You may have heard the adage that a mother can only be as happy as her least happy child. I don’t know that I believe that because everybody is in charge of their own happiness, but a struggling teen (or child…or young adult…) undoubtedly tugs at a mama’s heartstrings.
We have recently hit a rough patch with our teenagers. I have heard all of the following things from them within the past week:
“I think I must be weird because I just don’t fit in with the other kids my age.”
“The girl I asked to Prom turned me down.” (Prom is early here)
“Why don’t people like me?”
“Two different girls that I have had a crush on for a long time both told me that they were not interested in me.”
“I feel invisible. Nobody talks to me when I am at a group activity.”
“I asked my friend if I could join in on a group date that he had planned and he told me no. I thought we were good friends, but why won’t he include me?”
“I feel like a tagalong.”
There is no need to throw a dagger at my heart because it is already bleeding. I am not talking about one child, but three, all of whom are simultaneously struggling with similar issues.
Their stories are my story. Listening to them takes me back to the time when I was in their shoes; beaten down, unsure of who my friends were, and wanting nothing more than to be accepted.
I can feel the pain of those days so vividly that it brings a lump to my throat. And now I am living through it all over again.
But, this time, I am the comforter; the one who listens late into the night, watching as the kids whom I adore fight back the tears of rejection and drying the ones that slide quietly down their cheeks. I am the one who assures them that things will turn out OK while wishing that I could somehow remove the hurt.
Sometimes, I have to stop myself from calling their friends to ask them to pay a little more attention because, more than anything, I want to make everything right. But the truth is that their friends are all wonderful kids who, like my own, are trying to figure out how to navigate the turbulent waters of human relationships the same way that everybody must – through trial and error; sometimes heartbreaking error.
Stepping in the middle of such learning would cripple these growing children of mine. How would they ever learn relationship skills if I, with years of similar experience behind me, took it upon myself to fix things in order to shield them from pain?
The bottom line is that they wouldn’t; at least not to the degree that they will need to successfully forge and keep relationships throughout their lives.
They must experience the awkwardness of teenagehood, the sadness that accompanies strained or broken friendships, and the pain of unrequited love. A combination of those things mixed with other life experiences is the perfect recipe for empathy, a quality that, when properly developed, will serve them forever.
I know that because I have experienced it. And, although I would never want to relive the past, I would not go back and change my heartache-filled teenage years, even if I could. I can now see how the challenges that I faced so long ago shaped me in a beautiful way.
So I will continue to listen, dry tears, and otherwise cheer from the sidelines while my kids are in the heat of battle, knowing that struggle proceeds growth and triumph. I will try, with every ounce of conviction that is within me, to help my weary teens see that they are amazing and capable and strong. I will tell them a million times over that relationships are complicated, but they are now learning skills that will bless their lives again and again.
I will let them know, through word and action, that I will always be here for them, no matter what.
They may not believe me right now when life feels so hard. But someday, I hope they look back on the difficulties that now threaten to sink them and realize how grateful they are for the lessons they learned in this fire of adversity.
Time has a way of healing wounds and providing greater perspective.
Although I will not step in and solve their problems, no matter how much I would like to, I pray that my consistent support will show my kids that I am their anchor amidst life’s storms, even though I cannot calm the sea. When all is said and done, I believe that is what they truly need from me.
Have you had any experience comforting struggling kids or teens, especially in the realm of relationships? What has or has not worked? Share in the comments section so that we can all learn from each other.