It does take a village to raise kids! I am thankful for the wisdom of moms who have gone before, and who now have amazing, confident, manly sons. Sometimes I feel like the village idiot when it comes to raising a teenage boy. I am not a boy, don’t think like a boy, I change my underwear daily unlike a boy, and honestly, most of the time, I’m thinking the same thing I did the day I brought him home as a clueless teenager myself: “What do I do with him?”
Disclaimer: I think having a teen is great! The jokes are actually funny now. We can stay up late watching movies. He sleeps in. The hopes and dreams I had for him are starting to show promise. The wins seem bigger (although nothing beats the day he was fully potty trained).
From the wise Mommas gone before me, here are some life lessons I have tucked in my heart as I raise my own son through the teen years:
“Stay close. Don’t drift apart. Make their interests yours.” I am not interested in the world’s hottest peppers, chicken wings, Georgia football games, old cars or airsoft guns, but my boy is! When I take interest in what interests him, it keeps our connection close.
“Don’t take things personally.” When he’s frustrated, be prepared for the blows to come at you, Momma. Whether it’s an every ten second deep sigh, eye roll, or some pretty harsh words directed at you, do not take it personally. Let it roll off your back — sure, discipline has a place for respect! — but it’s like fighting a bull in heat. Let him cool off first. 10/10 times when I don’t react at his level, he comes back with an apology and softened heart.
“Play together. Wrestling replaces building blocks.” I do miss the days of waking up, enjoying ten minute cuddles, and him asking me to build a log house while I sipped my coffee! Play time looks different now; it’s getting up from my beach chair to throw a football, getting put in a headlock while I’m making dinner and being taken down by a tickle fight. Physical touch past the years of cuddling is still so important!
“Let them grow at their own pace.” There was a weird time for the both of us when we were spring cleaning his room, and the decision to keep the army men and trains was tough. “Box them up, I’ll keep them for my sons.” Cue me tearing up when he walked away and a decade of his future flashed before my eyes with him as a Dad and me as a Grandma! Cue him a few days later unboxing the army men, setting them up in a battle, and clinging to a part of his playful little kid years a little longer.
“Keep taking pictures even if they don’t smile.” It is hilarious to me to see my village Mommas share pictures of their teens on social media. Rarely do I see a full face smile. Forget teeth showing smiles or their cute dimples showing! Keep taking the pictures and don’t force them to smile. I think what’s most important is commemorating every season!
“See their gentle side, and be their safe place to cry.” Teenage boys sure do act tough. They might not know what to do with all their feels, but being their safe place to cry it out is so important. I remember seeing a Momma escorting her crying teenager out of a lost basketball game with her much shorter arms up around his broad six foot tall body. I looked down at my young son and thought “That’s what it’s all about. No matter how tall, I can still be his safe place.”
“Listen to the little things, and they’ll come to you with the big things.” If you get NOTHING else, get this one! Moms of boys of all ages can start listening now. I know it might seem insignificant to you that you “Look, Mommy!” as they simply go down a slide. I know their ramblings about their favorite video game or the stats of their favorite sports players might have you lost, but listen in. Face to face with your phone down. Trust me; they’re building trust for your listening ears. Some of the big heart conversations will probably occur way past your bedtime, with a senseless prelude leading into “I’m having a really hard time…”
“Say ‘I love you’ every day.” There will be days you don’t want to say it, because you might have drifted despite your best efforts. Send the text with all the heart emojis. Let him go to bed knowing you love him and wake up knowing you’re there for him with love too.