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The art of letting go

My son recently completed his freshman year at college. With 1500 miles and two time zones between us, for me this past year has been a lesson in letting go, in sitting back and believing we taught him right, in trusting him to make his own choices.

I thought I was doing so well, too. And then Sunday happened.

Sunday was the first day massive tornadoes tore through the Midwest, and the first day of his trek, alone and by car, from Denver to Atlanta. The same trek I’d offered, countless times, to fly out and make with him, so I could keep him company, so his father and I wouldn’t worry.

But he chose to make the trek alone, and I was okay with that. He’s a good kid, he makes good choices, so I had to be. Practice what you preach, right?

Or I was, that is, until I checked Twitter.

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Okay, so clearly he was joking but he also was not. He really was huddled under a bridge, mostly because, he told me later, it was raining too hard to drive and he followed a parade of cars there. He said he figured there was… well, if not safety than at least comfort in numbers.

Words every mother wants to hear.

His second tweet was even worse.

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That’s when I pulled my I’m Your Mother and I Command You card and told him to find shelter for the night, preferably underground. He was already on his way to the nearest and sturdiest hotel. He made it home a few days later, a little shaken but safe and sound. Looking back at the footage from Sunday and Monday, I know he was one of the lucky ones.

When faced with an EF5 tornado, my son made the right choices. He found shelter under a bridge, then as soon as it was safe, found better shelter. He watched the radar and listened to local radio, and planned his route accordingly. And his mother, had she been sitting beside him, wouldn’t have done anything differently.

Still. He was blessed, and so am I.

What the Heck am I Doing???

Today we replaced a tree in our front yard. Actually, we hired someone to dig up an overgrown bush and in its place plant a tree. The bush came with the house when we bought it over ten years ago. It was small, easy to manage, and attractive. As the years flew by, the bush became bigger and bigger and we suddenly realized we needed to do some work on the bush. Brilliantly, we got out our clippers and pruned the out-of-control bush into a topiary bush. Although I don’t have a picture to share, please take my word for it. The bush was lovely.

But it didn’t stay that way!

The bush continued to grow higher and higher and wider and wider. Most annoying of all, little offshoots of the bush kept growing and surfacing all around the base of the bush. Every time I pulled into the driveway, I cursed at the way it continued to grow and disobey me with its growth. What had started as a nice, small, easily managed bush had turned into the bane of my existence.

Am I being over dramatic? Obviously, yes. I did hate the bush and I’m very happy it’s gone. I do have a picture of the new tree. Isn’t it pretty?

For those of you whom I haven’t lost with my rambling nonsense about a bush, I do have a point to make. The bush that I (or my landscapers) ripped out of the ground and tossed away like yesterday’s garbage is synonymous with my children. They are growing and growing and growing! I’m amazed when I look at my son behind the wheel (gasp!) and see all the spots where he’s missed while shaving (double gasp!). I looked over my shoulder today at my daughter in the back seat of my car and was stunned at how grown up she looked.

With the wonderful changes going on with their growth, comes changes in their behavior. Unlike the out-of-control bush, I can no longer clip away at the overgrown parts of my children. That worked when they were smaller, back when “because I told you so” ended all discussion. Now it seems as if what my husband and I want for our children ins’t always what they want for themselves. Our happy home isn’t quite as happy as it used to be.

I can’t throw them out with yesterday’s garbage, so I’m looking at my growing children wondering what the heck I’m going to do. As I’ve confessed many times to my kids, they didn’t come with an instruction manual. The words, “Your dad and I are totally winging it here,” have actually come out of my mouth. Honesty, what I’d like to say is, “Your father and I met over a keg of beer. Do you really think we’re qualified to be parents???”

I don’t want new children, of course. I just want some peace. The past two weeks have been fraught with anxiety and I’m exhausted. I think we’ve reached a compromise with the eldest that may ease some of the pressure, but I have a feeling it is only temporary.

Well-meaning people warned us about the teenage years and yet we never thought they’d be this hard. Those of you on the other side of this divide are chuckling and nodding and wishing us well. I know we’ll get there, to that parenting oasis I’ve heard exists, but right now can’t imagine. So if you happen to be around metro Atlanta and you see a woman who’s eyes are unfocused, who can’t form an intelligent thought, looks slightly disheveled, and is too old to be the sleep-deprived mother of a newborn, that’s just me. Weeding through life one day at a time.

My Parenting Fun Continues…

My fourteen-year-old son recently texted me while on a school trip with his classmates and asked me to stop texting him. He’d been gone for two days and I’d texted him a handful of times asking those probing questions that parents ask like, “Where are you now?” When I asked him why I should stop texting him, he answered that I was annoying him.

When he got home, his father and I took his phone away and I told him he’d get it back when he learned to treat me with respect. Oh, and I was done doing all the annoying things I do for him every day.

He now wakes up with an alarm instead of me rubbing his back. He makes his own breakfast (I do still slip a Power Bar into his book bag or else the kid would starve). I’ve stopped annoying him by doing his laundry. We had a lesson with both the washer and dryer that included many eye rolls and frustrated huffs of impatience. He even asked when he was getting his phone back and when he could stop doing laundry (his first load was still in the wash).

Needless to say, he still doesn’t have his phone and he’s still doing his laundry.

Never would I have treated my parents with the kind of disrespect that he treats me. My husband would never have been so bold with his parents, and he’s pretty darn bold. Somewhere along the line, our son has lost complete respect for us. My friends say it’s because he’s a teenager and he’ll grow out of it. Unfortunately for him, I’m not patient enough to wait until he grows out of it. As a matter of fact, he can do his laundry from now until he leaves for college if his attitude doesn’t improve.

The thing I don’t understand is that I don’t expect him to lavish me with praise for preparing his food, doing his laundry, and being at his beck and call 24/7. I never have. I’m simply trying to raise a self-sufficient, happy citizen who will contribute to society. If he does a few years of laundry along the way, his future wife can thank me with grandchildren I intend to spoil rotten and then return to his parents. Should he be scared that I’m already plotting revenge? Yes, he absolutely should.

So as Thanksgiving comes to an end and the kids head back to school with visions of Christmas break on their minds, I’m wondering what the rest of you who have raised teenagers recommend. Should I lighten up because he’s a teenager or give my wayward son more chores?

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