This past weekend was a tough one for Noah. After happily celebrating his 15th birthday on Thursday, he had a number of plans, including two parties on Saturday night. Dave and I agreed to shuttle him between the events so he could spend time with an extended group of friends. But within an hour of dropping him at party number two, we got a text from him asking to be picked up. Immediately.
I won’t go into detail except to say that, despite a set of extremely conscientious parents who were hosting the party, Noah wasn’t comfortable where he was. And after years of knowing that this day would come, we crossed over into the High Stakes Parenting zone where decisions really matter. During this time, our really good kid will find himself in some really not good situations. So we pray that he has digested the guidance we have so lovingly spoon fed him for the last several years at the same time hoping that we didn’t forget to cover anything important. On Saturday night, the margin of error within those two unknowns suddenly felt extremely wide. Because 1) chances are we didn’t cover every scenario he might face in high school. Half of these scenarios didn’t exist when we were his age. And 2) the odds are even greater that he shut down during a few of the important chapters simply due to good old fashioned mortification. Nothing is more apt to cause a loud ringing in a teenager’s ears than hearing the word “sexting” coming out of your mother’s mouth. (This was not the issue BTW.)
The Saturday night scenario fell under the first category – Dave and I never offered advice for the specific situation he faced. But, thankfully, it rhymed with a few others we presented, and he did the right thing. In, fact, he was perfect in his response
But we were all left a bit unnerved by the reality of it all. It is inevitable and it is starting.
During the next few years, Noah and his friends will be tested in so many ways outside of the classroom. They will come to understand who their real friends are – and learn that not everyone is meant to be friends. They will stand strong against and equally cave to peer pressure, hopefully with negligible consequences either way. Disappointment will run rampant – with their parents, with their friends and with themselves. Opportunities to learn from their mistakes will abound as will uncertainty, stress and angst. As parents, it is hard to sell the story that these are the “best years of their lives.” Because they aren’t.
Note to Teen: Your high school years will, at times, truly suck.
But… but… but…
Know this: You are not alone and you are loved. The gauntlet you are about to run has been well traveled by those before you, including your mother and father. We know, despite our demented minds and pea brains, how it feels. And you, my child, are doing great. No matter where you are, what you witness or participate in, who you side with, how it transpires, or when you let us know, you are always safe at home.
This promise does not exonerate you from responsibility. Rather, we hope it gives you the strength to make good decisions in the face of competing forces. Remember that you can always live with us; but you will also always have to live with yourself.
Regrets from this time in your life are inevitable, but most you will be able to work through and reflect upon with some poignancy as an adult. And if you are lucky, you will smile when looking back at this time, if for no other reason than you remember how tough it really was. And how you, too, made it through.