When my daughter called me from the school parking lot, I could hear it in her voice. It’s as if my mom radar went off. Something was definitely wrong.
This is a voice I’ve listened to since the day she was born. Sometimes, the mere inflection of her voice is a tell-all. I can tell what kind of mood she’s in, if she’s not feeling well or if something is wrong even before she verbalizes it. I’m her mom. And, moms just know.
At first, she was afraid to tell me, “Mom, don’t be mad, okay? And, please don’t tell Dad.”
“Honey,” I said. “I can’t promise you that I won’t tell Dad, but I will promise that I’ll try not to be angry… just tell me what happened.”
It took her a moment to get the words out, but she finally mustered up the courage to tell me. “I hit a car in the school parking lot… I’m sorry, mom! He came out of nowhere, I didn’t see him, it really wasn’t my fault!”
Of course, I was upset. Who wouldn’t be? More than anything, I was just grateful she was alright and that no one was hurt.
Knowing how distraught she was, I immediately jumped in the car and headed over to the school to help her work through the situation with the other driver. In the midst of exchanging license and insurance information, and taking a few pictures of the damage, I found myself comforting my daughter. “Baby, it’s okay. It’s just a car. This isn’t the end of the world.”
With a tear rolling down her cheek, my girl looked at me and said “Thanks, Mom. Thanks for not freaking out like I know a lot of other parents would have.”
What she didn’t realize and probably won’t realize until she’s a mom herself, is that I remember…
I remember what it felt like to be a teenager. In fact, I carry those memories around in my back pocket every time I’m about to lose my patience, every time I’m angry, every time I’m frustrated, mad as hell or totally perplexed by my kids’ behavior.
It’s these memories that make me a better parent. It’s these memories that stop me in my tracks when I’m about to say something to my kids that can’t be retrieved. It’s these memories that ground me, give me patience when I need it the most and remind me that there is light on the horizon. They will get through this season of their lives. And, I’ll get through this just like my parents did.
You see, our kids need us to remember…
Remember how invincible we felt? Remember how carefree we were? Remember how much we had to learn?
Nothing could stop us.
We had endless energy and dreams and goals and crazy ideas. We played hard, we were silly, we sang at the top of our lungs and we laughed until it hurt.
We slept and slept and slept. Sometimes we overslept. Sometimes we never slept.
There were times we didn’t listen to reason, times we didn’t listen to our parents, times we didn’t listen to our teachers and times we didn’t listen at all.
There were times we didn’t care, times we threw caution to the wind, times we talked back, times we were smart and plenty of times we were dumb.
We failed tests, failed at sports, failed to understand and failed our parents.
We fell asleep in class, fell apart, fell in love, and fell for stupid pranks.
We made mistakes… far too many to count.
We chose friends over family. We thought our parents were clueless. We were cool, we knew the ropes, we had it all figured out and no one could tell us otherwise.
We were young. We were carefree. We were teenagers.
Remember when we skipped class, cheated on tests and had our first fender bender? Remember when we bent the truth, snuck out, tried cigarettes and snuck a beer? Remember when we walked in past curfew, drove too fast, drove our parents nuts and learned the hard way that there were consequences to our actions?
We got into trouble, got into cars we shouldn’t have and got into tight spots. We flirted. We kissed. We broke the rules.
We took our parents for granted, took hookie days when we shouldn’t have and took a few bucks when our parents weren’t looking.
We made terrible decisions. We didn’t take no for an answer. We made friends with kids who were a poor influence on us. We avoided our chores like the plague. We threw our clothes on the floor. We were sloppy. We refused to eat our mom’s cooking.
We were young. We were carefree. We were teenagers.
Our hormones were raging. Our moods were erratic. Our hair was greasy. Our feet stunk.
We forgot to wear deodorant. We forgot to call our parents. We forgot to do our homework. We forgot to say thank you and we forgot to close the refrigerator.
We cried for no reason at all. We needed our parents one minute and we’d shut them out the next. We closed our bedroom door, we closed off the world, we listened to music for hours, we snuck food in our bedroom, we fought with our siblings, we pulled away…
But, despite it all, we survived.
We made it through. We figured it out. We learned. We grew up. We became responsible. We got jobs. We got married. We had kids.
And, now it’s our kids’ turn …
They’re young. They’re carefree. They’re teenagers.
Teenagers who are where we were just a few short years ago. Teenagers who are trying to find their way. Teenagers who are capable of making big mistakes, but who need our unconditional love. Teenagers who may not understand their feelings, their actions or the words that come out of their mouth. Teenagers who are a little clueless about life, clueless about their future and clueless about how much we love them.
In time they’ll know. In time they’ll come around. In time they’ll grow up. But, for now, what they need more than anything is for us to remember because in some ways things have changed a lot. But, in other ways, things haven’t changed at all.