A Letter To the Parent of a Teen

thank-you-letterHow are you? Is your teenage child driving you crazy with worry? Do you feel like a failure? Do you lay awake at night wondering what happened to you and your child as you seem to move further apart? Will things ever return to the way they used to be?

The answer to my last question is, probably not. Have you ever seen a magician place an object in a hat, wave a wand and something totally different will appear? That’s what happens to a parent-child relationship during these years. It enters looking like one thing and reappears looking totally different.  It takes a lot of waiting and wand waving to get there. It takes a ton of work for your child to transform.

Between the ages of twelve and twenty four (give or take a few years) you will wave your wand until you’re exhausted. Each time you reach into the hat, you might pull out something unrecognizable. Place it back in the hat and continue your work.

One day you’ll see something you recognize. It’s different but it is precious. You didn’t give up. But don’t take credit for all of the work. Your child transformed. In a very dark, at times very scary place he transformed. He did the work. Most of the time with your help. Sometimes in spite of your help.

As a parent, you want to mold. You want to steer in the right direction. Who wouldn’t want your words of wisdom? Your child, that’s who. With each cautionary tale, inspirational anecdote, and well meaning lecture he hears your need to control his way of thinking and being. Your suggestions tell him that his way is not good enough. What he does needs improvement.

He wants to create his own trail and create his own map.  He doesn’t want you to walk in front of him to clear the way. Walk behind him. Catch him if he falls. If he doesn’t learn from his mistakes, step to the side and walk next to him. Say nothing. Do nothing. Just be. One day he will look up, notice you and ask you a question. You know, the kind with a question mark at the end. The kind you made room for when you quietly stood by and watch him transform. Your answer will be careful. Less of a lecture. More suggestive in nature.  Then you know that the transformation is taking place.

Your new relationship will slowly take form. You let go. You find out that the person you raised has lessons to teach you.  You realize that you don’t belong to each other. You belong with each other.