I’ve been intentional lately about making myself tell real, live people that I’m writing a book about parenting. Last month, a random mom at a yoga event asked me what my job was and I told her about my book and said that it was about how being a mom is basically impossible and that I’ve been thrown some curveballs by my kids. She responded by telling me that she had very few conflicts with her teenage son because she “teaches mindfulness and they practice it together as a family.”
You should probably keep that to yourself, Sheila.
It reminded me of when my kids were tiny and other parents bragged about how their toddlers were actually surprisingly easy. I’d smile and slowly back away because I knew the chaos and fury just hadn’t come to their house yet. It’s like someone bragging, “We don’t have to shovel our driveways in the winter.” That’s because you live in Florida.
Here’s one advantage of having been a mom for over twenty-two years: I didn’t stand there with the mindfulness lady and doubt my own parenting. I didn’t wonder what I’d done wrong that my kids didn’t meditate with me.
I simply realized that we weren’t going to be friends.
Here’s how I know she wasn’t the kind of friend I need as a mom:
1. She didn’t read the room. If I’ve just shared that having fifteen year old twin girls is challenging with all the moodiness and negotiating, then responding that you find parenting not hard at all is just not kind.
2. She might simply be lucky with an easy kid and that’s a real gift from the universe. She needs to keep that information to herself.
I was probably being too sensitive and Lord knows that I say the wrong thing all the time. But I hope that my tendency is to err on the side of solidarity and compassion. She didn’t have to commiserate if her household really is that peaceful; she could have just not said anything.
She probably thought that she was being helpful by suggesting that meditation would make motherhood breezy. I remember that I didn’t have a ton of trouble with my son in middle school, either, but once I did, simply being mindful wasn’t going to fix it. We were crying in different parts of the house, but working through these tough situations together mattered; the issues were important enough to tackle even though emotions remained high.
There are conversations that I’ve had with my kids that make me want to run out of the house, screaming, with my hair on fire. These are some issues we’ve tackled that I was not prepared for and yet found myself in the middle of: Running away from controlling partners—and also from hard drugs. Breaking up with someone in a way that is clear and kind instead of being a knucklehead. Maintaining a bikini line. Hiding fake IDs better ( I don’t pretend to care once they are in college. I just can’t fake horror about something that feels ridiculous to me.) Defining sleepover rules for the LGBTQIA+ kids—it’s complicated. Keeping your hands where police can see them at all times for the African-American kids—it’s terrifying. Using good manners even if the adults around you aren’t. Using condoms. Eating too much ice cream when you are lonely. Losing too much weight in a few months. Figuring out the difference between depression and normal teenage tiredness. Navigating what “counts” as porn. Not answering “emotional booty calls.” Trying to be less embarrassing white people when we are at the twins’ new high school. Sharing too much online. Sharing too little with siblings.
After writing out this list, which is in no way exhaustive, I’m wondering if my kids would prefer we all mediate together. Then, at least I’d be quiet.
I know that I’m an intense mom and that this family of ours is complicated, but I hope my kids will remember that I didn’t scare easily when difficult stuff came our way.
Because I received no formal training to be a mom to these particular kids, it’s only after we have these hard conversations that I think of things much, much later that I should have said. Sometimes I text my better thoughts to my kids. Sometimes I let it go because these things really aren’t about me giving prize-worthy responses. It’s about me not running from the room; it’s about me not being freaked out by perfectly normal teenage and young adult things.
It’s about my kids knowing that I am always in their corner.