High Wire Adolescence
Sneaking out. I did it. I did it a lot. Until I got busted, then I still did it, just more carefully. Is it an inevitability of adolescence? Fuck, I hope not.
I made a deal with my daughter that she could “sneak out” but she had to tell me. Where she was going, with whom and no getting into cars with boys...she said ok. Which I totally understands defeats the purpose of sneaking out...you don’t want your parent to know.
I am raising two teens by myself. I have no idea what I am doing. I feel like I am walking a tight rope between "militant-over-bearing-mother-bear" mom and "be-true-to-yourself-and-do-what-you-want-middle-finger-to-the-establishment" mom. Honestly, it is exhausting and I feel like we are all in peril all the time. I would really like us to put the umbrellas down, get off the tight rope and just return to the more stable land of pretty much any other time in our lives so far...
But we all know that isn’t going to happen.
My son is vaping. I did that too. (Well, I smoked because there wasn't vaping but let's make no mistake about it: I would have vaped if it had been invented yet) Yes, I know what my son is up to. No, I do not approve. How can I stop him? If I don’t make it so he can talk to me, he will just lie to me and do it behind my back. I do not approve. I have said that I think it is stupid and not legal. I have told him that if I catch him, I will take it. If he gets busted at school, he will be punished. He has told me that he will not do it at school, he isn’t doing anything else like drinking or drugs. He is not having sex or wild parties at my house while I am at work. Vaping? Fuck, really?
So my daughter is sneaking out to “talk” with boys and my son is vaping. I feel like the delusional hold I thought I had on life is slipping. And yet, I always know that it was only a delusion. Reality being far harsher which is why I prefer the delusion...
Truth is the moment I found out I was pregnant with these two, I signed up for a lifetime of heartfelt chaos. I would be granted periods of time when it would seem like I was in control of everything but I never really was. They have held my heart from the moment I knew of their existence. And they are always going to.
And this is why I think as parents we act like assholes so much of the time! Fuck, we are almost completely powerless over these now not tiny beings who we love with all that we are. We have literally turned our love, heart, heart valve and pretty much everything else over to them and they are reckless, careless and often hard hearted. This was a totally bad call on our part.
And yet, it can be no other way. All children should be so lucky to have a parent like this. But not all do. Some get severely fucked up parents. Some get parents who don’t seem to care at all. Some get abusive, awful parents.
My kids got me. And I am not sure where I fall. I am not abusive (99.98% of the time), I am fucked up for sure (23.78% of the time), I do care (1000% of the time). So where does that leave us all? Remember that high wire, we are there...
I love them. I fear for their safety. I think about them all the time. They terrify me with their careless youth. I envy them it sometimes. Wishing I could go back to a time where I thought of nothing but sneaking a smoke and the high I could get from talking to a cute boy. Life was so much simpler then. Or was it?
I made the deal I did with my daughter because in the moment that I made it, I remembered what it was like to be 14. I mean this is what I did. I sneaked out to hang out with boys, kiss them, talk to them. That was really all. I did not sleep around, or allow myself to be put in situations with people I didn’t know. But I also drank, I mean a lot so it wasn’t long before I was totally out of control. I mean I still locked myself down on many fronts, so the drinking set me free...until it didn’t.
I realized this morning as my daughter and her friend left at 3 am for a “walk” with some kid named Jake, that I made this deal because of my past and my past was the result of my own trauma. I did the things I did at my daughter’s age because of my fucked up childhood. It was not normal...whatever that is.
And I panicked. I realized that my whole parenting course was a result of my own issues. And I regretted my decision. But as I sat in the dark wishing that I vaped or smoked or did something to alleviate the growing fear in my chest...I thought about where I ended up. Sure it was a rocky road and I stumbled a lot but I got to where I am right now: gainfully employed, panicking in a house I own, custody of two pretty fucking cool kids and I relaxed a little.
My kids are talking to me. Let me say that again: MY KIDS ARE TELLING ME WHAT THEY ARE DOING...in spite of the fact that I could punish them or freak out. They are telling me the truth - well, at least enough of it that we all believe it passes for truth.
My goal is what it has always been: to keep the lines of communication open so that I can somewhat review or supervise what they are doing. And for now, it is working. I think...
My daughter and her friend were gone for a total of twelve minutes. Twelve. Now they are back safely in bed and we have all survived another Friday night of adolescence. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am counting down the Friday nights I have left. Both with joy and fear. Because I know that really the next decade is going to be fraught. They are going to fuck shit up. They are going to act out. Do stupid shit. And garner my disfavor.
The pervasive thought that ran through my head this morning while my daughter and her friend were talking to “Jake” (and no, I do not believe it was the Jake from State Farm) was that I didn’t want to know. The anxiety and fear I felt was too great to hold the information she gave me. I wished that I was like other parents out there who didn’t know that there kids were vaping and sneaking out.
But after my dread and loser fight with powerlessness, I realized that I do want to know. That I am, in fact, privileged to know. My teens have told me some truth. Certainly not all of it, I am not an idiot to believe that they tell me it all. But I know enough to keep tabs, to pay attention and to not hide from the fact that their job is to push the boundaries and my job will continue to be to set them somewhere close to where they can meet them, causing us both to stretch in directions that are scary and painful. For them giving me information that could disrupt their plans, and for me, knowing things that cause me to doubt pretty much every decision I have made in their regard thus far.
But this morning I ran it all through the nuthouse that doubles for my mind and I saw that knowing, paying attention and allowing for some teenaged rebellion has to be part of this deal. And that is going to make me super uncomfortable. And I hate that.
So I am up writing this at 4:17 am on a Saturday because I do not vape, or smoke or drink or take drugs or sneak out of the house. My life is not theirs. I have to deal with what I see and find some way to live with it. So I write. I pour it out here. I share so that I can move forward with some confidence as a mother. In truth, I haven’t a fucking clue what I am doing and I think they know that so why bother pretending?
I have made a lot of shitty decisions on my way to this moment right here. And I have been lucky to survive them all. All I can do is pray that they are given safe passage. And I know that none of us are guaranteed another minute of this life. It can all be taken from us in an instant. I am painfully aware of this as my friend from high school holds her son’s memorial service tomorrow...nothing, fucking nothing is guaranteed except that we will all die. Cheery fucking thought at 4 am...
But I am here, I am doing it. I am showing up. I am really, really, really doing my best. I do see that a lot of what I do is because of my own past and that is both a good thing and a bad thing. I am terrified and reasonably comfortable with my choices thus far. And I want to do better. So I will.
I pray that I have given them what they need for this part of their journey. I pray that their decisions to vape and sneak out will not be fatal. That they will be the misguided decisions of adolescence, stories to be told to others later, much, much, much fucking later. And they will remember this time as they pace the floor in the wee hours of morning fearing for their own child’s safety while realizing that they really have so very little control at all.
I pray that the love I feel for them while they slumber now in their beds permeates their entire being, that they can feel 10% of the love I feel for them but can always access the other 90% because they know it is there. I pray that my love is patient, kind, understanding yet firm. I pray that the boundaries I set for them and myself are guides for us all as we stumble our way through...praying every single minute of every single day they are given safe passage to adulthood. Praying that I don’t fuck them up beyond repair. Praying that I rise to the most difficult and fear evoking thing I have done so far in this life: love. Love my children. Fiercely, completely, with all that I am. Then turn all that down to a level that does not feel stifling, limiting and fun killing.
So it is back on the high wire we all go...they will wake soon, well if soon is noon. We will all begin again today, them walking the high wire of adolescence, me trying to keep up, constantly checking the net to make sure there are no holes, the knots are secure...then nervously glancing toward the sky while I watch them dance, unconcerned across the wire.