My son Max turned 16 in January. I am still processing it. It happens so fast. I remember being 16 like it was yesterday. It was one of my favorite years. I learned to drive. I had good friends. I fell in love. It was a good year. I hope that it’s as good for Max, and it seems to be starting out pretty well.
My kids are on break this week. Max asked for a few things: he wants a lot of driving time. My husband has been taking him out driving. The whole family got in the car today to go out for breakfast and Max drove us. What an experience that was. I’ll insert a picture here of me in the backseat and Max and Seth sitting in the front. Driving time, breakfast out, a haircut, time to work, a trip to the grocery store and a chiropractic adjustment were all on his list for this week. What a grown-up list this is. My son is growing up.
All the college brochures are flooding in. I would like to remind them that my son is a sophomore. I am not sure why all the brochures are already coming to our house but my husband is collecting them all and making a binder for Max. Max is already talking about what colleges he wants to go to and what he wants to do with his life. I feel so much pride listening to him and his ambitions and yet I would like to say, “Slow down,” almost every day. He started high school yesterday and junior year is around the corner. I know how fast high school goes by. I know how much faster college goes by. It’s as if each year goes by faster for some reason.
An internship, a conference, an SAT course, and football are already filling Max’s summer. Life with a teenager looks very different. Summers are full. Days are full. Plans are being made. We got home from breakfast, and he asked us to drive him to work. It is this constant feeling of pride mixed with some sadness. I am so proud of who Max is, who he is becoming, the goals he has made, and am busy over here catching up and adjusting along the way.
We want them to learn to drive.
We want them to get a job.
We want them to have goals.
We want them to achieve good grades.
We want them to go to the gym to workout.
We want them to have friends.
We want them to be good people.
We also have to give ourselves and them grace as we adjust to each phase of life. Just because we are proud of them doesn’t mean we can’t be sad. Just because we want them to fly doesn’t mean that we don’t miss them. Just because we love the young men that they are doesn’t mean that we don’t miss them as a toddler running around. Just because on paper they are doing amazing doesn’t mean that they don’t have internal struggles too.
Just like we as mothers lay there thinking about our son’s future doesn’t mean that they aren’t laying there doing the same thing. They are trying to find their place in this world. They have so many feelings that they don’t know what to do with them.
Learning to drive, getting good grades, getting a job, playing a sport, all add up in their brains too. We are adjusting to 16 and so are they. Every so often they open up so be ready. Be ready with your ears and your years of wisdom. The good news is that you were 16 too. You probably remember it as well as I do. I wouldn’t want to go back. I know 16 looks different now but we can still relate. I remember how uncomfortable I was in my own skin. My 46-year-old self likes my skin. I like every flaw and every mark that I have. I like who I have become. I didn’t really know or like my 16-year-old self. I was finding myself, just like our kids are doing right now.
As I think back to being 16, I remember how good it felt that there was an anchor at home. Be the anchor. We are there when they need us. We listen. We drive. We hear them. We talk to them. We give them money. We help them earn money. We give them encouragement. They still need us. It looks different but we will always be their anchor.
Seth and I watched a movie last night. The young couple was deciding if they were going to get married. They both went home to their parents to discuss it and figure out what they wanted to do. They went home to their anchors.
As I told my son, his brain is still developing. Teenagers can be impulsive. Teenagers can make mistakes. Teenagers can feel a lot of pressure. They are finding themselves and their own journey. Give them room to find themselves and make mistakes. Remember what it was like to be 16.
I just went for a walk with my husband and dog. The tears flooded out as I told him how left out I can feel. Seth and Max have so much in common. Max’s computer science math brain aligns with his dad. Seth helps people with college every day at work. He helps them make decisions, helps guide them, helps them find money for college. I see how much there is for Seth and Max to talk about and I love their bond. When Max was a baby Seth felt left out because Max always wanted me. The tables have turned, and he wants to talk to his father a lot. He wants Seth to take him driving (I would want my calm dad to take me driving too). I may find myself left out sometimes, but I know Max needs me. He needs me to be an anchor. He needs me to be there to listen and guide him. He’s not the baby who only wants his mom, but I am still important in his life.
Here I sit giving myself grace as I adjust to my wonderful 16-year-old son. He’s still leaving wet clothes on the floor. He’s still leaving a mess in the kitchen. He’s learning and growing, and I’m growing with him. I’m the mom to a 16-year-old son. I looked at our 6-year-old nephew running through the science museum with a ton of energy. I looked over at my calm 16 year old son and started thinking about how far we have come. I’m proud of Max and I’m proud of myself. We have both grown up a lot! I’ll be back next year to let you know how 17 is going. For now, 16 is pretty bright.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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