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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Navigating the Choppy Teen Waters

My best friend and I wanted to take a small sailboat off the coast of Hamilton Island in Australia to go sailing. There was a long line of tourist waiting to do the mandatory training before they were given a boat to take out. But my best friend knew that my patience level had just about exceeded it's five-minute limit. I mean, the conditions were deplorable,  white sand, crystal blue water. So she marched her little self up to the guide and said she was an experienced sailor (not really but it sounded good.) And he believed her. Next thing I know, she and I were out in the shark infested ocean sailing.

As the waves crashed into us she thought it would be a good time to tell me that she hadn't exactly been on this type of boat before.  And she was going to need my help because we were drifting out to the middle of nowhere and soon one of us would have to kill the other to eat in order to not to starve to death.  I wasn't much help because I get motion sick and have a tendency to laugh hysterically in these situations, not a pretty combination if you can imagine. Eventually, I helped turn the boat around and we ended up back at shore safely, and in time for lunch.

In between laughing and trying not to puke, I asked her why she said she could sail when she hadn't in a long time, and why she would put our lives in jeopardy.  She said she knew a little bit about it and knew she would just figure it out. Fake it till you make it.  And we were just fine.

That was six years ago and I think about that story often as I navigate the choppy water of raising a teen boy.  He has only been a teen for six weeks, but I recently weathered my first storm.

The first thing I needed to admit was that I know absolutely nothing about teen boys.  I mean, I thought I knew things about teen boys, but I was wrong. Every stereotypical notion I created when I was growing up needed to be thrown out the window.  For example, all the days my 13-year-old self doodled my name with a boy's last name and thought he was doing the same was a big huge misconception.  I know this, because, on the long list of things my son thinks about, I can confidently say marriage hasn't even made it on the paper.  Which coincidentally was the same case for his father until he turned 29.

Last Thursday night, my son suddenly became ill with an acute stomach pain. He is rarely sick, so I was not surprised when he woke up on Friday, that he was still suffering.  My husband wasn't buying it,  and told him that it was a remarkable coincidence that he was sick on the day he was to present a project that he hadn't prepared for at school.

Another thing I admit to knowing absolutely nothing about is men.  I couldn't believe how insensitive he was acting towards our beloved first born!  I reminded Don about the one time he had an acute stomach pain and ended up having an emergency appendectomy.

(Then I made the motion of dropping the mic.)

My mom stayed with my son while I took his brother's to school and when I returned home, he had seemed to have made a miraculous recovery in the twenty minutes I was gone.

It then occurred to me... I had been punked. Totally punked, and it pissed me off.  I told him to get his clothes on and that we were going to school.  He begged and pleaded with me to let him stay home.  His stomach pain had returned and he now thought he may die.  If I do anything, he suggested I take him to a hospital.

But I didn't budge. I made him get in the car and I drove him to school.
He was very very unhappy with this. He was yelling and crying and dry heaving.  All while asking me how I could do this to him. But I kept on driving.

I had never been in this situation before.   I was angry that my husband was right, angry that my son had lied to me and angry at myself for not knowing if what I was doing was the right thing.

I have anxiety.  At times, it has been severe, so I know how a mental worry can manifest to your gut and make you feel like you are going to implode.

Up until this point, I had done whatever it was to protect him from pain. I thought about the old guy who watched me trying to teach Parker to swim in a hotel pool when he was a year old. "Just throw him in, that will teach him," he said with confidence.  Little did he know that very image would keep me up at night. But I knew I could never do that. Ever.

Yet, here I was. My son was in pain, whether it was mental or physical and I was forcing him to do something he didn't want to do. I was throwing him in the water.

I tried to assure him that he was going to be okay. That he shouldn't believe what a classmate told him.  He was not stupid.  What he was, was ill-prepared and there is a big difference.

When we arrived at school, we sat in the parking lot.  I watched as he took off his glasses, wiped the tears from his face. Straightened is tie and shirt and smoothed his hair back to a pompadour.

He looked at me and what I anticipated was another plea to go back home, but instead he said: " Let's go" as he opened the door.

We walked into the school and I watched as he joined his friends. You would never know that he and I had just almost capsized.

I needed a minute to breathe because truthfully I hadn't been.  Another thing I didn't know.. how scary these situations can be.

I ducked into the teachers lounge with his teacher who is also a friend of mine.  I closed the door behind us and almost burst into tears, wondering if I had been too harsh, I was shaking inside.  He put his hand on my shoulder and told me I had done the right thing.  Not that I needed that assurance, but okay.. I totally did and I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry right there.  But I didn't.

I had just faked it until I made it.

I sat and watched the presentations and had a hard time believing that I had just earned my sea legs in the choppy teen waters.

Later after dinner as I was washing the dishes, Parker put his arm around me and thanked me for making him go to school, flashed his signature smile and went on his way.  Nothing more.

We both had held on tight and weathered it,  navigating this unexpected tidal wave.  But we did together.

At least when the next wave hits, I will know we will make it safely back to shore, despite not knowing what the hell we are doing.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to teendom. Just remember, everything you've ever heard about teenagers is true. Everything you've ever heard about how to raise teenagers, probably isn't going to do you an ounce of good. Just give them love and respect and believe in them. The rest, you just have play by ear.