Twice the thrills, double the despair

“Despair” may be too strong a word, but at risk of repeating myself, I’ve never felt so weary as a parent. Maybe my exhaustion has as much to do with being older as with the children being teenagers — certainly times must have been harder when they were young. When we lived with Bobby’s mother, that was harder. When I was counting on cash aid and food stamps, attending CR full-time and working 20 hours a week, and the kids were little, that must have been harder. This, though, is a new kind of exhaustion; I am worn out from the seriousness of their needs combined with the constant rejection or, at best, ignoring of me. Never have I felt like they needed so much — and yet they don’t want me. How am I supposed to help? What am I supposed to do with all this grand knowledge I’ve earned over the years? What’s the point of me being all wise and experienced now if no one will listen?

Be loving, I tell myself. Be patient. It’s so hard to be a teenager. The intensity of feeling. The longing. The uncertainty. The rebellion. This too shall pass… right?

But coupled with Nick’s diabetes, my already tenuous ability to place myself in role of advisor rather than boss lady is stretched to near-breaking. He can rebel against what he sees as our “hippie” values, he can strive toward being “normal” as much as he wants — until his behavior results in blood sugar swings. Or forcing me to stay up late into the night to ensure he’s okay. Because sometimes he’s not. He’s been low a few times, lately, very low once, down in the 40s. Yes, not being able to eat carbs after 9 p.m. is a form of deprivation — but the later he eats carbs, the later I have to stay up to make sure everything’s balanced out after the bolus has worn off. I offer to make him omelets at all hours, sugar-free steamers, anything to make it easier. But he resents the orders — oh, he can be so sweet, still! But rarely. I miss him, all of them, those days when they were small and kind and laughed with me. Now it’s all surly responses pointedly illustrating what a nosy and ignorant mother I am. Why can’t I just leave them alone? (K, I should qualify, puts up with me to a greater degree as long as I don’t pester her about her thoughts or anything else of import.)

Nick started baseball, is playing on the JV team — yay! Spring must be around the corner and at least with baseball he’ll be too busy to get into the kind of trouble teenagers can be prone to. A particular kind that boys in Humboldt County seem particularly drawn to. Parenting teenagers takes so much strength. I fear I am neither strong enough nor smart enough (despite my earlier assertions) to pull it off. One would think that after being put through the paces by Chelsea, I’d have it figured out this go-round — but parenthood doesn’t work that way exactly. It’s more like you accumulate a bunch of regrets and hope to have fewer next time. All I wanted was success, to shelter and guide these precious little people — a flawed concept. As a parent, you’re doomed. You promise to never let harm befall them, but of course it does and you can’t stop it. You love them more than anyone, yet they drive you into repeated furies. You do so much for them and they’ll never realize it until they’re struggling parents themselves. So in lieu of accomplishment, you find solace in not failing utterly.

I read parenting books again — something I’d thought I’d sworn off after infancy. Be consistent, they say. Be clear with your expectations and the consequences that will happen if those expectations are not met. Makes sense in theory; practice proves more challenging. That’s parenting in a nutshell.

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One thought on “Twice the thrills, double the despair”

  1. Jen – parenting teenagers is tough at best. The best advice I can throw out there is to be a parent, not a friend. Every parent of teens is going through this and we are all being mistreated by our teens in some way. What they clearly need is firm boundaries and they WILL come out the other side. We have seen this with our older children and they often thank us for being so firm with our expectations in high school. Hang in there.

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