Day 204 - Growing Up...
So I have had a lot of contact with teenagers lately. I have two so that isn’t a surprise. What has shocked me a bit, is that I am being consulted for my opinion. I am being asked questions about situations that most teens would never discuss with an adult, let alone their parent.
I am incredibly grateful that my children will come to me and talk to me about things that involve their friends and growing up. I have no delusions that they are only telling me the tip of the adolescent iceberg. But I am seriously grateful to be given the head’s up about ANY iceberg...because if I know it is there, I know that there is way more underneath.
In the last few days, I have been consulted about a teen’s living situation and home life and then a physical intimacy issue. I will not say sexual because it wasn’t sexual...but more of a contact issue which we all know leads to sex...
I posted about the kid and the living situation the other day. I have been amazed a what this kid has done since requesting to come live with me. He appears to have wholly abandoned any idea that he will live inside any kind of law and order and is off to the races in screwing up his life. It boggles my mind and also leaves me with the very real feeling that I was seen more as an easy target that would not/could not say no than a person whose counsel was sought. On the whole, nothing I said was listened to after I told him that he couldn’t come stay or live here. I can only imagine that if I would have made another choice and let him come, I would have quickly found myself in the same position as his current guardians.
The whole sex and intimacy issue looms large with teens. I have my own experience with that which is not something that I want either of my children to repeat. I basically got it all wrong. I didn’t feel like I had something precious to share with another person, for me virginity felt like something to hurry up and get rid of...fucked up I know. Regardless of that feeling, I waited as a teen. I was scared and was not sure I was ready for all of that despite my very strong desire to not be the last one of my friends to lose their viriginity.
The world (current crisis aside) has sped up. Kids are doing at 12/13 things that my generation did at 16/17. We all know what a huge difference there is between 13 and 17! That four years makes a huge difference in maturity and in just an increased ability to deal with all things social and responsible...especially as it relates to sex.
My daughter who just turned 13 this month knows girls who have given blow jobs and a few girls her age who have actually had sex! While shocking and alarming, it is happening even in our quaint little town...kids are experimenting with substances and that leads to a lowered inhibition. I would even go so far as to say that substance is being used to bridge the awkward and challenging gap between child and teen...especially on the sex front.
Yesterday’s sexual progression was inevitable which allowed for a conversation to be had which allowed for my daughter to think about who she wants to be. I am sure that some of you will think that 13 is a very young age for my child or any child to think about who they want to be as a sexual person. I disagree. I think now is the perfect time for her to sort this out. To think it through so that she has the time and clarity to figure it out BEFORE she is presented with about a zillion opportunities to actually engage in sexual activity.
Girls these days are giving boys blow jobs in school bath rooms, at homes after school and at parties. You can say that this is urban legend but I can name names of actual kids I know. I won’t do that of course. Sex is a private affair even if you are 13. My daughter and I had a conversation on this topic before she started junior high. It went like this:
So did you know that there are girls who will give guys a blowjob at school?
(HOW DOES SHE KNOW WHAT A BLOWJOB IS!!!?????). Um, wow, I didn’t know you even knew what that was...that is terrifying on a whole variety of levels.
Come on Mom! I know lots of things...
(Groan). I am sure you do. Do you have any questions? Or have you got it all figured out...
Ugh! I don’t want to talk to you about this!
Well you brought it up so I have some stuff to say...can you please listen to me for a minute?
Jeez! Ok, since I am held captive in this car and I have no cell reception at the moment...ok.
I might pull over here and decide to live here in this place with no cell reception...
Ok, so it appears that there are going to be requests for this type of thing from you in the future...apparently at school which is totally f’ed up by the way...anyway, what I want you to think about BEFORE that happens to you is who do you want to be? And I want you to know you are going to get called a name either way. So the decision is really about what name you want to be called...
If you do it, they will call you easy and likely a slut (I hate this word but it is teen vernacular so I am going with it). If you don’t do it, they will call you lame or uptight or a prude (she quickly told me that no one would call her a prude because no one even knew what that word meant). So I said whatever the word is today for someone who will not do sex stuff with boys....
So you get decide your own name. Your conduct or lack of conduct is what is going to be the basis. Who do you want to be? They are going to call you a name either way so isn’t it best for you to decide what name you want it to be?
Um I guess so.
From my perspective, if you do it, then you get the name and you don’t have any sense of self because you allowed yourself to be degraded to an act and have allowed that act to be the defining thing about you. If you don’t do it, then you have chosen your name and you have self respect which is all that really matters in this world. Love and respect of self is the foundation for everything else. If you don’t have that, you don’t really have much of anything because you will always sell yourself out to someone else’s wishes for you. Your life ends up being for others instead of for you. So one way leads to a place that decimates your self and the other leads to foundational construction of self...it is really up to you.
What does decimate mean?
I am sorry! My vocabulary is not helpful sometimes. It means to destroy.
Oh, yeah. I am not going to do that...I am not ready for any of that. If I get pressured I am going to talk to you about it, ok?
I hope you do. (Please God, let her really do that!)
Can we get Starbucks?
That was a year ago. So far, so good.
Yesterday’s crisis is still a little fresh so I am not going to write about it because I am still processing and also it is private. I can’t share about it and not reveal her confidence. I do not want to do anything to break the very tedious bond that allows her to turn towards me...
What I do want to say is that I remember what it was like to try to navigate these choppy teen waters. I started drinking to cope. I see some of her friends doing the same thing. Use the substance to numb and quiet all of the anxiety budding sexuality causes, so that you can slip through it unscathed. Except substance, in my experience, only brings on more situations to navigate and an altered consciousness that does not give you the mental clarity you need to really take the helm.
Yesterday I realized that maybe that is what all the substance use is about...something to take the edge off of the looming question of sex. I remember being her age and being intensely curious and equally terrified. I remember being scared but also with full knowledge that I was going to have to address the fear no matter what. There was no escaping it, sex would become an issue and question no matter what I did...eventually. It was totally up to me when eventually would happen and I recognize now that is A LOT of fucking pressure!
All of this thought and worry yesterday caused me to see kids in a new light and in a new manner. I now see them on this fast track...with sex and substances being tied to each other. There is this huge push to use both early and often. But what then? If you have smoked pot, vaped, smoked cigarettes and had sex at 13 where the hell do you go then? It became very clear to me why our kids are doing meth and heroin at 15 and 16. They started with the lighter stuff at 13...
This all left me feeling depressed, powerless and totally freaked out. Inwardly...outwardly I acted like it was all in a day’s work. If I let her know how very much this scared me to my core, I would not do anything to help her...how can she turn to me for comfort if she knows I am going to lose my shit? That anything she tells me is going to scare me or upset me?
So I held it together. I hugged her more and went for the gratitude. I was super, intensely and forever grateful that she came to me! ME! She also talked to her friends and sought their counsel. But I was part of her inner circle...within the sphere of influence...I am so fucking lucky. And so is she. Because I remember all too well how much one needs her mom to help guide her through this most challenging time. I was incredibly lucky to have the legacy in our family of close knit mother/daughter relations. I was incredibly grateful to have been parented by a mom who let me stray but kept me close in conversation...it literally saved my life.
My ultimate conclusion? It is hard growing up. To have all the pressures of the world: Achieve. Succeed. Be great. Be kind. Be your best self. All being requested at a time when you haven’t really figured that all out yet. Where your teenaged mind tells you things that you believe are true and pits you against the adults in your world who are seen as being punishing and lame.
What I prayed for as I went to bed last night was that all teens and their parents really try to listen to each other. To HEAR each other. To waylay the panic and outrage on both sides so that there is a pause in the dialogue long enough for reason to set in. So kids can benefit from their parents experience. So parents can take a minute to really remember what it was like and how they handled it...and how very hard that actually was...and how likely that now, they wished they would have done it differently.
I am only at the very beginning of adolescence with a 13 and 14 year old. I know that there are stormy, stormy seas ahead. But I have my sea legs because I survived it myself and actually have been able to use my own poor decisions to be a proving ground for a life lived better upon reflection. I have learned to be open when I feel like shutting down. Of shutting up when I want to talk. That listening is much, much more important than talking. That walking the walk is the only way that I can be a good example of a life well lived.
As I drifted off last night, I sent light and love to all the kids and parents struggling. I felt immense empathy for both sides of adolescence...I stood on that middle line where I remembered what it was like to be 13 and also, at the same time, what it is like to parent a 13/14 year old. I fell asleep and slept soundly being grateful to have weathered another teenaged tempest...knowing that I was going to need all my strength and reserve to meet the coming gales...praying to be the lighthouse that brings them home to a safe harbor.