A Mother’s Contradiction: Nurturing Independence in Teens

Teens independenceWhy is it that every step your teenager takes towards independence leaves you feeling that little bit emptier? Often the pride I feel in seeing my child’s milestones is tinged with a sense of loss.

Why does each new phase of growing up feel like a step further away from me?

Teenage Milestones

Last night I witnessed another Teenage First, my 14 year old son Berry cooked us dinner!

He’s cooked before, muffins and brownies, usually under my watchful eye and ‘just for fun’. But last night was different. I was rushed and had to get his brother to soccer training, his Dad was home but working and so cooking was about dividing the labour of family life.

Someone needed to cook, and the only someone available was him!

Coming back after a cold night at soccer the house was warm with the smell of dinner. Berry had cooked his first family meal – Brown Lentil and Chorizo Soup with warm crusty French stick. Delicious.

Full Belly: Empty Heart

It was as I was clearing up that I realised that my pride in his achievements was tinged with a note of sadness, of loss, almost.

Where was this coming from?

Mulling this over as I packed the dish washer, I realised that feeding him had been my job from the first moment I held him in my arms, 14 years ago. And now we’d shifted gear again. He could do it without me.

Like so many other achievements throughout the years, he was growing into wonderful and heart-breaking independence.

They’re changing and growing away from us everyday. And it’s true that this, in itself, is a wonderful thing.

Catherine Naja  The Grief in Growing Up

The Double Edged Sword of Independence

The move towards independence is inevitably a move away from dependence. It’s a spectrum along which all children are travelling, and one in which parents fluctuate between celebration and desperation.

I know that every step my children take towards independence is a good thing. But it’s a contradiction too;  I’m nurturing the very thing that I’m dreading; the day they don’t need me any more!

It’s a battle at times, wanting to hold them tight and make time stand still. A wise friend was able to sum up her feelings as her boy grew to adulthood:

I’m so proud of the young man you’re becoming, but I really miss the little boy that you were.

Anne Gates.

And it’s true.

I really miss that little boy who thought I was his whole world, who would snuggle up on my lap for stories and sleep in my arms.

But I love the young man who wraps me in his arms, who cooks me dinner and asks how my day has been.

That young man is here right now, and that little boy is just a memory.

So I’m cherishing the young man, reflecting on who he was whilst anticipating all that he will become.

A New Chapter

Each stage of growing up is amazing, each new milestone brings different connections, exciting opportunities and new adventures.

Growing to independence signals the close of a chapter.

But like any good story, a new chapter begins, enthralling us in the same way the previous one did.

independence in teens

Would You Take Your 11 Year Old To A Pink Concert?

 

teens first concert

Is Your Teen Ready For This?

It’s a question I hadn’t considered till I saw the recent story of a Mum in the US who has been taken to court for taking her daughter to a Pink concert!

Are we making appropriate choices as Mum’s when we take our kids to rock concerts where the lyrics are explicit and the dancing is highly suggestive? Although in this case the New Jersey Judge ruled in favour of the Mum’s decision, it raises the question of when we feel it’s right to expose our emerging teens to the raunchier side of music.

What do You Remember About Your First Concert?

My first and only concert was in 1989 when I saw REM live on their Uk tour when I was 17. I don’t remember how my Mum felt about me going, but I do know that if she had tried to stop me then it would have been even more exciting to rebel against her!

What I do remember is

  • feeling shocked by the sheer number of people who were crammed in the venue together
  • feeling worried about being separated from my friends
  • feeling nervous about of being crushed and trampled by the crowd

I don’t remember loving the experience, and that is because I was totally unprepared for the magnitude of the event. I had never been exposed during my family life to anything like a rock concert and maybe if I had I would have been more relaxed and able to enjoy it.

How Can You Prepare Your Children For Their 1st Concert?

Maria Mora has some great ideas in her article School of Rock. Her suggestion to chaperone their first few concert experiences is a great idea, and one that may have a pay-off for you too!

As a Mum for many years you’ve been doing everything for your kids, driving them to sports practice, cheering from the sidelines come rain or shine, coordinating sleepovers, birthdays and cinema outings.

But, at last, something exciting is on the list of ‘Things-I-Do-For-My-Kids’…you get to go to a concert!

Who you get to see is really about how convincing you can be, but a word of warning, our kids are very savvy at persuasive arguments (thanks Naplan) so be prepared!

Some pre-concert discussions should include:

  • what to expect in-terms of behaviour from adults attending the concert  (discuss what it looks like when adults let out their inner wild-child)
  • strategies for re-grouping if you get separated (choose a central landmark to meet at if you are separated, identify staff and officials who can assist and put mobile phones on vibrate and keep them in your pocket)
  • what the budget will allow for purchasing merchandise at the concert to avoid disappointment on the night
  • what’s expected in the way of singalongs (get the whole family to learn the songs, if nothing else it will be an embarrassing story for them to recount later in life!)

I’ve got my eye on some Robbie William’s tickets for October…let the education begin!

I’d love to know if your teen has been to their first concert yet.

Do you have anything to add to the list of things we can do to prepare our kids for this experience?

 

 

 

 

It’s Funny How Things Begin…

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Find your open road and just go wherever it takes you!

Comfort zones, what wonderful things they are! Warm, soft and safe, you know just what to expect and nothing ever changes. I enjoy being in a comfort zone, but it doesn’t take me long to feel the need to stretch my wings and push the limits of that space.

It often begins with a luxurious feeling of contentment, rolling in like ocean waves on a calm day.  I relax, breathe and enjoy it.

My comfort zone.

But it isn’t long before I feel fidgety here. My fingertips begin to tingle, my mind starts to look beyond the present and I start to imagine something more.

That’s why I’m here today. Pushing myself out of the comfort zone of my once-a-week blogging, and into this awesome link-up Friday Reflections. Leading the way are two amazing women who open my eyes to new possibilities and encourage me to raise the bar, Janine Ripper and Mackenzie Glanville.

When I think about why I started blogging, I can’t help but think about those comfort zones.

Last year my family and I decided to travel Australia off-road for 3 months in a camper trailer, I quit my job and started blogging! I left behind 3 of my bread-and-butter comfort zones for challenge, adventure and freedom.

This was not gentle shift …I went ‘cold turkey’ overnight!!

  • I loved my job, finding it totally absorbing as a full-time primary school teacher, considering the 30 children in my class like my extended family. Although I left them as their teacher in July, they didn’t leave me until September! I dreamt about them and constantly thought about things I should have passed on to their new teacher!

 

  • Leaving the house and working from a camper trailer was not so hard, I love roughing it without electricity or showers, but leaving my phone reception behind was painful!  Because we had such limited internet access and opportunities for phone calls were scarce I starting to write about our travels in my blog Speedykniebe.

 

  • The blog was a way to keep friends and family updated and I thought my children would enjoy writing posts for it too. It’s funny how things begin, they don’t always lead where you expect! I should have known that writing is not considered pleasurable by many teenage boys, especially when there are campfires to be built and fish to be caught! So I took on the job of the blog.

 

Just Writing

I just wrote whenever the laptop had charge (which wasn’t that often), jotting down exciting new discoveries, unexpected break downs (mechanical and emotional) and stories about crazy characters who spoke to crows. I found that I was starting to look forward to writing, and prioritized it above other things, such as washing clothes or feeding the family!

But there is one moment I remember that particularly stands out as a turning point for me.

I hadn’t figured out how to enable comments on Blogger so although  I posted every couple of weeks I never got any comments on my blog. While enjoying the luxury of a phone connection in Cairns my gorgeous friend Karen asked me impatiently ‘when are you going to put up another blog post?’ She told me with some irritation that her family had been reading them all and were waiting for the next post.

That was my watershed moment.

Somebody was waiting, impatiently and expectantly, to read my writing.

 

Reflecting on this now I think it really captures everything that makes me passionate about writing. Cliché though it may be, I love writing!

It takes me to a place within myself that I didn’t’ know existed, and something creative just flows.

I get such a buzz from the process of refining and expressing ideas in words, that to find someone else who enjoys reading those words is pure joy. It’s like seeing friends enjoy a delicious meal you’ve created, it nourishes the soul and connects people though a shared pleasure.

So the blog has grown from a travel journal to a journey of personal growth. It’s constantly growing and changing, therefore so am I.

Comfort zones are easier to recognise once you’ve left them behind, so my advice is don’t stay too long in places where nothing changes.

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When is a Mum not a Mum? When She’s a Helicopter!

Worry Brain saves the day?!
Worry Brain saves the day?!

Am I a Helicopter Mum?

Recent events in the pre-teens department have led me to question whether I am mother or machine!

Twelve year old Berry has suddenly discovered the joys of independence. Friends on bikes come knocking for him and off he goes for several hours. During my childhood in the 70’s this was normal practice for me and my friends, my mum would expect to see me again when I got hungry. But Berry doesn’t even return when he’s hungry; lunch is forgotten and I just have to hope he remembers dinner!

How can I be so relaxed about all this? Well it wasn’t always this easy to sit back and watch him go.

My first glimpse of helicopter hell!

A few months ago Berry asked if he could cycle to his friend’s house one Saturday morning. Excel-man and I exchanged a look of pleasure, as this is the day we had hoped would come. Our children have always been extremely self-sufficient, enjoying one another’s company to the exclusion of friends. This has led us to worry that they don’t have a broad enough social circle and that the day will never come when they go knocking for their friends!

So the answer was  a resounding YES, go and knock for your friends!

Berry dutifully put on sunscreen and hat before opening the garage up and waving as he pedaled off.

But wait!!

Suddenly Worry-Brain woke up to the situation and screamed ‘STOP! You don’t know where he’s going, you don’t know when he’ll be back, and you have no way of contacting him! How do you know if you’ll ever see him again?’

Worry-Brain was right, and without further ado I jumped on my bike and pedalled after him!

He wasn’t far away so it didn’t take long to catch up and explain that I was coming with him – to his friend’s house at least. His crest-fallen face said it all; the sense of freedom and adventure had evaporated and been replaced by embarrassment and disappointment.

To compensate for his loss of street cred. I agreed to ride at least 100m behind him and he reluctantly set off!

However, to Berry’s delight we turned the corner and saw his friends cycling towards us!

‘You can go home now’ he called over his shoulder as he cycled away with the group.

Relief flooded though me. Great, he’s with his friends and all is well.

Worry-Brain didn’t agree…

‘You haven’t arranged when he should come home, he hasn’t got a watch or phone and you still don’t know where he’s going!!’ she whispered furtively.

‘Go away! Next time I’ll agree a time for him to come home and make him wear a watch,’ I retorted smugly.

‘But what if there isn’t a next time…’ Worry-Brain said as she played her trump card.

 

Now that got me moving! I started pedalling as fast as my legs could go, desperate to follow the direction that I had last seen Berry’s group heading in. As I glimpsed them in the distance, I hurtled along, breathing as if I was gasping my last!  Waving frantically the closer I got, one of the boys noticed me and tapped Berry on the shoulder. He looked round and waved, then pedalled away even faster!

A few seconds later he looked back again and waved his hand at me. It wasn’t until I waved back that I realised that he wasn’t at me but waving me away!

As they sped up I ramped up into full pursuit mode!

The group sensed the chase was on and wove their way towards the shopping centre to blend in. Drastic action was needed, and I began to shout,  which was harder than it sounds considering how close I was to needing a respirator!

Berry pulled away from the group and cycled back towards me asking angrily why I was following him? He looked mortified when I explained that he needed to come home to get his watch and agree a time to be back.

At last I breathed a sigh of relief, although I felt a twinge of guilt for humiliating him in front of his friends, I was thankful that I had listened to Worry-Brain.

I took off, but this time I didn’t have to pedal as the transformation was complete…

I’d officially become a helicopter mum!