Last week I attended a conference and found myself engaged in a conversation with another mom who is a business owner and has a junior in high school.
We began to share war stories of junior year and the pressure that surrounds our kids.
We also spoke of our decision to start our own business and how it gives us the flexibility to still be home with our children.
It was at this point of the conversation that I shared my philosophy – “I think it’s more important for me to be home now than it was when my son was two.”
As I said these words, a father of two young children overheard the conversation and was astonished. He immediately chimed in with, “What? Are you kidding? By the age of sixteen the kids should be able to take care of themselves.”
Unwilling to defend my beliefs when it comes to my kids, the only thing I could muster up was, “Bigger kids – bigger problems.”
He simply said, “Huh, that’s interesting,” and then he walked away.
Now before all the younger mommies start to get upset, let me explain – I’m not saying it’s not important to stay home with your two-year-old.
But being a teenager in today’s world is hard; it is so much more demanding – competitive – important. It is almost as though we are robbing our children from the opportunity of being a kid.
Of course we were faced with many of the same challenges; sex, drugs, alcohol.
But it was different. At the end of the day we could go home to the safety of our home without the added pressure of our every move being reported through social media.
And don’t get me started on the whole academic process.
It has become so intense for these kids.
This year my son is taking three AP classes and two honors classes. He is managing the Varsity soccer team, sitting on Key Club and is a member of SADD.
And let’s not forget about the community service hours and the expectations of having to hold down a part time job.
There are days when my son goes to bed at midnight and gets up at 5:00 am to study for a test.
There are days when he leaves my house at 6:30 am and returns at 9:00 pm only to do homework and start it all again.
There are days when he is so tired that he falls asleep sitting up while reading his books.
“What? You have a few minutes of free time? Go grab your ACT Study Book or fill out your National Honor Society packet.”
“You scored a 27 on your ACT at the end of your Sophomore year? Not good enough…I will be hiring a tutor to get you to the 32 you need to get into your college of choice.”
And for what?
To be a number in the college application process?
It’s not enough for my son to be a 4.0 GPA student – this is no longer enough to secure a spot for him at the top universities.
Because at the end of the day it’s about fitting the numbers, the demographics – is there a spot for my blond haired, blue eyed son?
As a mother, I just want to snuggle him into bed with my biggest down comforter and hold him.
I want to just watch him sleep – because he needs sleep.
I try to make his favorite meal for dinner, but he only has time to grab Taco Bell in between after school activities.
It wasn’t like this when I was a kid…I enjoyed my teenage years…my biggest priority was what I was going to wear to the football game on a Friday night.
And I turned out okay…didn’t I?
I speak on the importance of education, but at what point is too much too much?
Is it all worth it?
Are we pushing our kids too hard? Are they going to burn out before college?
All this pressure and my son’s brain isn’t even fully developed yet.
And a lot of this is my fault – I too have fallen prey to societies expectations – I too have pushed my son too hard.
I feel as though I have given my son the tools to be able to navigate through these stressful times. He’s responsible, accountable and self driven – he is doing exactly what society expects of him.
So does my son need me home now? Uhm, yes he does.
He needs me to talk him off the ledge, to keep him focused, to support him along the way.
He needs me to call bullshit when it all gets to be too much.
He needs me to remind him to enjoy a Friday night at the football game with his friends.
He needs me to make sure that he is enjoying his teenage years; to ensure there is a little bit of stupidity along the way.
He needs me to remind him that the choices he is making today will unfortunately impact the rest of his life.
He needs me to tell him I am proud of him, that I love him, and I am his biggest fan.
He needs me to shut his alarm off once in a while and let him catch up on sleep.
It’s tough being a teenager – it’s also tough being a parent raising this generation of kids.
And it doesn’t matter if you work full time outside of the home or are a stay at home parent – the point of this is that your teenager still needs you – perhaps now more than ever!
Does my son need me more today than he did when he was two? I believe so.
The kids today are walking untraveled roads and the consequences of this intense territory are yet to be known. Only time will tell how everything will turn out with these crazy expectations of our kids.
But one thing I know is my son will never walk this road alone.
I will be there– walking hand in hand with him – every step of the way.
PS – Do you agree? Has this all just gotten to be too crazy?