This post was ORIGINALLY written almost 10 years ago.
I confess- it was kind of hard for me to read … that feeling of loss was so tangible back then – and I can feel them well up – even to this day.
BUT – it is a part of life, The Teen years – it IS a necessary part of the growth and passage from child to teen to adult and the best possible news is that – it does get BETTER and even gets wonderful . I promise.
STILL I would be lying to say it is ever the same.
It is never the same – Little children stop being little children and they grow up. It is never that sweet time that you raced through.
So lets go back in time – 10 years… My eldest was 13 .
Edited version of a post first
written almost 10 years ago –
AUGUST 24, 2009
My 13 year old son just told me that I stink.
Actually, what he said was “Mom, I don’t want to get you mad or anything, but when is the last time you took a shower?”
How does one respond to these things?
Once upon a time, I was a nice person. I was actually known as a “nice person”.
“OH you mean LESLI? SHE IS SO NICE!!!”
Once upon a time,I was madly in love with my husband and I wanted a baby so badly – that to say the desire consumed me was a monstrous understatement . I went through the real passion-squasher called “Infertility treatment” which included 3 invasive surgical procedures with recoveries that were a bitch – done to right to wrongs inflicted upon my internal anatomy during an operation I had long before I was a grown up.
Once upon a time, I happily, without looking back, left my career, and my beloved new York City and then her matron of honor, Boston, to settle down and raise a family in a good family town, a small town with mountains and cool hip people and high quality schools. I left it all HAPPILY and with the exception of the Loss of any decent shopping, never looked back.
Once upon a time I earned a Master Degree in Theater and 8 years later – one in Nursing. I worked 50 hour weeks in the second field of my choice, Nursing. ACTING and the Theater was and always will be my first love. But I also loved being a Nurse. And for 2 years – every Monday – I drove 4 hours round trip to provide care as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner to an underserved population of women.
And here I sit, and apparently I stink!
And I wonder if there is a punchline at the end of this joke or if I am indeed the joke itself. I know that I am not the first parent to feel this way or be treated this way. As long as there have been teenagers, there have been Moms like me, searching high and low for their sweet babies. I know, in some strange way my child is doing his job. But, there is just the feeling I have deep down that tells me that somehow, in some way, I am responsible for all of it.
“Where did I go wrong” and all that jazz?
At what point could I have prevented this? Or is everything, like they say, supposed to go this way.
For 13 years I worked in Obstetrics, a job for which I often LOVED so much that I felt guilty taking a paycheck – and once I was helping a new Mom in postpartum. I was probably assisting with breastfeeding or cleaning up a black meconium poop, one of my routine duties. It was change of shift, and a co-worker of mine, thick in the middle of her 5 children who were all teenagers at the time, burst in the room to get some vital signs. She observed the oohing and ahhing new parents, marveling at their perfect little sweet smelling miracle, and on her way out the door, took a pause and decided to leave the blissful new parents with the following advice:
“Enjoy it now! 14 years from now you are going to want to throw either yourself or him out the window!”
I now wonder, if on her way out the door to work, one of her little darlings told her that SHE in fact – did indeed stink.
I know nothing…except this one thing and this I know from the bottom of my heart…I want to go back.
Back to a place that where my biggest issue was sleep deprivation, not to be taken lightly, but far and away preferable to being called stinky, my God!. I want to go back to when strangers would watch me wrangling my pack of monkeys and say – head tilted and halfway pitifully , “WELL! you sure got your hands full” Back to the life which included naps and hugs and big giant droolly toothless smiles and letter “f’s” that sound like “s’s” , where “Sishes are fimming” and right is left and my messy is beautiful, perfect even and I say things like “This is my Oscar!” “This is all I have ever wanted to do, or to be!This is enough for me!”
I want to go back to the life where I missed my babies when they slept.
And my reaction – NOW, when reading this is, today when I have a 18, 20 and 22-year-old – is to tell all parents of young children – THIS PERIOD of exhaustion and insanity – THE DAYS of tears and tantrums and time outs and yelling and guilt and poop – is so very short-lived in the big picture – and believe it or not – you too – will want to go back- (but only for a visit).
AND THUS I say this to MY young Mom self – So Chill the F*&^ out!!!
Maybe I DID stink! Maybe now – instead of getting all “I have such a rude kid!!” about it – I would simply say “Well, I have done tons of running around today and never got a shower. Thanks for the reminder!
Or I could say “Thanks for noticing!!! I was seeing how stinky I could get! LOOKS LIKE IM WINNING!!!! ” And maybe gently remind him that sometimes people get their feelings hurt if you tell them they stink – so perhaps a better way to “say it” – if indeed you can’t stop yourself – is just to say – “Mom – want me to empty the dishwasher so you can go take a shower?”
Because see – this is what I now KNOW – Middle school is very very hard . It is a necessary step but kids are changing so fast – and in tandem with all of their friends and they spend much of the day – “keeping their shit together” – some more successfully than others – and at the end of the day – they just need to EXPEL all the feeling they have held onto and YOU might be the first in the line of fire – and it is never ever ever – it is NOT NOT NOT about you.
take a breath.
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