Nearly two years ago, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post call ‘Grieving The Loss Of Childhood: Hurtful Teenage Years‘. It was a deeply personal outpouring of grief about the enormous sense of loss and heartbreak that come when teenagers push you away.
The article provoked a level of engagement I had never previously experienced. The comments on Facebook ran into the hundreds as it went viral through parents’ networks. It clearly hit a nerve. Complete strangers emailed me to reassure me that they had been through the same thing and that it would all be ok, eventually. Scores of people told me that reading it had made them cry, for their own losses as well as mine.
It was such a genuine and painful post that I avoided reading it for a long time. Those teenage years go on for quite a while and the hurt I had written from was just too raw. Not just the loss of closeness but the conflict and anger and fear for their futures and wanting to shake them to get them to see sense.
I never expected separating from my children to be so painful, to feel like such a loss. It came as a real surprise. Like most parents, all I have ever wanted was to raise my children to be happy and healthy and able to make their way successfully in the world as adults. When you put it like that, your kids becoming grown ups sounds like a gain, a win, a yippee-I’ve-done-it kind of feeling.
And there is some of that, for sure. Writing my eldest son’s 18th birthday card made me cry because I am ridiculously proud of my beautiful young man. But also because I know I can never get those years back again. Because no matter how gruelling young children can be, there is nothing more precious than a child who loves you wholeheartedly snuggling on your lap and digging their hand into your neck. Teens don’t fit in your arms any more, their place is in the world.
I’m pleased to say that nearly two years on and we have moved forward at least a little (though some teens are definitely slow to mature!). And I can now re-read my original post with a bit more self-control and share it with more equanimity and less shame.
If you have a child heading towards their teenage years and you are struggling with the shift, or perhaps a 14-year-old in the thick of poor decisions, or if you’ve come out the other side and want to remember – I recommend you read it. (Though maybe not between meetings at work without tissues handy!): Grieving the loss of childhood: the hurtful teenage years.
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