The admission that I really like having my teenage kid around has brought up some very strange reactions lately. There are the people who think I’m just plain strange and the others who think I’m lying. Strange I can sort of accept, lying not so much.
But that’s not the worst of it, there’s the whole subset of people who think people only speak about their kids in this way to affirm their position as “good parent”. It sounds “right” to say you miss your children. Quite frankly I find that odd because parenting isn’t a competition. It doesn’t make you a better or worse parent if you talk about your attachment. Or even if you have that attachment.
The truth is my son went on school camp for a week recently and it felt like three weeks. I missed having him around. It felt very quiet and a bit lonely in the house and I didn’t like it at all. And while he’s been on many camps and slept out more times than I could even begin to recount, this time was different.
It was different because he’s 16 and on the cusp of a much bigger trip when he heads off overseas on a school trip for six weeks at the end of the year. And then he leaves school in two years with grand plans to travel the world. These are both things I’m trying to sweep under the carpet and pretend don’t exist (a coping mechanism I do not suggest that anyone else adopt).
But what I’ve come to realise, as I’m getting used to these stints away from home, is that it makes people uncomfortable to hear how much I miss him when he’s away. It seems, after you’ve dealt with the people that think you are odd or competitive, that conceding you miss your teenager is somehow a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that says either you are incomplete without your child (I sort of am) or that your child is tied to your apron strings (sadly he isn’t).
The most common response I got when I told people he was away was how lucky I was I didn’t have to do the school run, cook meals and do his washing. “It must be so peaceful,” they enthused. “It’s a holiday from parenting, you’re so lucky,” they gushed.
Lana: I know this is the beginning of him growing up; him leaving.
But the truth is I don’t want a holiday from parenting. I don’t even want a little break. And I am not sure why that makes people feel uncomfortable.
Maybe I have the luxury of feeling like this because he’s a teenager; his needs are very different to that of a baby or a toddler, or even a small child. He is independent, he is individuating, he’s grown up and a little bit away. My days of parenting in the traditional sense are almost gone.
My son is a teenager - he values the opinion of his peers more than that of his parents, he would rather spend time with his squad than his mother and he can get anywhere on a bus or a bike and the journey is that much better because he’s in charge of it.
It’s not that he doesn’t need me; it’s just that he needs me in a very different from the way he did before.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg joined the This Glorious Mess podcast to talk about raising teenage boys. (Post continues after audio.)
I look back at the childhood years with rose coloured glasses, I’ve almost forgotten the feeling of having someone attached to me all the time, I sometimes struggle to recall the pull of little hands and whiney voices. I forget that I thought it would never end; I overlook the times I used to long for time to myself.
This nostalgic trip down the fuzzy edged memories of my son’s childhood is not intended to make parents of younger kids aware of how quickly time passes. I am not so amnesic that I can’t recall how hideously long some of those hours were. But, looking back has taught me that while so much of my role as a parent has changed, my love for him hasn’t.
He may not be a little boy anymore but the magical part of his growth and maturity and my journey as a parent, is the realisation that I didn’t just feel intense love for him because he was my child, because he was vulnerable, because he needed me. I feel the way I do about him because he is an awesome human being who makes me laugh, makes me think and makes me love with every bit of my heart.
It’s really not so strange that I miss having him around when he’s away. What is strange is that people should be surprised.
If you want to read more on raising teenagers, we have more for you:
- CULT BUY: The perfect special occasion gift for the tween and teen girl in your life.
- Entitled teens? Try these parenting tips to bring them back to earth.
- Why Robin Bailey doesn’t have a problem drug testing her teenage sons.
Lana Hirschowitz is kind of a worrier who is trying very hard to transform into a kindness warrior. It remains a work in progress. In between worrying (and reminding people to be kind) she espouses her opinion on most things on Facebook here.