Thursday, August 19, 2010

visions of teenagers

Something happened a couple months ago that got me thinking.

I was at the orthodontist's office waiting for Max. (How I got the stars to align just right so that I had no other children clinging to my legs or creating all kinds of ruckus around me I do not remember, but that's not the point of the story.)

The point is that as I sat there, minding my own business, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation of a mother and her teenage daughter sitting across from me. The mother was flipping through some magazine she had grabbed from the small table separating me from them. Her daughter sat there at her side, jabbering away about life. Her life. I was drawn to their conversation because that teenager was spilling out details of all sorts of things...like how so-and-so broke up with so-and-so, and what one friend wore when they went to the movies the night before. She blabbed on and on to her mom about everything from how she was feeling about life to what shirt she liked in the magazine her mother was mesmerized by.

In the meantime, I was mesmerized by them. I studied that mom (trying to be incognito) and the wheels in my head started spinning.

What had she done to nurture that relationship with her daughter where she willingly spilled the beans about all that stuff? Was that girl talking because her mother was hardly paying her mind, nonchalantly offering an "uh huh" or a "really?" every so often as she turned her magazine pages...on to the next story about Angelina Jolie or so-and-so's plastic surgery? I wondered if my kids will talk to me like that when they're that old. Does that mean it's ok if I'm not fully gazing into their eyes when they tell me about their day? Should I get a subscription to People magazine? (ha ha)

When I recounted the scene to Dave that night he laughed and said that teenager's personality is probably one that never turns off...she probably drives her mom nuts with all the things she blabs on about.

But I liked it. And I liked what the whole scene made me ponder about. I've always believed having great relationships with your teenagers must start with a seed when they're young. It's not like suddenly when they turn all moody and hormone-driven they will suddenly just want to confide in their parents. I want to do all I can to make sure my kids know they can tell me anything.

Do I think that "copious confiding" (when kids tell their moms every detail of their lives) equals successful mothering? Of course not. I think I have the best mother that ever could be and I certainly didn't tell her much. But I always knew she was there for me if I needed her.

I don't want to be one of those moms who is more a "friend" than a "mom." I want to be the Mom. But I also really, really want my kids to know that I'm there for them. No matter what. And that I care.

So, thank you, jabbering-teenager, and mother-not-really-listening...for making me think.

(And I'd love any ideas on nurturing teenager relationships out there...)
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