Going into parenting, I was a nervous wreck. I got pregnant young, almost too young to be a parent. I was an adult, but only just barely. Looking at my 17-year-old son today, I cannot imagine him becoming a parent in a couple years, like his father and I did. I was a wreck somewhat because of our ages, but mostly because I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I was going to be responsible for another life. How was that going to work? I still could hardly separate colors successfully and not turn white underwear pink.
I was given this awesome book, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’. I read it cover to cover 3 times before I ever laid eyes on the kid growing in my stomach. Then, when he came I read ‘What to Expect the First Year’. Again, I read it cover to cover countless times. I was ready. I was prepared. Turns out there was no way I could turn him pink during bath time (well, except that one time with the bath paint, but let’s not go there). We were good.
I went blithely through colic and the toddler stage to preschool and then had a couple more kids along the way. I was becoming a pro at this. I was raising three kids and no one turned pink again. We taught them ‘stranger danger’, how to escape during a fire, where to go if they got lost, code words for people claiming to be sent by us, and all the likes of parenting 101. Parenting magazines were a Godsend during the younger years and we thrived as a family. We read advice columns, we exchanged ideas between our friends, and we relied on the past experiences our parents had and combined them all for super parenting, like a superpower.
All those years, all those books and not one time did anyone mention what could really hurt your kid. Adolescence and hormones. I didn’t read anywhere about what to do if your child experimented with cutting. I didn’t get any advice about what to do when your child withdrew and started listening to questionable music and wanting to dress in all black. Nowhere in those books did I read what to do when your sweet children are replaced by kids full of eye rolls, blank stares, deadly stares, exaggerated sighs, unanswered questions, phones glued to hands, and mood swings that would make even the scariest roller coaster jealous.
Cellphone etiquette wasn’t listed in those books, either. Sure, we made rules as we went, but this isn’t something that was an issue during our upbringing so we were just winging it. There was no parenting book that told you exactly how to handle apps and social media and sexting. There’s no ‘What to Expect’ about those things. We try to be reasonable parents, trusting parents. We take lessons friends have learned and parents have learned and we try to apply them as best we can. There are all types of parents out there. I know parents that are too lax, I know parents that over-parent, I know parents that try to be somewhere in between, and I know parents that seem to have all the answers and they just seem to do it right. However, then I learned those parents, the ones who appear to have it all together and have parenting as their superpower are just as scared and are going through just as much as the rest of us.
Maybe there’s no ‘What to Expect’ book out there for adolescence because no one really knows what to expect. No one has mastered it well enough to write it all down. There’s no way someone can prepare for your child to admit they’ve been a “cutter”, there’s no way to prepare for your child to make a decision to share intimate images of themselves to someone on the internet, and there’s no way to have all the right words and all the right actions for things you never thought could or would happen. I’ve learned that as a mom I just have to admit when I don’t know what the hell to do and then I have to rally with other moms who are experiencing the same thing.
In my advice and edition of ‘What to Expect’ during adolescence, I will say this – expect everything and befriend the parents of your children’s friends. They are your only hope to getting out of this alive….well, them and a nice big
bottle glass of wine.