I wish I could say that parenting a teenager is like a walk in the park. I take walks in parks all the time and let me tell you if anyone tells you it’s that easy and they know what they are doing, they are flat out lying.
I’ve been on my own since my little man was three and I sincerely thought it would get easier as he got older but boy was I wrong. The struggles are now harder than ever. My son just turned 13 and I get the feeling that this is just the beginning. He argues, he challenges, he’s demanding, he acts like he knows it all, yet he has difficulty locating a carrot in the fridge. When I ask him to do anything, he rolls his eyes, makes noises of exasperation, and his temper instantly flares.
Parenthood suddenly went from being each other’s everything, physically and emotionally to one long litany of force, of insistence, of exposition and declamation. He constantly tests my patience and somehow manages to press all of my buttons at the same time.
It’s exhausting and I often contemplate time and time again where and how I went wrong. Some days are better than others but most of the time, daily interactions feel like a game of tug of war.
I find myself looking at old photos and wondering where that super cute and innocent face went. I remember holding him for the first time, in the crook of my arm, thinking he’d be mine forever. I reminisce about the times when all I needed to do to entertain him was stick out my tongue and go cross-eyed. I miss how easy it was to comfort him at bedtime, lying next to him, stroking his hair with his tiny hand under my cheek. I never thought I would ever say this but I would trade changing diapers and the sleepless nights with his adolescent years in a heartbeat. Where oh where did my baby go?
And then I look up. He is definitely still there; badgering me about what’s for dinner and if he’s ever getting his PS4 back. He’s still the same child but only bigger, taller, more independent and opinionated as ever. While the teen version of him drives me through the roof, I try to bear in mind that it’s not his fault. The ‘once upon a time’ little version of him is growing and slowly pulling away from me to create his own identity (hopefully a mature, adult-like identity).
No one warned me it would be this hard. And it’s even harder when you are doing all the raising alone. And even harder when living in a foreign country as an expat away from family and friends. However, I am learning to ask for help. I am picking my battles and have partially accepted that I am not the coolest person in his world anymore, and that’s okay. I have come to terms with the fact that teens are the most self-absorbed creatures on the planet and taking others’ word for it that this is just a phase and it will pass.
My son only just turned 13 and I feel like I’m running through a treacherous jungle where even when one treads carefully, the path is unpredictable and the way out is nowhere in sight. I am tired, overwhelmed and emotionally burned out.
I don’t know who needs to hear this but if you are a parent of a teen, know that we are all running lost in the same jungle together. I hear you, I feel you and I get it. You are doing a great job. It takes time, patience and a lot of love but even in the wildest of jungles, you will survive and you will make it out. After all, these teen years are just a phase, so they say.