At this point, I have been a parent longer than not. I have been an adult longer than not. How is it that I am still having to remind myself over and over again that I am the adult, I am the parent. One of the best moments of learning that ever hit me over the head was when I truly saw that my inner 14-year-old came up out of me when I was having conflict with my 14-year-old daughter. Oooh was that ever ugly. I could go toe-to-toe with her sassy-angry-angstie-fearless self because I had that persona down pat in my own teen years. I could fight with the best of them. I could connect to feeling misunderstood, self-righteous, mistreated, rage-ful, un-justly seen…on and on.
I think the teen-self that is a part of my history is sometimes easier to recognize than the adult-self that is my present. The problem with that is that I am called to be the adult now. I am the adult. My kids need me to be the adult. My husband needs me to be the adult. I have to resist the urge to dip into the comfortable pool of seeing things in black and white and being reactive. My role is one that needs to stay grounded, non-reactive, gray-seeking, calm, and above all loving. It is a tall order but that is what I agreed to when I took on this parent-of-many position.
Not only am I the adult, but I am the parent. This is my job. The hours are terrible, the pay is nonexistent, the vacation package…hahaha…, opportunity for advancement is contingent upon the progress of my supervises, there is no guaranteed budget, feedback measures…well they are there but they are not peer-reviewed. There is no manual. There is not a job description. There is nothing structured beyond the fact that I am the mom and they are my offspring.
The culture…entirely within my control.
The team…made up of the man-of-my dreams and we are not only allowed to have a work-place relationship, it is encouraged. Sex on the job is a perk and an asset.
This stage of my career as parent is sort of odd. I have my feet on two steps witch leaves me off balance all the time. I have two children who have passed that 18-year mark and one who is close to it. One is pretty much launched and one thinks she is. There are two in high-school, two in middle-school and all but one look down on me physically (hopefully not mentally). It is a weird space to be in. This warning sign should really be posted all over my life.
I am the parent but my job is to work myself out of a job…at least out of the day-in-day-out tell-kids-what-to-do and be-the-decider-planner-ultimate-responsible-buck-stops-here person. I have been that person for the past 22 years and I still have to be that person with 2/3drds of my kids. It is hard to shut that on and off depending upon the kid and the circumstance. It is quite the dance.
Last week, I sat in the parent seat and could remember sitting in the 17-year-old seat so well as I looked over at my child who was now sitting in it. I could resonate with her experience so much more clearly than I could with mine. I could tap into what was in her brain and could remember feeling that exactly. I had to sort of craft things to put into my brain from episodes with the 17-year-olds who came before her (thank God for them and the grace that they offered me as I had on-the-job-training with them) and wise words from other parents who bounced around in my head. I grasped at those memories and tried to keep myself sitting firmly in my I-am-the-parent chair but it was hard. I am the adult. I am the parent. I am the adult. I am the parent. I am the adult….I have to say it over and over in the hopes that it will stick and a transformation will take place. My inner-17-year-old is so fresh in my mind and she is great at pulling me back into her skin.
To all of you who know what I am talking about, I tip my hat. To those of you who don’t know but think that you have felt a drop or two of this feeling that I get drenched in…I welcome you. For the others of you who have not felt this but might have seen it in others or read about it or suspect that this might really be a thing…I beg you to be gracious.