Remember the toddler years? The questions were easier and a routine was simpler to keep. Most parents sought out playgroups and library story times for the opportunity to visit with other moms and dads who were navigating the same season of life. There were discussions on potty training and food allergies and life seemed more manageable. The stakes weren’t as high and sharing small wins and defeats with other parents was fun and it felt affirming to swap tantrum stories because everyone was in the same boat.
Then the kids grew into their elementary years and it was still encouraging to talk about homework strategies and to cheer for kids sports teams with other moms and dads because most everyone was at the same skill level. Book fairs and popcorn parties still got the kids excited and parents began to loosen their grip on who to advise their kids to invite to their birthday parties. Then kids began to be exposed to mean girls and bullies and it got harder to call other moms to compare notes without embarrassing your own kid. The desire to share experiences was still there, but the shame began to creep in.
But when the teenage years hit, sharing the intricacies of parenting gets tricky and it becomes more difficult to share struggles with other parents who seem to be parenting kids who are doing everything right. The insecurities of parenting creep in and so does the isolation. Suddenly it doesn’t feel as safe to share what is really going on with your kid with the neighbor moms who are comparing notes about their sports schedules. Swapping stories becomes a strategic game of not oversharing your kids faults and trying to portray the image of a family who still has it all together.
The problem is that none of us have it all together, but it’s devastating to call those familiar playgroup moms and explain that your kid is smoking pot or has a drinking problem. It is no longer fun to compare kids’ GPA when you can’t get your kid out of bed in the morning or know who to call when your kid has just been admitted to a hospital following a suicide attempt. Fearing judgement, most parents white knuckle it and suffer alone in their feelings of defeat and fear.
It is in those moments that many parents dig their heels in and decide that the risk of vulnerability is greater than the reward of support. In her book, Daring Greatly, author Brene’ Brown states that vulnerability is is often viewed as a weakness, causing us to stuff our emotions and run from others. “Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe that vulnerability is a weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness.” Being vulnerable in a relationship is a risk for sure. But going deeper in relationships and sharing our experiences are also what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Isolation breeds insecurity and doubt. Getting into community takes a level of bravery but the payoff of support and connection is invaluable.
We don’t have to walk the hard road of parenting teenagers alone. The easiest places to make connections are the ones you're already in. Who do you notice around you when you're spending hours at your kids' sporting or music events? Do you have any families with teens in your neighborhood? Do you have any groups at your church or place of worship that meet specifically to discuss parenting? Who is someone you can reach out to this week who will understand the difficulties you are facing? If you don’t have anyone, consider speaking with a therapist who can sit with you in your struggle and offer you support.