In response to several recent conversations (with several friends, raising several unique and challenging pre-teens), I've decided to re-visit an earlier post. Please join me in remembering: we're new at this. We're not alone. It's important to laugh at ourselves.
Lately I've been pondering the first lines of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
Maybe it's true. Maybe we are unique and set apart from one another by our struggles and strife. But these days, I doubt it. I gotta take issue with old Leo, now that I am part of my own struggling family.
Perhaps the details of each family's challenges are unique, but in the grand scheme of things, raising a family is hard for everyone. Few parents of teenagers escape unscathed. Most of the time, I feel like my crazy family is unique and isolated and messed-up in ways no one else will understand. And that's depressing, y'all.
We Are Not Alone: Seek Wisdom from Others
As promised, I am seeking wisdom from every source available. Most of all, other parents. Together, we can make sense of things. Every time I consult a parent of older children, I am comforted. Their wisdom--and their distance from the acute insanity of living with adolescents--gives me hope. They say thinks like, "Oh, please," and "That's nothin'" and they laugh (out loud) at my petty concerns.
One of the fine people offering me comfort today is reader and mother of real-life grown-ups Karen Dawson Haag. In response to my post yesterday, she offered this parenting gem:
"I had an a-ha moment when raising my oldest. One day, my teenager and I were having an argument about who-knows-what. I suddenly said, "Hey! This is the first time I've raised a child and you have to cut me some slack."
That broke the mood and we laughed. Sometimes, just telling your kids that you have fears, you don't know what you're doing, you love them and think you're looking out for them, and you're open to hearing their ideas made all the difference for us.
Now, we both say, Hey! This is the first time I've done this. Help me."
Here is some real wisdom. The inestimable Brene Brown teaches us about the gifts of "imperfect parenting" and the importance of vulnerability. What a gift Karen gave her teenagers when she admitted she didn't know what she was doing! When parents admit we are struggling, when we reveal our weaknesses, when we ask for forgiveness, we invite our children into the Truth. As always, it's a balance: we need to remain strong and assure them we--the adults--will protect them, but we gain their trust when we also tell them we don't quite know how.
Be Vulnerable: Laugh at Ourselves.
My other favorite part of Karen's comment is the reminder to laugh at ourselves. Sometimes (often) with teenagers, laughter is all we've got. "Breaking the mood" is magic. It's vital. If we forget to laugh, we succumb to anger and frustration. If we laugh, it's easier to forgive ourselves and our children and the whole, wide world.
Karen Dawson Haag is an educator and champion of literacy, which might explain her particular brand of brilliance. Please check out--and learn from, and use!--her amazing sites, www.liketowrite.com (a free resource for passionate people about helping students write well) and www.liketoread.com (a free resource for passionate people about helping children enjoy reading).
Thank you, Karen, for hearing my cry, "Help me!" Thank you for the practical bit of advice, but most of all for lightening my load. Shoulder-to-shoulder, we all shine on.