Not Everything That Goes Wrong In My Teen’s Life Is Someone Else’s Fault
By Janice Quirt
Photo © tativo.photos/Twenty20
Jul 12, 2022
My teen taught me a valuable lesson the other day, just when I thought I was in the middle of a “teachable moment.”
We were in the car talking about school, final assignments and the first foray into exams — a new experience only recently started again after pausing because of COVID.
One teacher had assigned a rather hefty culminating project, and everyone in the class thought it was unfair — as recounted by the teen in my life.
I immediately thought that the assignment and due date didn’t sound unreasonable. I was actually pleased that the work reflected what would be expected in higher grades, college or university, and certainly the work force.
I tried to share this side of things.
Hearing My Teen
Maybe I went into TED Talk mode for a moment or two, trying to shed light onto why this was a good thing — and that having a chance to fail safely in a grade when marks didn’t matter as much was actually an opportunity.
I think I had valid points. My teen waited patiently. And then he delivered the true lesson of the day.
“Mom, listen. I actually know all that. But sometimes, you just have to go along with me, OK? Sometimes I need to vent, and it would be OK if you joined in.”
It’s hard to bond or be friends with the person who’s always on the establishment’s side. It’s hard for teens to always be the recipients of lessons in life. There’s mansplaining — now I was guilty of “momsplaining.”
I took the hint, and for the rest of that short car ride I listened while he vented.
"Sometimes I need to vent, and it would be OK if you joined in.”
I made sympathetic noises.
I talked about how hard and stressful it sounded.
It was fine. He seemed happy to have the stage.
But at the same time, I’m glad that we had an end point, because it was good that the conversation had a hard stop.
While I understood that in that moment my teen needed to vent and for me to commiserate, it’s not something I can do all the time or for hours on end.
I can do it from time to time, when stress levels are high and/or the need is great.
Own Your Sh—t
But I still believe that we all need to be accountable, and own our own sh—t. Blaming other people, situations or life in general for every single thing that doesn’t go swimmingly is not something I want as my kids’ default.
I see it in the world all the time — it’s not my fault! And sometimes it isn’t. But most often in life we just have to figure out how to problem-solve our way out of the situation at hand, rather than bemoaning the circumstances.
That takes a while. It takes experience, growing up and practice. I still work on it every day, and I know my kids will have to as well. But just like any intense activity, breaks are needed too. So sometimes I will encourage the following:
- railing against life, society or situations
- taking a mental health break, and watching TV, going out with friends, making a bracelet or visiting an alpaca
- eating a chocolate cupcake
- chilling in the hot tub
- blasting music
And more than anything, I will be there. I’ve decided that my role doesn’t need to be straight up co-venter (made-up term, but I like it). That’s what friends are for. They’ll dish. They’ll add fuel to the fire. They’ll absolve of any responsibility. I will sometimes listen to the venting as a safe space. But I’ll also try to be the one my kids go to for help with problem-solving.
I say help because I don’t want to present them with a ready-made solution all wrapped up with a bow on it. I want them to try to puzzle through these situations on their own, but come to me for help with the tricky bits, or as a dress rehearsal.
And I will try very hard not to momsplain all the time.
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