My oldest son flipped his car this summer. He was nine days away from being able to have friends drive with him. Where we live, teenagers can’t drive with anyone under the age of 21 (other than a sibling) until they’ve had their license for nine months.
He told me he was going to get a sub at Subway and I believed him.
He loves a good meatball sub and he’d been cooped up for so long due to COVID I decided if he wanted to go grab a snack at seven on a Wednesday night, it would be harmless to allow him to air out his shorts a little bit.
Only that’s not what happened. He was gone for about 20 minutes when I got a call from him saying he was a mile down the road at the Park and Ride, and he’d flipped his car.
He was fine, and told me so first thing because he knows I’m anxious about his safety just like all other mothers.
When I got there, three of his friends were with him. Instead of going to get something to eat like he said, he’d met them at the parking lot and they were driving around, taking corners too fast, and my son was the one who made the bad decision to show off.
The police officer got there right when I did (someone had seen what happened and called 911) and got the lowdown from my son, who was very forthcoming about the fact there were a few of his friends in the car with him.
I know there are so many things that could have happened. We are extremely lucky that nothing happened to him or his friends. He was punished hard and the state took away his license for allowing kids to drive in the car with him — and I took it away for longer. I also made him sell his car.
My neighbor sent me a text wondering where my son had been; they hadn’t seen him driving around. When family or friends would ask how things were going, I kept this incident — which had so many “what if” scenarios attached that it gave me nightmares for the rest of the summer — to myself.
“Things are good,” I’d say.
To anyone on the outside, what happened makes my son look like a bad kid. To anyone without kids, it makes him look like a bad person.
The same thing happened when he got suspended from school for smoking pot. And when my youngest decided to smear Nutella on a locker at school. And when my daughter started cutting herself.
I kept it to myself.
Parenting teens is so lonely for two reasons. First, they no longer want to spend time with you. Anything you suggest is stupid and they think you don’t know anything. You go from being their world to repelling them the minute they hit puberty.
Then, when they start getting into the big stuff — the stuff that seems exciting to their invincible brains, like driving too fast, breaking the rules, sneaking around, and experimenting with drugs and alcohol — you can’t exactly vent about it to the mom you just met at the park on the online Facebook group.
It’s now their story to tell. This is their life and their struggles and it’s not fair to them to blabber about it to blow off steam the same way you did when they were teething, or when you thought they’d never be potty trained.
No, the teenage years come with deep struggles and secrets you have to keep in order to hang on to their trust.
The teenage years come with you having to put on a strong front when they come to you about certain issues they are struggling with, because if you freak, that will be the last time they will do that. And staying calm is hard.
The teenage years come with worrying about what other people will think about the choices your teens make. You can go into it thinking other people don’t dictate the way you raise your older child. But the thing is, as soon as someone judges them (and they will) about what they want to do after high school, their dreams, how they dress, how they spend their time, and mistakes they’ve made, you see how much it affects them. Which affects you so deeply that no amount of “I don’t care what other people think” can soften how hard that hits.
There are times I look at my three children and I want something to grip onto and I keep slipping. I want to talk to them about their life, their thoughts, their fears. They want no part of it most of the time.
The deep connection I used to share with them during those days when they wanted me (and only me) to tuck them in, to fix a scrape, to sit and watch a movie with them, are pretty much gone.
What’s left is a mom who knows how crucial these teenage years are and feels overwhelmed with the responsibilities of wanting her kids to turn into the best adults they can.
All this while keeping their private issues, well, private and shouldering the burden of worry alone.
I can honestly say there are a lot of days my house feels full, but I’m lonely. The good news is, I’ve heard it gets better and it will be worth it.
I’m hanging on to that sentiment with all my strength.