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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Losening the Reins

I have never broken in a horse.  I should say that up front.  Although recently I told a friend that breaking in a horse would be easier than raising a teen.  She didn't question my comparison, at least not out loud.  The last couple weeks have been challenging.  Since last month, I have two teen boys in the house.   I don't want to freak anyone who is currently raising toddlers out, but I have lost more sleep and felt more guilty about my parenting than I ever did when they were young.

And guilt was my middle name.

My teens are 13 and 14. This is just the pony stage of teen life and if I can't even handle a pony how in the world am I going to handle a full-size horse.  Again, I have no experience with horses, the last time I rode one was in Sonoma on our honeymoon (16 years ago). The thing about horses is that you they are beautiful, but at the same time, they can scare the shit out of you.  For example, you can be going along riding a horse on a trail, and then all of the sudden something freaks them out, they start galloping and you think you are going to die.  And you say "Whoa", but they don't listen, and just before you think you are going to get bucked off, they start walking again like nothing ever happened. That is why I feel like raising two teen boys is like breaking in a horse who doesn't like having someone on their back telling them what to do. And for the simple fact that horses eat a ton....
What I do know from brief horse encounters, and the obscene number of Lifetime movies I have watched where the movie takes place on a ranch is that horses respond better when you loosely hold their reins.  When you guide them gently, but let them follow the path without forcing them to go where you want them to, they will do it.

I have learned that teen boys are kind of like that too.  In every instance that we have ended up in a conflict, it has been because of someone's ( okay, mostly my) expectations have not been met.   My preconceived ideas about how a conversation or a situation is going to go, and when those expectations are not met, all hell breaks loose.  This happened recently with a movie night I had planned.  All I wanted to do was put on my comfy pajamas, make some popcorn and snuggle with my husband and the 4 humans we created surrounding us.  I announced my intentions numerous times and put it on our kitchen chalkboard that the movie would begin at 7.

We were all ready, and my oldest was missing.  He had decided to go to a volleyball game instead. He texted me and called, but I had put my phone away so I could be fully present.  When I did read the text and see he called 9 times. I was mad.  How dare my high schooler want to spend a Friday night with his friends?   If I'm honest, it hurt my feelings.  And I know how pathetic that sounds.  When he got home he couldn't understand what the big deal was, and truthfully, I couldn't articulate it either.

It isn't a secret that I'm a bit of control freak.  I like order, organization, and predictability.  The three things that teens are not notorious for.  At least not mine. So I continue to try and shove them in this perfect square I have created with four equal and straight lines.  And when one of them decides to veer off, I pull in the reins. Making it even worse.

It's a hard realization when you suddenly have kids who are the size of adults in your house.   I look up to their eyes and I still see the little boys holding a sippy cup, and a blanket.  And that is the problem.  I'm trying to keep them in this box that they no longer fit in.    They are growing, so I might as well too.

I decided it was time that I loosened my reins.  I'm not hovering. I'm trusting. I'm keeping them safe, giving them guidance but letting them find their way, (within reason).  This is tremendously hard for me, and could possibly blow up in my face. You see, for the past decade, I have been doing my absolute hardest to teach them right from wrong.  I have made them apologize when they have done something inconsiderate,  write thank you notes when they need to show gratitude, and put their dirty dishes in the sink.  In addition to being the single female in their house and trying to make them see me in a way that they will see all other women for the rest of their lives.  The last one, being the most important to me.  I want more than anything for them to respect everyone, but especially women. I want them to be the men I needed at a party in college, or at my first job, or second, or third job.
And my fear is that if I step aside, they may get off this path, so  I have painstakingly tried to put them on.

My answer came in the form of this text.

It's not groundbreaking, but I texted him at what I thought was his lunch time.  Just letting him know I was thinking about him.  But then, he returned and asked me how my day was.

Reins loosened. A 14-year-old boy asking his mom how her day was going.  It may not seem like a lot, but to me, it was validation that not only does he care about others, he takes the time to ask.

I may not know anything about riding horses or getting them to stay on the path, but the little that I do know has helped guide me in the right direction in raising gentlemen.

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