The trouble with teenagers.

This is my Bubby. My first and only. On the day she was born I held her and whispered into her ear: “I will be your Mom and will love YOU unconditionally everyday of my life.”

Sixteen years have passed. Today she is driving, has moved to the bedroom in the basement, and has a job. Sixteen years sounds like a long time but nothing about it FEELS long.
When this summer my husband told Kaitlin (Bubby) that yes, she could move to the basement bedroom, I was not emotionally ready to let go. Mentally I understood that I needed to.

Still now as I climb the stairs at night, my heart catches as I pass her room that is no longer her room. I pause and maybe a tear or two fall, as the reality of the situation loudly declares: Bubby has grown up.

One of my learning lenses as a teacher has been through that of a parent and for me this is “the work” that matters with teens. To simultaneously let go of certain parts of them, yet remain vitally present and connected; like a fire fighter, ever ready to fight fires all the while using the time in between meaningfully.

When driving her to work and SHE needs to share out of the blue, I need to be available or when SHE shows up at bedtime for pillow talk, I will shake off the sleepiness and listen.

Just as in class when students choose not to engage and then finally on some random day they do, I will be waiting for them with open heart and enthusiasm. I will not have checked out on them, I have not written them off, I have not labelled them “lazy” or “waste of time.”

Friday afternoon when Student S. shows up late, after missing class on Wednesday (I called him and let him know what we were doing) with no binder. First knee jerk reaction was to have a “freak out”. Instead, I took a deep breath and paused: “Is this working for you?” I asked with sincerity. “Yes” Student S. replied with equal sincerity.

OK. I may not be emotionally ready to let go. But mentally I know I need to. I will be ready when and if you (Student S, Bubby or other) need me. I will not own your journey. I will watch and wait. I will be on stand by, as hard as it might be. For me. To do.

The immediacy of being needed with teens, is deceptive; I am no longer needed to wipe bums, spilled milk, and crayon off the wall. When I am needed it is just as vital, and sometimes, although subtle in nature, maybe more so.

So when you do show up at lunch to tell me…. your dreams, so secret and precious. I will be there…waiting.

Simon Sinek explains that as teachers (and parents) we have a harder time connecting to our WHY as it does not become apparent for many years to come. First responders are connected very directly to their WHY; they place their hands on the body they are saving and therefore feel their WHY every day. And with teens this connection to WHY can be illusive.

Like a tightrope walker, I will strive to balance letting go with remaining discretely, intimately connected to the ebb and flow of each of them. This is the art of teaching and parenting: I will strive to shape shift around each of them, make space for each of them, trust each of them, make each feel safe and wait…for them.

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

                                               Tom Petty

4 thoughts on “The trouble with teenagers.

  1. I had a student tell me on the first day of school that all his other teachers have given up on him. I told him that I’m not in business of giving up on kids. He smiled, but you could tell didn’t believe me. Already this year when he was trying to quit on something that was hard I told him…I’m not giving up on you, remember? Now he just needs to not give up on himself.

    • What a sad story for that student, break my heart. It is hard to wait for them, it is. But this is the work that makes the difference for that student. I hope he comes around and way to go for being there for him 🙂

  2. I am completely with you. I have a student with Asperger’s and I was told to watch out for him because he can’t sit still and doesn’t do anything except annoy the people around him. Oh, and his previous teachers said he will never succeed in Chemistry. So this year I have bungee chairs from Target and this kid LOVES them. They are comfortable, allow him to bounce, and most importantly they slightly separate him from those around him allowing everyone to get work done. He has been attentive, helpful in class and inquisitive. My in-class support teacher asked me why I don’t make him take notes in a notebook and sit at a desk like everyone else. I told her it is simple: I could reprimand him and force him to do it my way OR I could build a strong relationship with him where he trusts me and is willing to take risks in my class. I build relationships first, teach Chemistry second.

    • Yes relationships first, yes, when you give children control over their learning they respond with such a positive reaction it is quite amazing. Thanks for sharing your insight, am still jealous of your chairs!

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