1. You never know. I mean you really never know. You may think you know. You may pride yourself in knowing. You may make it your life’s work to know. But the truth is, you never know. Not everything.. not even some of the things you thought you knew. Children keep a cache of well-hidden secrets. You never know everything. Just accept it.
2. Since mothers are often in charge of food gathering, I offer this nugget: You can never have too much food available, especially for teenagers. Have food of all kinds, and lots of it. This will ensure crowds at your house, but the odds are you will never be sorry for it.
3. It’s been said that mothers wear their hearts on the outside of their bodies. For most of us this is true. There is the occasional mother that is not a nurturer by nature. But usually, we are. Big time. Everything our child does is fodder for our emotional well-being, or not-so-well-being. They become extensions of us. And while this isn’t healthy, it’s common practice. Go ahead, love ’em to death, but at some point, in the name of everything maternal, back away and keep your feelings to yourself. Running out onto the baseball field after Junior throws the winning pitch is not a good idea, no matter how close you are.
4. Mothers often take credit for the good things their children do. It’s because we have so much invested in them. Their success is ours, too.. right? Not so fast, Ma Walton. If we take credit for their accomplishments, we have to absorb the bad stuff, too. At some point, they make their own decisions..accompanied by consequences.. and if I’m lucky, I’m along for the ride, that’s all.
5. We like to take take ourselves too seriously. But what about our responsibilities–shouldn’t we take them seriously? Yes. Ourselves? No. My thinking here is that no one should do this. But mothers have a tendency to hold onto pride and entitlement. It’s unattractive and repels children.. not to mention men.
6. Whenever I produce a healthy belch.. usually after a couple of good swigs of Dr. Pepper.. it makes my teenage son smile. This is worth any public humiliation I may endure.
7. I’ve learned I need to back off. I lean toward pushing.. pushing a child toward betterment, responsible behavior, for information. A nudge is OK. Doing my homework about the child is crucial. But pushing just alienates him.. and makes me come off cranky and yes, bitchy.. which, of course, I am. Give the kid some room.
8. Lock the bedroom and bathroom doors. I’ve learned the hard way that seeing one’s mother in her underwear only confuses already weird feelings in a teenager. Even as a daughter, it played with my head a little when I saw my mother in her undies. 11-18-year-olds especially don’t like to think of their mothers as people with lives and feelings, and well, underpants. Just lock the door.
9. You know when a child says, “You don’t understand”? We really don’t. We can’t. We may understand what it was like for us, and while that has value, it’s not definitive. Mothers like to think it is. Our children are growing up in a society that even 20 years ago was unimaginable. They are faced with burdens we do not know. Maybe our best response when they say this to us.. and if they haven’t yet, they will.. is “You’re right. I don’t.”
10. Mothers should touch their children lovingly.. even teenagers. Especially teenagers. It’s easy to snuggle and snog with babies and toddlers. But the older ones need it, too. They may not talk about it or request it.. although I know that some do. Most, however, will turn shades of scarlet if this is done in public.. or in front of friends (the kiss of death). So hug them, put an arm around them, pat them on a cheek or tousle shaggy hair. Just do it.. and do it a time or two every day.. because this means something. To them it means they are still adorable to you, even though they are older and awkward. It teaches affection. And to a mother, it can be oh, so satisfying.
11. We will fall on a sword for our children. But too many of us do it even if it’s wrong. One mother in the Midwest sold her son’s car because she told him one of the rules was no drinking, and she found a beer bottle under the seat. She did not witness the act of drinking, but despite claims the bottle in question didn’t belong to her son, she put an ad in the paper to sell the car, touting herself as “the meanest mom on the planet.” She received calls from all over the country.. parents, emergency workers, hospitals.. all thanking her for the courage to take a stand. It’s hard to do this.. but mothering is not a popularity contest–although some of us try to make it into one.
12. Don’t take it personally. Mothers do this. We pout or induce guilt, we turn into martyrs or screaming machines. They are children. They’re younger than we are. They are still learning.. even if they are 17-years-old. The benefit of our years and experience comes in handy here. That, and a look at the big picture. If we are functional at all, and show we care even a little.. they love us. Don’t worry.
13. Expect goodness. Children will do “bad” things sometimes. They will, of course, balk at requests, chores, authority, and clean underwear. But there is a lot of good there. Teenagers can be disrespectful and downright mean. We teach them appropriate behavior and start over again. They are individuating.. they have to do these things. Look for all that’s good.. grades, positive behavior, reliability, kindness.. and let the compliments flow free. Expect it all.. but especially the good. It’s there for the taking.