One of my favorite songs from the musical “Dear Evan Hansen” is sung from the perspective of several different parents who are trying to navigate their way through the teenage years with their kids, and struggling with all that means. They are trying to handle difficult conversations, emotional parrying with their adolescent children, potential drug use, and all of the other complexities that come with parenting teens.
I get it completely. This song speaks to me as a professional working in the mental health field, but, more importantly, it speaks to me as a parent of twin tween daughters who are rapidly advancing into this age bracket. Kids want to be independent, but their brains aren’t quite ready for prime time. But don’t tell THEM that. They already know everything that you have to say, and are ready with an eye roll for any teeny bit of learned advice you might have to offer.
Being a parent is hard. You don’t have that stack of books that are published by the thousands for parents of infants and toddlers (wouldn’t THAT be nice). I’m trying to visualize what “What to Expect With Your 15-Year-Old” would look like. Definitely not the pastel, baby colored book that I dog eared when my kids were infants, with the steps laid out, in order, like a “how to” manual. Are there some good resources out there? Sure, but you have to know what you are looking for.
In “Dear Evan Hansen,” one of the mothers talks about how “I’m flying blind, I’m making it up as I go.” I can relate so much to this. We don’t want to be the parents our parents were, because things have changed, and the world is dramatically different. But it’s hard not to fall back on our own learned patterns that are, at some level, an unconscious part of who we are. We want our kids to succeed, but how do we define success? How do we help them navigate through these intricate times that have so many roadblocks, pity parties, and dead ends? How do we help them achieve their own hopes and dreams without focusing on what we want them to do instead?
It’s not easy, and it’s not clear. But for me, right now, in the middle of trying to parent two kids who are stuck at home during Covid-19, I’m doing the best that I can. Some days we are watching educationally appropriate movies and having great conversations over popcorn. Some days, it’s a “fend for yourself” night and I’m absolutely incapable of doing anything more than collapsing on the couch in a puddle of exhaustion.
Here’s what I would say… be kind to yourself. Take it a step at a time. Lean on your friends and family, and talk to your kids. No one knows how to do this, because, quite simply, no one has done this with your kids, in your circumstances. Each of our children are precious, and different, and unique. You are going to make mistakes. But kids are resilient, and if we can all just hang in there, we’re going to make it, together.
PS – if you haven’t listened to this awesome song… here’s a link on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6f1-QF9jvBM. Enjoy and let me know what you think!!