Thursday, January 27, 2011

No More Pretending to be Happy

On Sunday my baby turned 17.  Those 17 years have brought me much joy and much angst, but most of all they have brought me much love.  I love both my boys with all my heart, there is no favourite.  However, there are always people who you connect with in life and it is almost like you can see into their soul.  My baby is one of these people.

For most of his life he has been extremely loving.  I have many love notes and cards and he has always been able to express his love through hugs and kisses, (other than a period of time during his early teens when most boys don't show affection).  He is also very good at expressing his feelings verbally.  He senses things about me and others that I don't even realise.  We have had conversations that I would have with a friend of my own age.  He is so very knowing, so very intuitive and so very caring.

As you know from my Mum I'm stuck on the Grass post, my baby has had some problems recently which totally broke my heart.  Watching him suffer through this difficult time was so painful.

We are now into a new year, his 18th year, and I am so happy to say that he is no longer abusing substances.  He is working out, caring about his health, caring about his body, eating healthily and exercising daily.  He has a fulltime job and never misses a day and is never late.  He is a different person.  His moods are more stable (well as stable as a 17 year old can be) and he has joy in his eyes, again, finally.  After many months of trying to give up his "habit" (he didn't go cold turkey) and many months of him questioning why he wanted to give up, he has finally discovered that a life with a clear head and healthy body is a win for him.  It has taken time and it hasn't been easy - for him or I.  However I am so proud that he has persevered and is now where he should be.

Many of his friends from that time are unfortunately still stuck on the grass, and he wishes they could feel how he does now.  He told me this morning, after we saw one of them at the bus stop in his school uniform totally stoned, that he is so glad he doesn't feel that way any longer.  He said that when you are stoned all the time you have to pretend to look happy because you don't really feel anything other than stoned.  I asked him if he misses it.  I got the "are you serious?" look.  I guess not.

I still worry that he can easily slip back into this life.  He has an addictive personality, which he is also aware of.  As a mum I feel it is my responsibility to keep a close eye on him, but not fence him in.  To constrain his freedom and time spent with friends would do him more harm that letting him go out and learn to live life without giving in to the temptation.  It has now been 1 month since he has had any substance at all and this is a huge win.  I absolutely know he is being honest with me because as he was weaning himself off it he would tell me when he had it. He knows if he does slip up, he can tell me and I won't go postal.  Sure I'll be disappointed, but the fact he will be honest with me means I can help him and be there for him.   I've had to trust he was doing this the best way he could.  I went with my instincts and am so glad I did.  He  has done this on his own, but with my support.  Now that he has achieved his goal, he is so happy with himself.  His self esteem has risen and he feels a sense of achievement.  Something he was sadly lacking before.  He also knows how much this means to me and he now knows how much better life is when he's not stoned.

I don't doubt that as he makes his way through his life he will be lured by other temptations, we all are.  However, for a 17 year old, he has the emotional intelligence of someone much older and understands his personality type.  When he senses he is becoming addicted to something, be it chocolate, coffee or a playstation game, he stops.  He goes cold turkey and walks away.  He is determined not to let addictions rule his life.  I truly hope he succeeds.

I've learnt a lot about parenting teenagers throughout this experience and if I look back to the mother I was when my boys were little, to the mother I am now - I am chalk and cheese.  The way I believed I would be when my boys grew up back then is nothing like my reality.  Those lovely innocent babies I had who were so compliant and reliant on me for direction one day grew up and all bets were suddenly off.

I am not a perfect mother and I'm sure I could have done so many things differently, however I did learn some important lessons from this experience.  They are:

  • Teenagers will always do things you don't like (you did the same to your parents). Keep the communication lines open by not judging and yelling at them when they do something wrong.  They are no longer little children.  Talk to them and tell them how you feel but understand that sometimes you need to let your teenagers do things their way.  If you do this, they will allow you into their life.
  • Dropping out of school does not make your child a failure.  For some teenagers school can contribute to problems.  I am not advocating dropping out of school to bum around - there should be a clear choice of school or work.  Let them make the decision.  It makes such a difference.
  • Don't wait for the "standard" things to happen to show your children how proud you are of them - life is more than sporting and academic achievements - showing your teenagers how proud you are of them just for making good decisions and for being themselves goes a long way.
  • Some teenagers go off the rails despite how they have been raised. It isn't your fault, it just happens.  I believe that whatever is meant to happen in life always does. It's how you deal with it when it happens that affects the outcome.
  • No matter what is going on - tell your teenager every single day that you love them and mean it.



macsnorky said...

It sounds like your boy has come a long way. It's easy to see how proud you are of him. Good work Mumma!

Sarah said...

Loved this list Annie, thinking of printing it out and saving it for future reference. Your boy is doing so well but I understand the slippery slope you fear. Love to you both x

Wanderlust said...

What a beautiful post. I love that you and your son are so open and honest with each other. Something I strive for when my kids are teenagers. Life can be such a curious and unexpected journey, we just have to learn to roll with it and be open to adapting as we go along.

Phil & Bern said...

Wonderful post Annie. I look up to you and want you to know, I eat these words up and with no mother to ask this of myself, I know I can alway turn to you. xx

Susan @ Reading Upside Down said...

Love your list and especially point one. My son is at the beginning of the teen journey (turning 12 this year), but we have already had talks about how important it is for us to always be honest with each other, even it if means telling each other things that we know the other might not agree with.

Your son is lucky to have a mother who is encouraging him to achieve his potential and be true to himself, not simply tick all the right boxes or be punished for making mistakes.

And well done to your son for making a hard decision and having the character to see it through. His bravery and self-control show that he is more mature than many people twice his age.

Suz said...

As a mum of two small boys (4 and 18 months) I am so moved to read this Annie. You sound like an amazing mum. The journey ahead with kids is always a bit daunting but when people like you share the wisdom to those who follow after, we are all richer for it. Thankyou xx

Naomi @ Under the Yardarm said...

We are just staring this journey with our soon to be 12 boy. He sounds so similar to your boy. Some days I struggle already, but with these words, I know I can get by.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and words.


lheidke said...

Annie, I admire your honesty and wisdom. Clearly you and your son have been through a lot together and love each other. You are incredibly supportive and understanding! My boys are 13 and 15 - last night the 15 yr old had a gathering - about 16 people...I spent the evening alternatively spying (from a darkened room upstairs)and leaving them to their own devices. I trust my 15 yr old but you never know what's lurking around the corner or on the kerbside out the front. I was incredibly relieved when the last of the teenagers was picked up at 10.30pm! Thank you for sharing!
Lisa xx

Veggie Mama said...

No-one has a road map of how to deal with such things. I think it's great you two have found your own way and it works for you, for now. I hope it always does x

Linda T said...

You have summed it up perfectly.

I particularly love "It's how you deal with it when it happens that affects the outcome."

It's always good to remember that as much as you, the parent, are hurting it isn't about you, it's about them. xx

My baby boy turned 20 in November and I too found it a time of reflection

Ms Styling You said...

Oh, Annie, what an incredible mum you are. I've a 15-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter (plus a five year old son). I'm still amazed that my teens want to hang around me but I take every minute because I know it won't necessarily last. We keep the communication lines open and they are genuinely a great hel to me around the house. But I know this can change in an instant. Thanks for sharing.

Jodi Gibson said...

So glad to hear that you 'baby' is back on the right track Annie. I'm hope that his journey continues this way, and with your support I'm sure it will.

Also thank you for such an open and honest post. I know there will be hard times ahead of us (we have four girls) and your courage and wise words are valued. xx

Megan Blandford said...

Annie, you must be so proud of your son. To see him change like that must be such a joy for you, and such a relief.

You're such a wonderful mum to support him through that. x

MaidInAustralia said...

Thank you, as always, for sharing. I am so happy for you and your son, who sounds wiser than his years. Hopefully, in beating his addiction, he knows how strong and wise he is (and ditto for his Mum). And it's awesome that he is able to turn to you, no matter what, knowing you will help him through it. I think you should write a book for parents of teenagers. xo

Yvette Vignando said...

Annie, thank you. Your sharing is so generous, wise and as always, warm xx

Michelle said...

You truely are a beautiful Mum.

whereamigoingagain said...

That you are able to speak freely with your son is an absolute bonus. Both my brothers and I tell my mum just about everything - I think it scares her sometimes exactly how much she knows about us ( ;-) ) but she knows that this is better than not knowing anything about us at all.
You sound like a fantastic mum to have xo

Sass said...

You are a wonderful mum Annie.

I can only hope that one day if I'm a mum, I can be just as loving, understanding and caring as you.

lots of love honey.

A-M said...

Legend Mother.... that is all I can say. I only hope that I have your strength when these times hit me. You are an inspiration. A-M xx

anidledad said...

The greatness of Twitter right there. All parents, different stages, successes celebrated, mistakes blogged and lessons discussed.

You're building a great village here, Annie. Good work.

Christie said...

You have given some wonderful advice Annie. Teenagerdom seems so far removed from my life now, but I know it will come around quicker than I imagine. I love reading about your parenting journey as I intend to go into it with my eyes, my heart and my ears wide open.

Thea said...

Such perfect advice!
I hope all of that comes back to me when I need it. If not, I'll send you a tweet for HELP!! xx

4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle said...

Brilliant advice Annie, My guys are 4,7,8,10 so still in that gorgeous stage but I am starting to see signs of what's to come with the "tude" and the eye rolling. When you children are little you get to have more control over what happens and when but I can see from your post that teenagers are all about relinquishing control and setting boundaries and establishing trust. Oops, I've just realized how much I've gone on and on and on and on.....

I really enjoyed the post.



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