ladybird movie

ladybird movie

Last night, I got back from Paris

I ran into our house and enveloped the sweet boys in bear hugs. They looked like they’d each grown a foot since Tuesday, but maybe not taken showers?

For the next hour, we had tacos and hung out, and then I shifted into Mom Mode™ and announced that it was time to turn off screens, brush teeth, and get ready for bed. We were all exhausted, and this scene ensued:

“Can’t I just play video games?” asked one of them.
“No, it’s time for bed,” I answered.
“Come on, Mom, please?!!”
“No, honey, it’s definitely bedtime.”

And then came those dreaded words of an overtired preteen: “Ugh, Mom! I hate you!” and the bedroom door slammed.

Standing there in the hallway, at first, I grouchily thought to myself, FINE! I do so much for you guys, and I left for only five nights so I wouldn’t be gone for too long, and I’m awake for you right now even though I’m jet-lagged and tired… I wanted to storm into my own room and not say a word so he’d feel bad and have to come find me — a dramatic approach I might have done to a friend back in high school.

But then! Then!! I remembered this comment from Caroline, a CoJ reader: “Let your teens have the last word most of the time. Don’t give up your expectations or consequences, but let them let off a little steam and frustration… They have heard you and are digesting your advice or limitations on their behavior.”

Of course, I realized as my heart rate slowed, I wasn’t going to play mind games with my child. On the heat of the moment, I sometimes lose my temper or lock myself in the bathroom; I’m a human with emotions, too, and kids are a lot. But once everything calms down, I’m the grown up. They get to express their big emotions around me and know that my love will remain deep and steadfast and unconditional.

So, since he’s 10 and I’m 44, I went to his door and knocked.

“…yes?” came the voice inside.
“Hi, honey, I love you, and I’m sorry you’re upset. Would you like company or alone time?”
“Alone time, I guess.”
“Okay, I’ll just be in my room, if you need me.”

A few minutes later, he drifted into my room, climbed onto my bed, and put his head on my shoulder. And, to help him feel it deep in his bones, I said: “You can and will have all sorts of feelings toward me, and that’s okay. I can handle it.” And I added the sentence my mom always told us: “There’s nothing you could do or say that would ever make me not love you.”

Ahh, it’s hard! Honestly, I want to write it down here so that I will remember, too: Life and relationships are complicated, even (especially?) between parents and children, and it can be tempting with older children to slip into sulkiness or battles. But my goal (fingers crossed) is to try to lead with understanding and empathy, as much as possible, especially on hard days when they need it most. I’m working that muscle and hope to strengthen it more and more through their teenage years.

Thoughts? I would LOVE to hear what has worked for you, since I’m new to this teenage game. Please share your insights below, if you’d like…

Update: The comments are so wise and thoughtful, thank you!!!

P.S. 21 completely subjective rules for parenting teenage girls and teenage boys.

(Photo from the movie Ladybird.)