Parenting teens is hard.
Don’t get me wrong - it’s a wonderful gift and a blessing.
It’s so much harder than all those parenting books and blogs said it would be 18 years ago.
The truth is parenting never really gets easier. Never.
It just gets to be a different kind of hard at each stage of development.
And for me, my current stage of parenting - parenting teens and young adults - is by far the hardest stage yet.
At this stage of the parenting journey, the challenges of parenting aren’t just about not getting enough sleep or hoping our kids don’t fall on the playground, or getting them to eat their vegetables.
No, so many of the worries at this stage of parenting are worries about things that could have lifelong consequences and impacts for our teens.
Yet as the parenting worries increase, our ability to reach out and connect with other parents for support decreases.
Somewhere along the journey of parenting teens and young adults, parents have to start filtering ourselves pretty heavily in order to protect our teen’s privacy.
Even when things are hard.
Even when things feel impossibly hard.
Even when we start to think that we are the worst parents ever.
We have to stay silent.
Because it’s not our story to tell.
When our kids were little, we could casually turn to another mom at the playground and say “so, potty training. That’s hard, right?”
Or we could lean over to the mom sitting beside us at the little league game and say “how are you handling helping him balance school work and sports in third grade?”
Or we could call our friend and say “can I get some advice from you on how I should handle what his teacher just emailed me?”
But when we are parenting teens, often we simply can’t share with other parents.
Because it’s not our story to tell.
So parents of teens everywhere are sitting in silence.
Feeling like we are the only ones struggling.
Feeling like we are the only ones failing in the parenting department.
Feeling like we are the only ones worrying if we might be doing more harm than good as we help our teens navigate the consequences of not having a fully developed frontal lobe.
Feeling like we are the only ones who are gripped with anxiety every day.
Feeling like we are the only ones crying in the shower over things we swore we’d never do as parents.
But maybe the next time you find yourself out and about with other parents of teens, you could take a few minutes and consider that even though they aren’t able to say it, chances are those parents are facing the same exact struggles as you.
Maybe that mom posting in the families of high schoolers Facebook group is also choking back tears as she prays that the most recent mistake her teen made won’t hurt his chances at his dream college.
Maybe that mom that you hug as you enter a party is also feeling guilt and shame and regret over losing her temper earlier that day.
Maybe that mom sitting in the car beside yours bundled up in the heat before heading inside to a basketball game is also replaying events from last night with her teen and focusing on all the things she did wrong.
Maybe the story that IS ours to tell is that we all struggle.
No one is parenting perfectly.
No one is finding this stage of parenting easy all the time.
No one has it all figured out.
Maybe the story that IS ours to tell is that we all want to do better.
We are trying to do our best.
We are trying to learn from our mistakes.
We are trying to hold on to all the magical parts of this stage of parenting.
Maybe the story that IS ours to tell is that parenting teens is filled with both love and loneliness.
It is a gift and a challenge.
It is magical and maddening.
It is wonderful and worrisome.
It is sacred and scary.
Maybe the story that IS ours to tell is that even though we can’t share the details of our struggles during this stage of parenting, we can find comfort in knowing that we aren’t truly alone.