Monday, August 31, 2009

Oh Those Teenage Years...

(I just want to say as a side note that i am being very honest here and i hope not to face any harsh judgements. I think we all stumble through our childhood and hopefully come out the other end as more intelligent and experienced adults.)

Today at 5 Minutes For Mom Susan is asking what your teenage years were like and how you plan to keep you kids from falling into the teenage pitfalls.

This is something i have thought little about. Not because i am not a caring mom or worried about it just because my kids are so young. I never thought i would need to prepare them this early for their teen years, but after her insight i am thinking maybe i should think about it some more.

My teenage years were marred with tragic deaths and a lot of partying.

With in the first month of my freshman year of high school, 2 friend's lives were lost in senseless accidents. A few months later my Grandma Shawver passed away of cancer. Then my mom had a heart attack a month later, followed by a stroke in January. She passed away in March from a brain tumor. Needless to say finishing out my freshman year was hard and i did not handle it properly or with much guidance.

After that i went down hill. I fell in with the wrong crowd and started partying heavy. I started smoking socially (which turned into the worst and hardest habit of my life), I was drinking socially (thank God that never turned into more since alcoholism runs in my family), and i also turned to drugs.

The drugs i was taking were not the light hearted drugs people joke about. It wasn't like i was just firing up a joint, blunt, bong, or what ever you wanna call it with friends in the girls bathroom. I was drinking and then doing things like cocaine and pills. I had no regard for my life or the lives around me. This would continue through high school until i met my (now) husband and got my life straightened out.

I was not promiscuous despite my ability to flirt my butt off. I will say that i lost my virginity very early in life and that is something i regret everyday. I had boyfriends and girlfriends and no one ever really talked to me about "the birds and bees". My parents came from a generation where you just didn't talk about stuff like that and so i found out most of everything from school and friends. What i then thought would make me cool lead to a lifetime of regrets.

I think i hit every teen pitfall that any one parent could worry about. Drinking, drugs, sex, parties, i did pretty much all of it. Then i did not know why, but now looking back i do understand some of it.

The lack of communication (or what i saw as lack of communication) between my parents left me to discover things through experimentation instead of education. Then the tragedies i went through only made my experimentation go further. I wanted to hide the pain and cover it all up. I just never knew the right ways to do it so i turned to what my 15 year old self knew worked best.

I pretended a lot to be happy and i pretended not to care. I dressed provocatively and flirted with danger. At the time i thought i was cool and no one could touch me. In reality i was a scared and hurt little girl who needed someone to show me the right way.

With this long past it makes me even more scared of what will happen to my kids as they enter those teen years. The world has changed so much even since i was in high school (which was just 5/6 years ago {Class of 2004}). Kids are dealing with problems that i dealt with in high school in middle school now and in some cases even elementary. So that is what leads me to having trouble answering Susan's question as to how to prepare your kids.

How do you prepare a 3 and 4 year old for the harsh reality of problems they will be faced with? How do you teach them to be their own person and not to let others influence their decisions? How do you instill in them the confidence that they don't need anyone else to to make them whole?

I guess the best way i can really think of is leading by example.

I want to show my kids everyday that i don't let anyone else define who i am.

I want to show them that even though i am not a 6 foot super model i am confident in myself and know who i am.

I want to be honest with them about my past and let them know why the decisions i made were not the right ones.

I want to show them how to handle situations with grace and dignity instead of fear and anger.

I want them to learn from my mistakes and have a open line with me that they can always count on.

I want to be a parent and a friend even though i know that is a thin line.

Most of all i just want them to know that Mommy is not an angel. She has a past and it almost destroyed her. I want them to listen and learn. I want them to know that even if they fall i will be there to help them back up without judgement. I want to show them the way even if i stumble along the path trying to find the right way. I want to be the best parent i can even if that means educating them only to step back and watch them fall.

As much as i hope and pray that they will avoid the pits i fell into i know that sometimes you have to learn from your mistakes. Sometimes that is the only way to learn. It is like my mom use to tell me when i was a kid, "how do you know not to touch a hot pot if you have never burned your hand on one before".

My kids are 3 and 4 (and Sione will join us soon enough) and they have scraped their knees because they didn't listen to mommy when she said not to run. They have bumped their heads because they didn't listen to mommy when she said not to climb. They have fallen and gotten hurt because they didn't listen when i said not to do this or that.

In the end all we can do is our best. We can give them all the information in the world and instill in them all of our values but they still will have choices to make and a mind of their own. We just have to step back and pray that when that fork in the road comes they will take the right direction. The direction that we have told them is right.


Susan (5 Minutes For Mom) said...

Wow Courtney! I am soooooo happy to hear that you pulled through out of those habits and now can learn from all of it!

Don't worry... I am NOT judging you in the least and nor do I expect anyone is.

What you've described is so common... it seems more teens have experiences like yours rather than mine. And that is scary.

I also believe the the MOST important thing we can do is communicate with our kids. It is soooo important. I always felt I could tell my mom anything and even when I did start smoking I told her. She told me it was stupid, and eventually I did quit... but it helped that I could tell her.

Thank you so much for sharing your story! We all can learn from each other to help our kids grow up safely.

Talk soon,

Rachel said...

Wow- that is an awesome and powerful post. Awesome! And great advice.

Thanks for being vulnerable and honest!!

Brittany said...

It takes alot of guts to post something so personal and I am glad you shared it with us. Your teenage years sound ALOT like mine. I hope you don't mind but I would like to do this for a blog of mine cause I have thought alot about how to keep Kaci from doing the things I did.

Terri said...

I don't think we can really stop our kids from making mistakes. But we can instill a sense of self-worth, so they're making their decisions from a good place, instill values, so they understand right and wrong, and we can talk to them. I didn't always want to talk to my mother, but she kept talking to me...and it's what I needed most of the time.

Great post Courtney -