17 years ago, I waddled into work pregnant holding my back. The back pain was so bad, and I was so relieved that I had a doctor’s appointment. After weeks of my doctor’s asking me if I wanted to be written out of work, my appointment this day was not with the right doctor. I told her I was in severe back pain (it was labor), and she told me it looked like nothing was going to happen soon and that I should go back to work. I cried and told her there was no way I was going back to work. I went home in pain and that night I went into full blown labor.
25 hours of labor (not including the hours of back pain labor), 3 hours of pushing, and it was time for an emergency c section. My son was born on January 24, 2007. If only I could go back and have a conversation with that wonderful mom who just delivered her first baby. I felt like a total and complete failure. I couldn’t push him out. He was very stuck, and my wonderful doctor tried so many tools to try to get Max to come out. She knew I didn’t want a c section. If I could talk to myself 17 years ago, I would hug myself and tell myself what a good job I did. I would tell myself that Max and I were okay, and that is all that mattered. I beat myself up for years over that day. I wasted so much time and energy on feeling like a failure. Please don’t waste any precious time beating yourself up like I did.
Here I sit 17 years later watching my son walk into the house from his mid-term exam. It has been a very big year for Max. He got his license, and his wonderful parents bought him a car. Mom taxi writing this was feeling tired of driving him everywhere and couldn’t wait to go buy him a car. I told my husband that Max’s car was a gift to me, and he laughed and understood. We were also very happy to do this for our hard-working son.
The mom who gave birth to Max 17 years ago is a completely different mom than the one who is writing this today. Max and I have come such a long way together. We grow up as parents with our kids as they grow up. We learn and grow with them. Our parenting has to change with them as they get older. Rules and expectations change. Where are we now parenting Max at 17 years old:
- We want Max to become independent, so we want to give him more freedom. As he shows that he can handle it, and earns it, we continue to loosen our reigns over him.
- We want to balance giving him boundaries and giving him freedom. This is evaluated ongoing and is ever changing. I am flexible with him as he shows me that he has earned my flexibility. If he shows us otherwise, then we can change the boundaries and rules. We allow him to stay out late on school nights for things like a football game as he is old enough to know that he will just be tired if he does that. His grades are amazing, and he hasn’t shown us any reason to tighten our reigns (knock on some thick wood). Parenting at 17 is based on their behaviors. As my daughter Ella said, some kids need stricter rules and guidelines. Every child is different.
- We want Max to learn life skills like driving, time management, finances, cooking, using a credit card, etc.
- We have learned over the years that we need to be very specific with our expectations. We expect zero drinking, zero smoking, zero vaping, and zero drugs. We expect him not to get in a car if he ever does have a drink. We expect him not to get in someone else’s car if they have been drinking. We expect him to drive responsibly and obey the rules of the road. We are very clear and
- We also don’t expect him to be perfect. We all made mistakes as teenagers. We need to allow them to make mistakes and learn from them.
- Keeping the lines of communication open, respectful and nonjudgemental. We want him to be able to talk to us about anything. We want to listen to him when he talks to us so that he knows we think that he is important. We want to respond with love and patience so that he wants to talk to us.
- I know Max will talk to me when he is ready to or in the mood to talk. I don’t force it.
- We are very focused with Max on helping him to find the right college for him. We will begin touring colleges next month and will help him with all his applications. College planning is a huge focus on our parenting right now. Focus changes over the years.
- We want to model a healthy marital relationship for Max as his parents and with our coworkers and friends.
- We want to check in with our kids and watch their behaviors to make sure they are handling things like academic stress ok. We want to make sure that they have healthy outlets like working out and sports. How do they cope? Do they have friends?
- At this age we hope to start seeing them solving their own problems. Watch how they work it out and encourage them to handle their problems.
Happy Birthday to the amazing son who made me a mom. Happy birth day to me. I celebrate me today too. Moms, this is a note to celebrate yourself on your children’s birthdays too. Celebrate how far you have come. Celebrate your 17 years of parenting. I will cheers to Max today and I will cheers to myself too. It has been the sweetest 17 years of my life. I can only imagine where Max will be in 17 more years. I wish him a family of his own to love and a fulfilling career. I will be right behind him every step of the way cheering him on. I am his cheerleader for life. His biggest fan. Every year I say I couldn’t love him more and every year I prove myself wrong. Max is seventeen and soaring. Keep soaring! The sky is the limit.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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