing in and pay for them without interrupting his day. It would also be a nice chance to meet the friend’s mom…you know, to be social and all.

So. The night before the shopping trip, I mentioned to him that I might take his brother(s) to the mall and look for some school clothes. I explained that the schedule was tight and this was a really good opportunity. I wasn’t going to just hand him my credit card, but I could contact him by phone and just meet him for a quick minute somewhere.

He wasn’t just opposed to the suggestion. He was offended by it. I was deeply hurt, but maintained calm and asked him to just think about it.

The next day, I asked again, and the response was the same. He wanted nothing to do with me being anywhere near his shopping trip. When I said that I might bring siblings into town and shop anyway, he was still offended. And he was offensive.

To make matters worse, when I drove to town (second trip for that day) to pick them up from Driver’s Ed., the friend and her mom were waiting there to take him. But of course he needed some cash and I didn’t have any. This is because he never gave me any specific details so I was caught unprepared. I rushed over to the nearest ATM and got some money then returned and handed it to him. I tried to speak nicely to the girl’s mom but I was so hurt and angry by that time that I didn’t do it very well.

My heart was pretty ripped up for a couple of days, and I just couldn’t get over the whole thing. Teen Boy’s brother rejected my suggestion of having a sports team over for some socializing that same week which only added to my hurt.

Now, I’m not sharing this story to be all about me. It is about me, no doubt. But my overall point is that with all the emphasis on teens and their experiences, I don’t see as much about what it’s like to be the parent here.

I’ll tell you what it can be like: painful. I felt like my heart had been ripped out and stomped on. Teen Boy was all fine with his friend’s mom coming along on the trip, but I couldn’t make contact with him for 5 minutes. He couldn’t be bothered to tell me the plans so that I was prepared. And I was of course the big bad guy because I was making a big deal about such a small issue.

After a couple of days of feeling like I was nothing more than an open wound, I came to the conclusion that the only way to avoid feeling so hurt was to stop caring as much. If Teen Boys One and Two weren’t going to be willing to invite friends over (ever), then that was just how it was going to be. I had to let it go and even distance myself just a little bit. Because feeling like that? I didn’t want a repeat of it.

I’ll tell you more teen stories over the coming days and weeks, and am definitely looking forward to hearing what you’ve learned in your own journey with teens. Because wow. Ouch.