I have no idea how to navigate this part of motherhood. Anybody with me?
Here's an illustration. Last week, my 14-year-old son came home from school with a stomach ache. Despite this, he stuck to his usual routine of raiding the cupboards and sitting down to an after school "snack" that would feed a family of four.
I went about my usual routine as well, preparing for a 10 mile run. So I'm in my bedroom pulling on my little running shorts when I hear retching and cursing coming from the bathroom. Mom panic sets in. I run to the hallway and call to my son through the closed door, "Are you okay?" Is he sick? Is he bulimic? Is he dying? (Yes, the thought crossed my mind.)
My poor baby. Flashbacks of his childhood scrolled through my mind. My smallest newborn, the third child to join our family, seamlessly filling his place. The rambunctious three-year-old with a mischievous smile, running away from me through the entire building each day when I picked him up from preschool. The nine-year-old tough boy who broke his shoulder doing parkour at his birthday party. He never even cried.
Now, he is 14 years old and moaning from a tummy ache. This stoic child, who pierced his own ears and nose (a story for another day...grrr) never shows pain. Yes, he must be dying.
Wait, I'm not only a mom, I'm a pediatric nurse. "Honey, open the door so I can help you."
Jordan thrusts the door open and glares at me. "Go away!"
Gasp! My heart squeezes. I didn't expect my baby to yell at me. My mouth is agape. I close it. Then, my hurt turns to anger. "Don't yell at your mother. I'm trying to help you."
"Leave me alone! I'm puking!"
That little jerk. I take a few steps forward, assessing the situation. He looks healthy enough to me. He's strong enough to be yelling. "Fine. Take care of yourself. And stop swearing. I don't want to hear those words coming out of your mouth. I don't care if you're vomiting. Use self control."
Why tell this story? Because it demonstrates my feeling of loss for my place as a mother during the teen years. My teenagers don't want me to hold the bucket for them while they puke anymore. They don't want me to wipe their tear-stained gooey faces with a wet washcloth. Ok, so maybe this is a blessing. But if I'm not helping them, then what is my role? Am I just supposed to walk away and let them fend for themselves? That's seems sad and neglectful. If I walk away, how will I know if they survive?
I went on my 10 mile run, which was glorious. The whole run I was planning the Instagram I would post--maybe a selfie, the sun glaring over my shoulder, my mile splits texted across the screen. Until mile 10 when I got a text from my husband telling me to call him as soon as I got home.
Gasp #3. Jordan! I'd forgotten all about the kid. Something must be terribly wrong. I dial my husband's number and hear Jordan moaning in the background. "I'm driving Jordan to the Emergency Room," he says. "Something isn't right. I found him on the bathroom floor, writhing in pain."
Mom guilt sets in. Here I am on a long run, leaping through fields of daisies (well, not quite) while my son is dying. Visions of patients that died suddenly and unexpectedly cloud my reasoning. I should've been there for Jordan. But he pushed me away. What was I supposed to do???
This is my struggle. How do I parent teenagers that refuse to be parented? They push me away and don't follow my advice. I'm at a loss. This entry will not end in wisdom. I don't have an epiphany to share.
For now, I pray for my kids, talk to them even when they don't appear to be listening, and rely on the years of parenting when they still thought my husband and I had all the answers. I also try to think of how God, our Heavenly Father, "parents" us and try to model that with my children.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities...As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:8,13
BTW, turned out Jordan had appendicitis. He apologized to me for being mean during the puking episode. I forgave him.
Hmm, without the assistance of his parents, the appendicitis could have been fatal. So he did need us even though he didn't realize it. So I guess even when the kids push us away, we shouldn't go too far.