Birthday season just opened in our house. We have three birthdays in just under a month, starting yesterday when the youngest turned 16.
I love to celebrate special occasions, especially birthdays, especially for those I birthed. I’m pretty sure I even celebrated in the delivery room as my kids were being born. I remember my doctor on the third child asked me why I was so smiley despite all the pain. Little did I know what that truly meant.
I spent my boy’s 16th birthday pretty much by myself. No cars and friends and cheer for him, he just hung out in his room. Like almost everyday, I can’t get my teenager out of his room and I don’t know what to do.
I have tried everything, but he won’t really come out except to go to school and eat, and it’s been going on for a couple years. Why am I waiting so long to speak up? Because I keep hoping it will change.
He isn’t hiding anything that we can tell, he’s got a fancy computer and spends all his time online. Introverted, totally tech, smart as a whip honors student, he’s not like me or his sibs. He opts out of interaction and seems perfectly happy. But it makes me really sad.
No matter what I do or say to try to help him, he pishaws and rolls his eyes. I realize this is teenager-speak, I’m not new to this. My other two 20-somethings seem to be fine, so I guess this will pass. But it’s worrisome nonetheless. He’s isolated and putting on weight, and even with encouragement from family and friends, it’s like trying to move a boulder.
Nobody tells mothers that one day they will feel pain with their children like they did in the delivery room. Having children is as heartbreaking as it is joyful, and the teenage years are intense. All kinds of factors come into play – genes and environment, family status and stability, extended family, community – everything plays a role. So on some level I have to wonder where in all this I failed to help him be the best he could be.
Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe this is his best. Teenagers are still developing in their bodies and in the world. So I try to give him the benefit of the doubt instead of blaming myself. He’s not young anymore, not to mention he’s the size of an adult, unlike when he was two and I could control his life.
He has gone through a lot with our family trauma, problems and pain. But all I can do is keep showing him things are now really good, and role model every day.
So as I search for the answer to help my teen thrive, I keep repeating the old standbys – everybody is on their own journey…parents are only vessels, kids are individuals…don’t make him someone he isn’t…he has to want to change, nobody can do it for him… But some days it’s really hard.
I guess one day he will come out of his room. In the meantime I’ll keep trying…and waiting…and trying…and hoping. This is parenthood.