Yes, sometimes I worry. I try not to, and I’m bound and determined not to be “a worrier”, but I can’t help it. I’m a Mom. It’s like I got new “worry dna” injected into me the moment my first daughter was born. As a matter of fact, it was probably even a little before she was born. I remember trying to jaywalk when I was pregnant with her, and I stopped myself because I had visions of getting hit by a car and harming my unborn child. I USED to be able to jaywalk without it affecting my brain patterns whatsoever. I don’t know what hit me, but it certainly wasn’t a car as I stood safely at the intersection waiting for the little walking man on the sign to show me it was safe.

Today, I find myself worrying about the teen years and all the teenage angst that goes with it. It hit me unsuspectingly as I sat on the bus this morning listening to the conversation of the mother and teenage daughter behind me. It was a pleasant conversation to begin with – they talked about hairstyles and shift work and lots of things in between. Then, out of the blue, the talk turned serious and accusatory. “It sure would have been nice if you’d SHOWED UP this week,” the mother said. “I showed up,” was the retort. “No you didn’t. You haven’t been home since Monday. Where WERE you?” And then the teenager played various avoidance games while the mother continued to ask “Where WERE you?”

And then it got worse… “Why are you bringing your duffel bag to school? Are you planning to run away?” “NO I’m not planning to run away. I wouldn’t BE here on the bus with you if I were planning to run away. My backpack is broken so I’m using my duffel bag.” The line of questioning ended when the daughter said “I’m not talking to you any more. You’re being mean to me.” The manipulative little shit! And it worked – the mother changed the subject and never brought it up again. She never DID find out where her daughter had spent the last three days. And later in the conversation it came out that the daughter was hanging around with some people who hung around another person who’d ended up in jail for murder. Gulp.

This is the mother who works two jobs. I see her most mornings going to work somewhere downtown. And then I see her in the evenings selling my kids Slurpees at 7-11. And in the course of the conversation, I also heard that her kids never see their dad – that he’s nowhere in their picture anymore.

And so, as I climbed off the bus and walked the rest of the way to work, my brain was working overtime, not only processing the heavy load this mother has to bear, but my own worry that there is no way I can protect my children against the stress and the angst and the insecurities of being a teenager. And there is no way I can protect myself against the inevitable time when they push me away and no longer want me to climb into their beds with them on “lie with me night” and talk about their friendships, which boys tick them off at school, what they think about their teachers, and all those other thoughts going through the mind of a preteen girl.

And then, when I got to work, I found this on a blog…

Shelby is entering the dark tunnel of adolescence. And she is asking all the questions that everyone asks when they get sucked into the darkness of this season of life.

“Who am I?”“Where do I fit in?”“Am I okay the way I am?”

Sadly, the answers being traded inside the tunnel are not always the best ones. A lot of good kids get chewed up in there. Some never find good answers and spend their whole lives searching.

I’ve been through the tunnel experience with the first sister, and I will go through it again with the third. There isn’t much I can do but hug her and be waiting when she emerges in a few years, blinking in the bright sunshine.

And I WILL be waiting for you, Shelby. You have always been my string of pearls, and I will be there when you come out and resume your love affair with lemon trees and graveyards. And when you are ready to hear me, I have the answer to your questions. I know the answer because I have journeyed to the secret places of the world and found wisdom.

Here is the answer you seek:

You have always been okay, even from the beginning.

So VERY okay.

It had two effects on me… made me worry even more about “the tunnel” and the kids getting chewed up in there, and gave me comfort because it is all so normal and so many kids before mine have made it safely through the tunnel. And because I remember the tunnel myself, and have little doubt that there is no stress like teenage stress, I hope I can be the wise parent waiting patiently and lovingly on the other side. I hope I don’t push too hard. I hope I value them enough and don’t give them pat answers. I hope they see that I understand, but don’t hear me say “been there, done that, was better at it than you, now get over it”.

I hope they get through it and know that they are beautiful and beloved. I hope that when they get through, my relationship with them will be rich and full and more honest than my own with my mother.

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