I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I am significantly more involved in my children’s social lives than my parents were involved in mine. Now, granted, we had one phone that stuck to a wall in the kitchen, so all of my conversations were “overheard”. Until I got my own phone, in my own room – which was both a blessing and a curse, because I was slightly addicted to calling boys, who happened to live outside of town, in another area code, that ran up phone bills, resulting in my Dad being very interested, and the monthly conversation of, “Who in the hell are you talking to!” – Anyway, I’m digressing.
As a mother of a newly minted teenager and an almost 12 year old, I find myself walking in familiar and unfamiliar territory. – Like I’ve been in this part of the forest before, but the trees look different. My girls say things like, “Who is going to be there?” “Can I bring a friend?” and “Mom, why do you have to talk so loud? Ask so many questions? Go meet her parents? Sit in the back of the movie theatre?!” Insert eye roll. This is all familiar territory. I’ve been here before. I have walked through the cafeteria jungle. I’ve tried to figure out what group I belong in. I know what it feels like to be uninvited to a party or feel like the world biggest dork. I assume you are with me in this.
Where the terrain has become unfamiliar, is of course these crazy phones, social media, and devices, leading some parents to check texts, monitor Instagram and put up child protection walls. If we don’t heavily monitor, there is all this fear that our kids will get hurt, bullied, or worse. So we become hyper vigilant in what is going on in our kid’s lives. As we try so hard to protect them from getting hurt, we become invested in making sure they are happy. We become personally responsible for insuring our kid’s happiness. So, suddenly we are taking the drama personally. Like, if our kid isn’t invited or included, we are somehow bad parents and something is wrong with our kids or everyone elses.
All kids are going to feel self conscious, lonely, and awkward. God help the adult who has never felt that way. We need those moments of heartache and loneliness in the safety net of junior high, so that when it happens in adulthood, we know we can survive that feeling. Because it will happen again.
When I was in high school, I was active in summer theatre. I loved it. I gave my entire summer for four years to perform two shows. My last summer, before going to college, was a hard summer. For a lot of reasons, that is not worth getting into, I had become isolated from the cast. I was lonely, marginalized and disliked. It wasn’t fun. One day, my mom showed up at rehearsal and asked if everything was alright. Now, the last thing my mom was, was a stage mom. She never came to rehearsal. Theatre was my thing and she got me there, but she didn’t get involved. So for her to show up at rehearsal was a big deal. I told her “everything was fine,” which it wasn’t. I told her “not to worry,” which she did. I remember her walking away from the theatre, and wishing I could run after her, escape the pain I was feeling and just quit the show. I remember wanting to tell her to talk to the director and fight my battle for me. As much as I appreciated her checking on me, she couldn’t keep away the human experience of isolation.
She had to watch me go through it, and not try to fix it.
And there it is. I don’t want my kids to go through what I went through, but they will. I hope as a parent, I have the wisdom to show up, and the strength to let go.
Parenting is hard, hard work. So is growing up.
Hang in there. I will save you a seat in the cafeteria.