Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thoughts From the Unpracticed Mom of a Teenager

Just like that, it's officially winter over here. The kids have begged for this for months, adamant that it's their favorite. And then it came. And we're all sort of feeling the fall-out.

I can't adjust, not like this. My new fall jacket just arrived two days ago, for Pete's sake!

But we're coping the only ways we know how - with lots of soup, carbs, library books, and plenty of sitcoms after dark. Which happens to be around 5:45. Not that we've noticed.

The bad news is, we're officially caught up on New Girl. 48 episodes left us feeling like they were family and now they've vanished into the deep recesses of wherever entire seasons of shows go to retire, which, in this case, has to be somewhere quirky and weird. We miss them.

On a scale of 1-10, how tired are you of hearing about this obsession? I almost lead with it, but coupled with yet another photo of the green table, I thought you'd probably all just skip it.

Now you feel tricked, don't you?

As with every change of season, I've been doing a little too much thinking lately, a sure sign it's time for an adventure of some sort.
Life with our youngest has been really hard again.
Life with our oldest has gotten mysteriously easier in recent weeks.

By "easier", I mean he's stopped being such a grump. (Maybe we've stopped being such grumps, too. I'll have to ask him.) We've come to a cease-fire in some of the nagging disputes we'd been waging week after blasted week.

He's following me around the house again, hugging me one hundred times a day, forcing me to find a new way of believing my affection isn't reserved for people shorter than myself.

He's tossing all the little kids around, tickling them while they beg him to stop and hope that he won't.

He got his driver's license last week so we celebrated with doughnuts and ordered a covert pizza after the littles were asleep, but Robert also fell asleep before we even got it home. (His 5a.m. mornings are catching up to him.)

Calvin yells downstairs, "Robert! Mom and Dad need you!" and it sounds like it's always been that way. We trace his giant hand next to ours on Siley's family project and find a perfect fit on the page. He braids Ruby's hair, "You gotta hold still, Sis". It all seems perfectly right. The kiddos understand on every level that Robert belongs to them. It helps.

I guess what I want you to know is this: Bringing our tallest kid into the mix is one of the hardest things we've ever done. We have doubted and stewed. We've worried and wished. I have accused him of not really wanting us, as insecure as the mom of a teenager as I was as a teenager myself.

We've yelled and stood our ground. We've all had moments of behaving badly, then realizing again that "loving" from a place of stubbornness isn't really loving at all.

He's eager to get his own place and I want it both ways. I want a taste of quiet, of getting babysitters and going on dates again, of not wearing a bra until midnight, of experiencing, once again, the delight of the left-over.

But I only want it for like one week.

And then I want him back, right here, following me around, pressing his perpetually warm cheek to mine, causing mayhem during homework hour, talking so dang loud. I want him at the island, telling me everything I never wanted to know about being a laminator in a factory. I want him laying on the couch and making his beloved baloney sandwiches in the kitchen. I want him screaming "MOM!" and flushing cigarette butts down the toilet.

I want to keep him under my thumb and pretend he isn't almost 20.

I want to micro-manage him forever, because it feels much safer and I think I might be more effective than God. (Keeping it real, God.)

I want to keep him with us, because I'm afraid he'll forget us and I know we won't be the same without him.

Is this normal teenage parenting stuff? Tell me, please.
Do the stakes always feel this high?

I know messing up is inevitable, but I know messing up means different things for this kid.

I don't have tidy answers right now, just the niggling twitch that things can't stay simple forever. The leaves all come down, eventually.

For now, I'll lean into my instinct to pull everyone in for the winter, bundle us together while we're all right here, and pray we make it through and then keep on making it through after that.


  1. Oh yes. The topsy-turvy heart stuff here is normal for parenting teens. And you're doing beautifully Shannan, really. So much better than you think.

    I love this...and you.

  2. This is exactly what it is. A constant (sometimes rhythmic) letting go and pulling in, shoving out and jerking back. It's terrifying and freeing.One heck of a roller coaster ride!

  3. Pretty much what you've said, we've experience....well, except flushing cigarette butts! :-)

    Two of my man-children are off and married....the last one just went off to college. A verse I CLING to is Philippians 1:6...(The Karen B Translation).... HE [NOT ME] who began a good work [in me AND them -- those man-children] WILL BE FAITHFUL to complete that work [in me AND them]!

    Yep, you will mess up. We all do! BUT, praise God, HE is way, way, way bigger than anything we mess up!

    (btw...we tell our kids to write our mess ups in a journal so that when they have to go to therapy they don't have to make anything up! :-)

    1. I'm DYING about that journal bit. HAHA!
      And thanks for that verse. I like your translation, Lady.

  4. I am so glad God gave him to you. You have just this very short snippet of time. I hope you can shove all the mothering and love and worry and happiness into this window. : ).

  5. Thank you--I loved the "I think I might be more effective than God" because I'm SOOO glad I'm not the only one!

  6. My daughter is the same age as Robert so I understand completely. She's lived away in the last year and lived home. I love and hate them both. I think it's the nature of the "beast."

  7. Well said.
    From a mama of two used -to- be teens.

  8. Yes, that is so normal teenage parenting stuff! And it is a learning process for all involved. My oldest is in his second year of college and though it's gotten easier, there are still times I want to grip hard and "micro-manage." But then I remember he's in the best of hands and I really don't know better than GOD does. Embrace the time you DO have, and trust GOD with what comes next.

  9. Here's what I'm learning about teenagers....
    they love real. they love honest. they love grace. they need structure. they need rules. they need authority.
    you're doing great...

  10. I wish I had some advice for you, but considering I just told my husband I think one of our children might grow up to be a criminal, I'm thinking I should save it;) Teens are so very hard, and I have no idea what I'm doing, and frankly, I'm scared to screw it all up. All that to say, you're not alone. We can learn how to love well together:)

  11. It's a big boat. Scoot over - I've lost my paddle too.

    Thank you, Karen, for that verse and for saying there is no mess up bigger than God. I may have just taken my first deep breath in days.

  12. New Girl had a tiny Friday Night Lights reference last night and it brought me untold joy. My happy worlds collided. If we lived closer I'd let you come watch the new season on our hulu :)

  13. You know what....this sounds about right regarding living with teenagers. The line that struck me was the one about us being more effective than God. Being in the midst of raising 2 teen boys has me feeling on edge about 23 out of 24 hours a day. It's not easy. But then they give me a big hug or send a "love you" text and all is okay.

  14. yay for less grumpy . . . maybe we should make Robert have a chat with Zack :-)

  15. I told Cory (Sunday) how amazing it is that you guys are caring for a teen who was already one when he stepped into your lives. It's hard enough when they begin life before you from day 1, but to bring in a teen who has lived so much of life outside of your world - beautiful! Now for the less serious side....."not wearing a bra until midnight" - so related to that :) They all grow up and out of our safety net so quickly. I too wonder if I'll ever get used to the big boy residing outside my walls - I hope so. I guess it's the place where God can use him best - love you Girl - so proud of the whole Martin Family!

  16. So many 'lost nearly grown up men/boys' out there and God brought you and Cory and Robert together. My kiddies are all little but even thinking of them going pulls my heart into this stretchy ouchy place that I don't really like. I do frequently dream of going on a cruise or sleeping all day when NOT sick from time to time and usually my mind obsessively keeps track of how many pooey nappies (diapers) I change each day (yesterday was 6) BUT I don't want to wish it all away. You inspire me and show me that all we need, all we truly have is Jesus. Hold on to him and everything will be ok

  17. And I'm crying AGAIN today.
    "I want to micro-manage him forever, because it feels much safer and I think I might be more effective than God. (Keeping it real, God.)" <--- This. I don't even have a teenager, and I feel this sums up motherhood so well. At least the way I do motherhood. Or do life.
    I keep praying for you all - and cheering for you all.

  18. Oh Shannan, yes it's all normal so normal in fact it's got me crying in recognition. And knowing that mistakes and messing up mean something different for him in a similar way that it meant something different when my son messed up. The stakes are higher and the consequences more serious.
    Just keep doing what you're doing, keep loving him and asking for the grace every single day. And you are not the only one who thinks she "might be more effective from God". We're not, we never will be but it's so hard to let go.
    Consider yourself hugged.
    Mary Beth

  19. This part: I want to micro-manage him forever, because it feels much safer and I think I might be more effective than God. (Keeping it real, God.)
    Yes, yes, yes, yes. That vulnerable feeling when we realize we can't control everything (anything) anymore and it's up to them and God. That was my struggle. And when the bad decisions were made I finally realized it was all theirs, not mine, and they would have to suffer the consequences. It's so hard, but you sound like you're doing well. Seriously.

  20. I love finding your posts in my inbox...they always seem to come at just the right after an argument with my 23 year old daughter...who is an adult but doesn't act like one sometimes...I know its just me worrying about how she will be when she makes the leap into living on her own...I know I have taught her everything she needs to know and let's face it, she thinks she's smarter than I will ever be...but one day she will realize just how smart I am...I am hoping we are still friends when that happens..LOL!! yes teenagers are hard, and there are many times you wish they would fly the coop...but secretly - between you and me...I hope she never leaves home!

  21. I'm just nearly 27 and working as a "houseparent" for at-risk girls over 18. I've lived and worked in the same Independent Living home/facility with them for the last 2 years. They are brilliant and brave, but also, they drive me completely crazy sometimes. I can relate with some of the things you've described in this post and previous posts. :) I admire you greatly and your writing encourages me! Keep at it!

  22. The only perfect thing we can do is love them and let god do his work.

  23. i'm discovering there's lots winters in parenting teens - the need to pull in close. hunker down. ride it out. and yes, there is always the other side. we get through. we get there. we're all going to survive. AND come out still friends in the end. {{thanks to grace grace and more grace!!}}

    and best line from new girl last night - nick, "look, i don't need to work out...i'm old fashioned coney island fat strong!" ; )

  24. Coming from a Mother of a 22, 20 and 14 year old it sure is different than when they were lil.I get it! They have a mind of their own and you can't always be in control and learning to let go is the hardest thing you will ever do. The only thing that has kept me any peace is letting it go to God and knowing they are in his hands.
    Bless you and your family over and over again for loving Robert when he had no one.Just because he is older doesn't mean he doesn't need direction, advise, love and leftovers! Lol

  25. Do you remember a mom on the brink coming to visit your farm wringing her hands and crying over her teenager? Well, happily we are on the other side and though she still makes us want to pull our hair out sometimes, moving out has been so good for her and for us. I realize your situation is more complicated and not tempered by years of teaching and love but you can still provide love and guidance when they fly the coop and sometimes I think it has more meaning to them then.

  26. So very normal, whether you've had them from the beginning or not! What a beautiful post, beautiful heart, beautiful family!!! Only God could create such a beautiful masterpiece!!! Try not to think of the days ahead, just soak up every stinking single minute you have right now!!!! They do go fast!!

  27. As a mama do three - two teens and a preteen, I must say parenting them bring me it The Throne continually... I am so blessed and so challenged and feel so ill-equipped at times...

  28. When you said "messing up means different things for this kid", you hit the nail on the head. My son had a rough period himself and ended up with a dangerous addiction to hydrocodone. Although he didn't get in legal trouble for it, his body was reacting so violently (Thank you God) that I thought he would die. The drugs were literally eating his stomach lining away. That's been 10 years now and every time my now-30-year-old son gets sick my first terrified thoughts are that he's fallen again. Messing up means different things for him too. You will always, always, worry and hold your breath. Trust me!

  29. I love reading about how Robert is being grafted into your family. such a beautiful reminder of how God also makes room for us and welcomes us as children into his family

  30. Absolutely normal. There is nothing like a Mama bear and her cubs--babies or teens, but sometimes it feels like they are sucking the life out of you. I keep telling myself to, "Let go and Let God!"

  31. I'm in the "post new girl depression" phase as well! You're not alone there :)

  32. I love reading your posts. The are wonderful and I bet they take on different meanings to the different types of people reading them. I look forward to reading your words each day.

  33. You're doin' good, mama. You are. Love is messy...but we love anyway.

    Also, that house in your neighborhood? I want it. We could share soup. : )

  34. the stakes are so high. i get that.
    you are doing it right because your motivation is love.
    but gosh dang they are hard!! (and so loud)
    and then they leave and it's easier and then so hard to let them leave each time you see them.

    miss you.
    don't give up.

  35. I remember how sad I was when we caught up on New Girl and I realized that there would only be one new episode PER WEEK! I need more!
    But- you should check out the "She & Him (Holiday)" station on Pandora when you are ready for Christmas tunes. It's my favorite and there is just something about Zooey Deschanel's voice that makes me happy :)

  36. A mutual friend of ours told me about your blog and sent me this link. All I can say is, "Girl, we should talk!" First of all, my husband and I watched New Girl all summer and went through a mini-depression when we caught up. So glad others can relate! Also, although my children are 24 and 27, God brought another child into our lives 21/2 years ago. He was not quite 15 at the time. I know it was God, because although we love children, we were enjoying our empty nest and had NO inclination to change anything. Literally, before I knew what was happening we had an inner city kid with 14 tattoos living in our house and becoming a part of our family! As you well know, the challenges abound, but so do the blessings!

  37. !!! I don't even know how to start! We are the legal guardians of a 17 year-old boy as well as parents two our two little girls ages 9 and 6. We don't know what the heck we are doing most of the time, except for the fact that we are 100% confident we are doing what God called us to do. Your words capture my heart exactly. Especially, "I want to keep him with us, because I'm afraid he'll forget us and I know we won't be the same without him." I am crying as I copy and paste that sentence. He is afraid of rejection and has trouble trusting us, but I am afraid of rejection as well because our world won't be the same without him. I have not yet met a Christian woman raising a teenage boy without practice. Are you ever available to talk or email? I feel like a parent on an island, because there are just some things you can't tell your parent-friends who are staying home with their 4 and 2 year old about raising a troubled teenager. I desperately need a fellow mom who is walking the same path we are.