I observed an interaction between a mother and her teenage daughter today and it was all I could do not to bust out laughing. Not because what was happening was funny, but because I knew exactly what emotions the mother was going through in that moment because I’ve walked in her shoes back when I had teens. I’d even written a blog about a similar experience I’d had back in January of 2015 called “Please pass me that parenting book. I need to smack my kid with it.” Here’s a copy of what I’d written:
“The quote in today’s title pretty much sums up my day today…just kidding…only kind of…. We have known for the past several months that my daughter is going to be leaving us for 18 months to serve a mission. We have been given checklists of what to pack and prepare and all the things that need to get done before she leaves next week. And as any good mother would do I have repeatedly asked my daughter over the last two months how she is doing on getting her checklist done? And as any typical teenage daughter would do, she has responded that she has PLENTY of time to take care of it…giving that same answer for two months now. And as any good mother would do I began to panic when I realized that she had literally gotten zero items on her checklist done…and then as any bad enabling mother would do, I began doing all the items on the checklist for her. Until today that is…
“You know you’re a teenager when you walk into the doctors, and they ask you what’s wrong, and you immediately turn to your mom to have her explain.”
Today I finally reached my limit as an enabling mother. Knowing how behind she was on getting things ready I backed out of an important work meeting today so I could go with her to do the things that absolutely required she be present for, such as getting her driving records from the DMV that only she could sign for and purchasing the clothes she had to try on. On the way there I said to her, “How am I supposed to feel confident that you can handle life on your own for 18 months if you can’t even handle getting your own stuff packed??” She turned to me with a smile and said, “I figure I only have my mom around to take care of everything for a few more days so I am going to take full advantage of it!” And there it was…
Why as parents do we allow ourselves to get sucked into the “do it all for me” trap with our teenagers?? I think it starts with the fact that we love them unconditionally and as such we want to do anything we can to help them be happy, then it is added to by their innate ability to manipulate us with the tilt of the head and the sweet little “puuullleeeeassseee”, and the fact that we are worried sick that if we don’t help them they will end up homeless and naked on the side of a road somewhere…because let’s face it…they very well could!!!
After hours of running from store to store buying all the hair supplies, makeup, clothing, shoes, etc, we made it to the last store of the day. I was exhausted, but I followed her through the store carrying a massive pile of clothes for her to try on, then I ran from the dressing room to find the different sizes she needed as she tried things on, and then I followed her to the jewelry stand to get the earrings she supposedly couldn’t live without. As she grabbed the last pair she turned and said “Hurry up the checkout register is going to take forever and I am tired of doing this.” WHAT THE….???? Seriously!!!! Yeah, I was pretty much about to lose it at that point. I may have even thought to myself “I can see why animals eat their young.”
When we finally returned home and she came downstairs and said, “Where did you put my purse?” I didn’t do anything with her purse, in fact I hadn’t seen it since she went into the dressing room at the clothing store and I told her so. I stated that I hoped she hadn’t left it at the store. She, of course, rolled her eyes and said she hadn’t. She then went out to the car to see if she left it in there. A few moments later I heard her brother’s cell phone ring and he yelled, “Be back in a minute Mom and Dad”. “Where are you going?” I asked. He quickly shut the door to the garage without answering the question. My husband began to chuckle and said, “They are going to the clothing store to get her purse from the dressing room.” ….And there you have it…That sums up the joys of parenthood that filled my day today.
Am I partially to blame for my willingness to be a bad enabling mother? Absolutely! And yet there is that little part of me that knows I will likely get sucked into doing it all over again tomorrow…because she’ll come and hug me and tell me she neeeeeeddddddsssss” me…and I will love hearing it enough to start the process all over again…Smiles (end of the 2015 post)
What I wish I’d told that Mother I observed with her teenage daughter today was this, “Hang in there and be patient…because as hard raising teens can be, in just a few short years that teen of yours is going to grow into this amazingly wonderful adult that will become of your very favorite people to be around.”
To all you parents who are raising teens (or raising children of any age for that matter) – HANG IN THERE! #itwillallbeworthit
~Amy Rees Anderson (author of the book “What Awesome Looks Like: How To Excel in Business & Life” )