If there is one thing we all know, it’s that babies don’t come with an instruction manual. Every child is different and while some books may be helpful as you navigate the infant and toddler stages with your firstborn, there’s nothing like the veteran parenting that comes with having a second child.
Even when that second child is different from the first, you know the basics. You diaper more confidently, you are a little more relaxed with messes, you can immediately identify which cry means hungry and which means sleepy. As you learn the ins and outs of physically caring for a baby the emotional part is easier. You just love him. You cuddle her. You provide for their basic needs and the rest comes naturally.
Don’t Relax Just Yet
But as the kids get older things get trickier. They start to handle many of their own basic physical needs and the emotional needs become more complicated. Worst of all? There is no one-size-fits-most approach like there was with baby’s needs. The teen years bring new meaning to the word “challenging.”
Boys or girls, sporty or brainy, introverted or outgoing, they all need different things at different times. It doesn’t stop there. There are unprecedented things you’ll need to navigate and don’t think that just because you once applied to colleges or went to homecoming that you know enough to guide your teen through these things when it’s their turn. To say that things have changed is the understatement of the century. Middle school, high school, and college are NOTHING like they were when you were there.
There’s social media now and kids today are connected to the outside world in ways the teenage you never dreamed of – even as you stood there with your new blue Nokia cell phone with unlimited minutes after 8 pm. Their mistakes are more public as are their achievements and both of these only serve to highlight the pressure they face to be perfect at all times. Maybe it’s just me, but even their schoolwork seems harder than ours was at their age.
So what do you do? Honestly, most of us are just winging it. As moms, we will stay in a constant state of nervousness since we don’t have the faintest clue about what our teen will have faced and what they will need from us. Even when they aren’t in a state of crisis, they are in a state of crisis (that’s one thing that hasn’t changed since we were teens)!
The biggest bit of advice I have is to find yourself a mom friend with a kid who is a few years older than your oldest. While every kid is different and every family dynamic isn’t exactly the same, you can certainly lighten your load with some of the everyday care and keeping of your teen by having someone to bounce things off of. Even when fellow moms haven’t gone through the exact thing, chances are they know someone who has had a similar experience. And emotional experience aside, it’s completely priceless to have someone to help you navigate the uncharted waters of high school. I learn every day about some unwritten rule like how it’s at times considered lame to participate in free dress days. Yes, I’m serious. These are the things a veteran mom of teens can help you navigate because if Susie shows up in her new favorite outfit and everyone else is playing it cool in their school uniform, her elation at showing off her new duds will quickly turn to mortification and you don’t want to be on the receiving end of the mood she will be in when she gets home.
While there is no instruction manual and no one – not one single person – has it all figured out, we have to seek help where we can get it. And no one understands where you’re at better than someone who was just there. Not all heroes wear capes, so raise a glass to that mom friend in your life who’s been there and done that and holds your hand through it. She’s probably raising