This year was a breakout year for my family, and not in the way my wife and I would’ve preferred, although we should have seen it coming—after all, parenting is a challenge, to say the least, because you never really know what to expect as you go along. Undoubtedly, as you experience similar events in your life with your child(ren), someone else will advise they went through the same thing. However, there never seems to be any way of knowing these things ahead of time, it’s always “confirmation after it’s passed.”
For instance, as a parent of a teenager, you know there will come a time when they don’t want to do such things as go on trips with you any longer, or at least some of them. Gone are the days of them being excited to take a weekend excursion to a place you haven’t visited before, or a day-trip to the mountains and so on. Instead, the teenage part of them kicks in and they decide they’d much rather be spending this time with their friends…away from their parents!
Even though you know this time will come eventually, somehow you never really seem to be prepared when it does. One reason is simply that they don’t give you advance notice they’re going to do this. Such as, “Hey Mom and Dad, you know how we always go to the mountains in the fall? Well, when the trip comes around again in 6 months, I just want to give you a heads-up that I’ll be going camping that weekend.” It would still be a shocker, but at least you’d know. Another even better response would be, “Hey Mom and Dad, I’m really going to enjoy our annual trip this year, and you should too, because next year I’ll be doing something else with my friends instead.”
Okay, I know this is a bit of a pipe dream to think parents could get this much advance notice of anything a teen would want to do, but it would help make the adjustment go smoother. Family trips, game night, festivals and other assorted traditions are things we’ve enjoyed and looked forward to since our children were born. Then, all of a sudden, they change and decide they want to do something different. It works for them, but it’s difficult for the parents, who didn’t see it coming. If we had known that last year, for instance, was going to be the last time for (insert event here) then we would have enjoyed it more and relished in the moment a little longer. I’m not saying it doesn’t make you wish for another year of the family experience, but it is helpful to ease into the transition that teenagers are always putting you through.
But I guess that’s not the way it’s supposed to happen. There’s a philosophical reason for it, I’m sure, that I’m not aware of at the moment. Perhaps you have some ideas of your own. Regardless, here is where we are, and I know there will be plenty more of these moments to come along in the months and years ahead. It’s not fair to us parents, but it rarely is, as we raise our children through life. Parents bear the brunt of many things as their children grow and learn life’s lessons, and often without any appreciation at the moment. Then as time passes, and the children grow into adults and start their own families, they get an occasional glimpse of their past in their memories that shines a light on what their parents went through. In that moment, they garner an understanding that wasn’t there before when they were younger. And if you’re fortunate, they tell you so, and it’s rewarding, even if the recognition is delayed by several years in the process.
I know I’ve had those moments with my parents, where I understand better now what they experienced. The older I get, the greater respect I have for the things they did for me and my siblings, and the special moments they allowed us to share and relish in our memories.
Hopefully, someday my children will do the same, until then…carpe diem.