Surviving “Young and Stupid”

The gurgle of the coffee maker resonated from the kitchen as I hurried down the stairs. Evidence of the chaos of graduation and the open house was scattered throughout the house. The long list of things I needed to do was daunting, making my lack of energy all the more annoying. Bring boxes to the attic…put away open house stuff…clean and organize the extra bedroom. Instead of doing any of that, I sat down and stared at the blank computer screen. Exhaustion settled in on every inch of my body and mind. It was morning and my tank was already empty.

Having a senior in high school was exhausting. This past year was challenging and stressful on a new level. Seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds are completely different than younger teenagers. These semi-legal young adults, who were becoming independent and were once energetic, can suddenly become lazy and entitled.

And while kids’ brains aren’t fully formed until their mid-twenties, many of them are driving, voting, dating, and making major decisions. For those of us who have the full capacity of our brains, we know this is a recipe for disaster.

Last night I watched the movie, Jungle, starring Daniel Radcliffe. This true story is an intense tale of a young man fighting to survive in the brutal jungles of South America. However thrilling and action packed it may have been, all I could think about were the choices that were made that led this guy into such a mess. It was about Yossi, a twenty-something young man from Germany who wanted to go on a year-long walkabout to South America, something that his parents weren’t thrilled about. He was in the “young and stupid” phase, and after being approached by someone who wanted to take them off the beaten path into the jungles of Bolivia, it nearly cost him his life.

At every stage of parenting I have appreciated my parents more and more. I often wonder how my parents survived the stage when I was young and stupid. Thinking back to my late teens to early twenties, its amazing how I came out of those years relatively unscathed. Now, as a parent, I am just entering that stage with my kids.

My daughter recently had an appointment to get vaccinations that are a requirement for her to attend college in the fall. As the third stick went in, she mumbled, “I think I’m going to pass…” Then, lights out, she started to fall. Since this had happened before, I was ready to catch her. The familiar scene from a year ago when she had knee surgery played out in front of me like a bad dream. Her body was reacting to the pain, or the vaccine, and she convulsed and thrashed in her unconscious state. Minutes later, she regained consciousness. It took a while to get her back to where she could sit and then stand to get her in the car and get her home. Later that day as she slept on the couch, the thought occurred to me, both my daughters have passed out three times! What if I’m not there to remind my college kid to eat before getting a vaccination? What if I’m not there to catch her?

How does a parent of a seventeen- or eighteen-year-old survive what I call, The Danger Zone? It is the time in life when kids are old enough to make many of their own choices, and maybe live on their own, yet they aren’t playing with a full deck.

I recently met a friend of mine for coffee. After she let me vent a little about the challenges of parenting a soon-to-be college student, she asked about my oldest. “Does she want to go to college?” Weird question, I thought. I didn’t know the answer. But in that moment I realized it didn’t matter. She had to go. I knew I couldn’t live with her anymore. Parenting a child on the tightrope between adult and child is overwhelming.

My goal with my high school graduate is to get her into college. Yes, she has already been accepted. Yes, she knows where she is going. However, it is the one thousand little things that have to be done in order for her to actually be recognized as a student in the fall that stand in the way. Immunizations, orientation, financial aid and scholarships, housing and roommate stuff, and on and on the list goes. I’m finding myself stepping in with these important tasks. Not because she isn’t old enough to do these things herself, but because I need her to leave the nest. For my sanity. I know I shouldn’t be doing them for her, but I do them anyway.

I pray constantly for God’s protection over her life. I pray for the things that we have failed to teach her that she has to learn on her own. I pray that God would protect her until she graduates from the “young and stupid” phase.




Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Recently, my husband and I had a heart to heart with my fifteen year old daughter. She was upset with me and laid it all out on the table.

She spelled out what I was doing wrong as a parent and as a person and how it bothered her. Why couldn’t I be like other moms? I read between the lines. I could feel my heart begin to crumble. As her disappointments and my shortcomings were laid out in front of me, my soul cowered under the weight. Like a World War II plane that’s been hit and is going down, “mayday, mayday!”

Every parent must come to terms with the fact that they are not a perfect parent.

On the surface there was truth in what she said. I was complaining too much, and being too judgmental. I needed to work on my attitude toward others and the world. I needed to have more love, more compassion, and more acceptance. However, there was a lot she didn’t know. She didn’t see the weight I carried or the emotional battles I fought every day.

My daughters saw what I allowed them to see. They only saw the tip of the iceberg. They didn’t know what my life was like before them. They didn’t know about the missing pieces in my soul from my past. They saw only what came out, unaware of what was kept in.

And then she asked this question, “Why can’t we be a normal family?” And there it was. The final blow. I was between a rock and a hard place.

In the words of Joyce from Stranger Things, “this is not a normal family.” I can relate.

I suffer from depression. I have sheltered my kids from this for most of their lives as most people with depression probably do. What choice does one have?

It is important to let kids, as they become young adults, see the humanness of their parents.

However, the last couple years as my kids have begun to mature into young adulthood, I have started letting them see behind the curtain a little bit. I thought it might prepare them for life. Especially if they are prone to depression. However, what I have shown them is still a small portion of what I carry.

How does a parent with depression raise a teenager and survive? How does a person who is already emotionally fragile take the arrows of a hormonal adolescent?

Our woundedness is laid bare when our kids become teenagers.

They don’t see my brokenness. They don’t see the child that felt lonely and rejected. They don’t understand depression. Not many people do.

My daughter doesn’t know the details of my story. She doesn’t know my pain. And she can’t. She won’t. I won’t put that on her. However, what comes out of me is partially a product of my pain, loss, and childhood issues. It isn’t an excuse. It is an explanation.

She doesn’t know how hard I have to fight, or how high I have to climb everyday just to get to where everyone else starts out.

The tension is letting my teenager get more of a glimpse of the real person behind the mom—the real, flawed person. The tension is knowing that she can only have half of the story. And knowing that she will judge based on her limited understanding.

Let’s face it, being judged hurts. Especially if its coming from your children, your kids in whom you have poured your soul. Those for whom you have sacrificed everything. They know none of this. That is the sacrifice of parenting.

I have to be the grown up. I have no choice but to deal with the pain of my past and deal with the pain of the judgement of my kids at the same time. And do it all without blaming or explaining. Only through God’s strength is this possible. Without Him I would crumble.