Of course, as it always is with me, the day I wake up feeling the most myself I have felt since March — the day I have an Angela Chase Blister In The Sun-esque spring in my step, the day I’m ready to sit down and write — I literally cannot.
Passwords and I are mortal enemies — my only bigger enemy is the wifi in my bedroom — and I can guarantee you, if I have a password, I cannot remember it. I used to stash all of my passwords on a trusty yellow post-it, but apparently, that’s frowned upon security-wise as it puts the trust in trusty. So when I sat down to let my fingers tell you that I actually felt lie writing today, I put my password in and surprise! it didn’t work. So I pressed my all-time favorite button — reset my password — but instead of sending me a password reset email to add to my collection in my gmail inbox, it gave me a lovely little error message.
So, just in case this feeling is fleeting (and I hope it’s not. It feels good to feel mostly me — I have truly missed me) I’m typing on this here wix page.
I had a very heated argument with a friend last week. I used that phrase I told myself I would never, ever use. “When you ________, you will understand.” You can insert anything into that space. When you have toddlers, you will understand. When you don’t have a cleaning lady, you will understand. When you have glasses that don’t stay up on your nose, you will understand. In this case the word was TEENAGERS, but there’s really no limit to what you can fill in there, to what you can almost smugly tell someone who hasn’t been in your shoes that they won’t and can’t get it until they are actually in your shoes. “When you have narrow calves and a size 6.5 foot, you will understand.” See? No limit.
I walked away feeling terrible about saying that — with an actual pit in my stomach. (And not just because I had stress eaten a handful of chocolate chip cookies.)
But the truth is, sometimes you really *can’t* get it until you’ve been there.
I remember once upon a time before I had kids, I was with another still childfree friend and a friend who had a baby. The baby — contently — had a pacifier in her mouth. One friend said very, very matter-of-factly that she would never use a pacifier for her child. My mom friend looked her squarely in the face and answered back, “When you have a baby, you will understand.” And sure enough, that childfree-at-the-time friend? She had a baby. Several of them, actually. And they all used pacifiers. Now, I’m not judging the use of pacifiers. You want to use them? Great! I did and they were lifesavers for me. You don’t want to use them? Great! But at the time, my friend really couldn’t understand what it was like to have a child or to have a pacifier.
Which is truly the case here.
You see, I have teenagers. And I have friends who do not have them yet. And while yes, it’s true that we all have been teenagers (and have miraculously survived!) and we’ve all seen every John Hughes movie about teenagers ever created, so we do have a fair amount of expertise on the matter, until you have teenagers [technically two, with a third very dangerously just months away] you just cannot understand.
I was a fairly good teenager. I studied hard and cared how well I did in school. Enough to get into a good college (several, in fact)(that I didn’t go to because I moved to Canada but that’s a story for a different day). I was kind of terrible to my mother — and I have been apologizing for how I spoke to her and my siblings from 1992-1998) but I lived in Chicago while she lived in Milwaukee and that was kind of a mom-to-a-teenager blessing in disguise. Because of my anxiety and emetophobia I played it extremely safe with all sorts of substances, and don’t think I have ever (even as an adult) been actually drunk drunk.
Probably the worst thing I ever did was drive my Jeep full of more teenagers than could legally fit in a Jeep to see The Cranberries even though I had told my mom that Naomi’s mom was driving us when, in fact, Naomi’s mom did not drive us. And then I got into an accident because it was raining and I slammed on the brakes at a red light way too late and hit the car in front of me and because there were too many people in my car and because, well, we were having a very important conversation about blue gummy bears (Read: teenagers are stupid) and thank the good lord that no one was hurt and that the worst thing we were consuming were gummy bears.
So maybe things were different when I was a teenager.
Or maybe they weren’t any different at all.
Maybe it’s different because now I’m the parent.
Maybe it’s different because I wasn’t the one on the other end of the phone in another state when her daughter called from the collision center to say that NO ONE WAS HURT BUT.
Maybe it’s different because I didn’t have the hear that BUT.
And now I have to hear it.
Have to hear that my child is watching a friend get put in an ambulance.
Have to hear that my child is failing a subject.
Have to hear my children fight, fight, fight, fight, fight with each other. And then fight some more.
Have to hear that my child is struggling with something, anything, everything.
(Just this week we had a very serious I can’t find any black pants before dance class struggle and a my friends are mad at me because I won’t post a slime video to our joint instagram account struggle.)
(And don’t get me started on what happened when my ready-to-get-her-license teenager showed up for her driving test and all tests were canceled due to the light dusting of snow and now she can’t take her test until the end of December. Really, don’t get me started.)
(They aren’t all BIG, but they are teen big.)
So now I have to hear it.
Or simply worry that I might hear it.
The kind of worry that keeps me up at night.
I used to always say that my parenting philosophy was to raise Decent Humans.
And that was an easy goal when raising decent humans was…easy.
The diapers and the sleep training and the pacifier and the WHY DOES CAILLOU HATE EVERYTHING conversations were all over the blog-o-sphere (that was a word we used to use back in the dinosaur age of blogging) and all over the internet. If you wanted to talk about what cereal was best to start with, there were so many people talking about it — from my baby loves rice cereal to my baby hates rice cereal to I accidentally ate my baby’s rice cereal and oh my god why do I have to torture my child so — honestly. That’s why I started blogging. Because when I took my two small children to Mommy and Me classes, miraculously every single child in those classes were perfect. Sleeping through the night! Diapers never leaked through! Potty trained before age 1! Angel babies! Angel toddlers! And on the internet, things were a little different. Mommy bloggers were actually telling the truth about their struggles. It was refreshing. And it was necessary.
And now it’s time to bring the moms (and dads and stepmoms and stepdads and friends) of teenagers out to talk about our struggles.
So we can all raise those Decent Humans.