Do you remember being at a certain age, caught in some strange limbo between childhood and adulthood? Do you remember how part of you wanted to hold onto childhood, where suddenly everything seemed safer – but at the same time, part of you was chomping at the bit to get to adulthood and break free of the restraints of being a kid, and reach for all those big dreams you had? Do you remember how confusing some things seemed then – most of all, your own heart? Do you remember how you felt invincible and fragile at the same time? Do you remember how everything seemed monumental, and it felt like your whole life hinged on whether he or she liked you back?
And I wouldn’t go back to those years if you paid me.
Now I’m watching my own offspring navigate his way through the mess of teen angst, which seems to have gone into overdrive lately. And you know what? It’s painful, even for me. I’d like to ease it for him, but I know I can’t. I know that these are great learning experiences for him that will in some way shape him as an adult. I know that surviving squabbles with friends, surviving heartbreak, surviving not knowing exactly where you belong, surviving standing up for things you believe in and being shot down – they are all vital parts of growing up. I know that stumbling and falling down, and getting back up fosters maturity and wisdom. I know that, but it still hurts to watch your kid go through it.
And I’m scared to death I’m going to screw this up. Say the wrong thing, misread something, be too distracted when he actually feels like opening up, snap at him too harshly when he’s being moody and difficult.
It all feels like such a delicate balance, such a fine line to walk.
Lilah, too, is going through something. That sweet, good-natured girl I wrote about yesterday has been pretty tearful lately. She has growing pains in her body and in her heart. Her legs sometimes ache so much that she cries, and lately a hundred other things have reduced her to tears. She tells me, “Mommy, I want to go back to preschool,” and “I wish I could stay home with you like I used to, and we could go get smoothies like we used to,” and she sobs, “Sometimes I think about how when I’m a grown-up, you’ll die.” And what can I say? I want to ease it for her, too, but she can’t go back to preschool, she can’t stay home with me like she used to, and someday I am going to die. So I tell her all the great things about being a first-grader, and I promise her that we’ll spend some time together this weekend and we’ll go get smoothies, just me and her. And I tell her that I won’t die for a long, long time. And I hope that I’m not telling her a lie.
Being a kid is hard. Being a parent is hard, too.