Let’s imagine you wake up at 3:00 AM because you hear the doorbell alert. This isn’t abnormal, cars go by, a cat passes the house, someone is walking a dog, so the alert goes off. Thinking nothing of it you go back to sleep.
When you wake up the next morning you check the doorbell video and you see your child leaving the house, at 3:00 AM, running along the side of the house, out of camera view, and he’s gone. AND HE NEVER COMES BACK INTO THE HOUSE.
What are you thinking?
In the seconds that it took me to run to his room, to see if he was there if he was alive and okay, I thought, drugs, sex, stolen car, run away, and a thousand other negative thoughts. I did think, he might just be helping a friend, a very him kind of thing to do, but why didn’t he tell us, why didn’t he come home, and well, just WHY? And the negativity crept back in again.
Later that day, after it was all over, I started to think:
Why all the negative assumptions?
Why did I go directly to doubting my child?
Why didn’t I look to the positive?
What was I bringing to this situation?
Why didn’t I trust him?
I had to do some soul searching for those answers.
I thought about being a teen myself. By 17 I had been clubbing in the city for a couple of years (Limelight and the Tunnel were some favorites), experimented with drugs (I was very curious), hung out with the wrong crowd/ boyfriends, smoked cigarettes, stayed out way past curfew, lied about a lot of things, skipped school, and so much more.
I probably wasn’t the worst kid on the block, and certainly not the best. While I did consider my choices, I still made bad ones. I pushed the boundaries, ignored my parent’s advice, did what I wanted to do. I rarely learned from my own mistakes. I ignored authority, lived on my terms, and trusted my friends’ advice more than my family’s. I was a teenager.
When I think about all the things I did, I can’t help but put that on my kids. Of course, I’m going to take my young, stupid, teenage actions and consider that my kids are going to do the same. Of course, they are going to act like me. Of course, they are doing drugs, hooking up, making bad decisions. My kids came from me, they are a part of me, aren’t they? I did this stuff, so why wouldn’t they.
Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve been able to take ALL that learning I did and impart my wisdom onto my kids. Maybe I haven’t told them everything I did (yet), but sharing some of those stories, the real stories of my stupid mistakes, helps them make better choices. Letting them know that they don’t have to be the perfect child and I'll always love them. They can express themselves and I’ll find pride in that. They can make mistakes, and I’ll be there to support them. They can keep secrets and I’ll respect that. They can experiment and come to me for answers. Letting them know they can be themselves and I’m okay with that.
My mistakes, NO, my choices as a teenager, allow me to be a better mom, a mom my kids need so they can make their own choices. A mom that understands what it’s like to be a teenager, to test the boundaries, to live life on my terms and who can understand when my kids do the same thing.
So, back to that morning, after watching the video, after all the negative thoughts run through my head, I run to his room. Oh, thank goodness, he is there, safe and asleep looking all innocent. I go outside to see if there are any signs of debauchery, I see if the car was moved, I check the video again. Nothing.
While I wait for him to wake up, I consider how to approach him. I talk to my friends and coaches. I calm down from my negativity, my worry, my anger. I consider the one positive reason for him to be outside at that hour: helping someone in need, but still, the negativity creeps in.
Finally, I have the opportunity to talk to him. Before I even get to say something, to confront him, he shares that he ran outside last night to help his sister get rid of a big bug they found in the house. He shares that he had to run out the front door around 3:00 am to help her in the back yard. Then he came in through the back door. He thought it was funny that she was being ridiculous trying to save the bug, but he was there to help.
I just start laughing. Oh, these kids of mine.
All the negative, worry, anger goes away. I’m a proud mom who doubted her kid. While I’d love to say, I’ll never doubt my kids again, I know I will. I’m human and far from perfect. BUT I will remember who they are, and while I may consider the negatives, I’ll also consider the positives and avoid making assumptions again.
I'm only human, and so are they.