Im a “Tween” again.

I’m a “Tween” again

By the age of 42 I had imagined I’d be established enough as to understand my general role in society as a woman, and as a mother. Surely by this age, though ONLY 42, I would be recognised as someone with motherly experience? With some sort of wisdom I could impart on other younger mothers. Above all, I’d hopefully FIT IN.

 

Instead, I find myself at 42 to be a bit of an odd ball. I am not up to date on the gizmo’s and gadgets that the new mothers around me are discussing on social media posts. I am no longer privy to the “in” books and services, as everything they seem to need is now online and via blog, and let’s face it, I haven’t READ any newborn advice and help blogs. There WERE no blogs during my newborn phase! Those mothers can’t turn to me for that. All of my well-meaning advice is dated. Regardless of the fact I have SURVIVED 22 years of parenting!

On the other end of it, I am not quite old enough to dole out grandmotherly type advice or pass adages to my own daughters because I haven’t lived through THAT much yet! I am ONLY 42.

I remember what it was like to be a “tween”. Not a child anymore, but not quite a teen either. It is a hard and confusing time when you just feel lost and stuck. And I am back at that same stage in motherhood. The in-between stage…Not yet old enough to be that wise grandmother, but not that new fresh mother trying to figure everything out. It all seems so AWKWARD…. So unsure. So in need of a mother’s advice, had I had one.

In this stage though, I see just how segregated we as mothers keep one another. We create cliques, whether knowingly or not. A sense of divisiveness does exist. I feel like I did when I was picked last at PE. That happened due to an obvious lack of experience in ANY sport at the time, and my very petite stature all through high school. I wasn’t going to survive PE roughhousing without tears, and classmates  just knew it.

However, I KNOW I have not only survived two decades worth of mothering, I have often THRIVED at it, though in full disclosure, I have also really totally and completely stunk at it. That’s ok, because it is a learning curve. Parenting will always be, as each stage changes.

One big dramatic change for me over the past two years, was learning a new way to parent through the holidays. Halloween, especially. I love the Autumn traditions, everything from crisp walks, to pumpkin spiced anything, and decorating! I loved seeing the fun costumes come out and talk to my girls about what they would dress up as! Two years ago, I had my first Halloween without a trick or treater. I admit, I was devastated. I felt like a chapter in my role as a mother was now over. I wouldn’t experience that again. I wasted that day being miserable. Last year, determined to make up for the previous year of pouting, I dressed up, as I do, and sat at the end of my driveway, armed with the tastiest mini-chocolate bars, and expectantly scanned the street for ghouls and goblins, and the never ending trail of Disney princesses. None came. NONE.

I even decided to get up and yell at the child at the end of my street (I am in the middle!), and screamed, much to the chagrin of my “hostage” 22 yr old, who I had made sit with me. “Hey kid! I have candy! Come and get it!”. I sounded like a crazy lady! It really isn’t accepted in society to yell at children to come eat your sweets. Lesson learned. NEXT year, we will be in a new home, and I hear the neighbourhood is packed. So I will be the fun decorated house, with good treats and creepy music playing for ambience! I am beyond determined to re-love this day. To start new.

Something I would like to see an end to though, is those cliques I mentioned. We deny there ARE any, but they exist. I’d like to see parents respect, admire and ACKNOWLEDGE that others have mothered before us, will be mother’s after us, and we should embrace the similarities that we as women share, with grace and kind listening ears, even when we disagree with another’s approach.

I think a good way to bridge this gap is to simply spend time with mothers and women who are NOT  just like us. Whatever is different from our daily norm. I can learn from someone different, and they can learn from me. I found, by being around older AND younger women, that we are more alike than opposite. For example, the exclusion I have felt from not being invited to my friend’s child’s birthday party, because I didn’t have a toddler. She invited an assortment of what seemed like only acquaintances, and women who she met only once or twice, instead of me. I immediately felt not only excluded, but that somehow I had committed some offence. It was only after taking a breath and asking why I wasn’t invited that she confessed that she wasn’t sure if I, with older children, would even WANT to go. Of course I would have! I cared about our friendship, AND I loved that child! Another time, I myself didn’t extend a hand of friendship to a woman. Her children were younger than mine, which did not bother me as I love to talk to new people, however we differ in life. My hold up? She was beautiful. Like, GORGEOUS. Immediately, that terrified me. I am not sure why. I am usually not intimidated by the way a woman looks. She just seemed so perfect, so put together, and in a way, I convinced myself she was too  good for me. I didn’t have time to dwell on it, because she approached ME in this situation. She had worried that no one was speaking to her because they found out she was getting divorced, and wouldn’t be part of the military community we were all involved with at the time. I couldn’t believe I’d been so quick to make someone else feel so isolated! Especially since, I too was about to be divorced.  I think a lot of the breaking off into sub groups of mothers, is due to a breakdown in communication amongst us all.

I somewhat see a cyclical pattern in parenting, just like in fashion, where what is on trend one season, changes and goes away the next. Only to come back a decade later and be the new cool yet retro “in” thing.

So I am trying whole-heartedly not to judge other mothers, especially those so different from myself, at our respective stages in life and motherhood. I think we are all maybe a little guilty of this? It becomes easier for me to justify this internal judging I do, when I feel criticised in some way as a mother. I immediately jump on the defensive and find something to tear another down about (all in my head, and never towards someone specifically), so that we are on some even playing field in a game neither of us know we are playing. I may currently be considered to be like platforms shoes, flared jeans and fringe, not so on trend and a little out of place, but I assure you. Just like these jeans do, and just like my other in-between mum’s, we will get through this phase, and be hip, retro, and relevant again.

Halloween 2004

Mothering On.

Mothering On.  I have to.

I have teenagers. Well, I call them both teenagers and in all reality, my oldest daughter is 22, and my youngest is 15. However just like your babies are always your “babies” until they get car keys or some other social right of passage that makes them no longer satisfied with Sophia The First, My girls will always be teenagers, until the day they are in a wedding dress, and I have no choice but to admit they are women.

So, I have teenagers. Those three words alone probably ignite some nods. Some “oh wow”’s. Perhaps a few “you poor thing”’s. Even a few “gosh you’re so lucky you don’t have to change diapers anymore”. I can in fact, from those in “the teenage know”, hear wine pop as they consider their own teens at home. They too, are probably mumbling from a distant bedroom, that they don’t “get” what life is like. Or that we parents are so mean. Or too strict. (I am right now getting texts from my true teen, telling me how unfair regulations on her wifi time is, and that NO OTHER PARENT in the realm of this universe does that.)

Sometimes, I.NEED. A. BREAK.

Here is where it would be normal, as they bicker over computer usage, brow gel and who took what out of whose room without permission, to call my mother. To get that wiser older motherly loving advice. The kind that breathes a sigh of relief all over me, as I foresee a weekend at grandma’s for them. As I sleep (catch up on laundry), have a date night (catch up on the DVR’d shows), or have some time to myself (catch up on netflix).

But, I can’t call anyone up. No one is at the end of a text. No contact in my phone is listed as “Mum”. My mum has passed on. She has been gone for a very long time. In fact, she didn’t even see ME as a teen.

So I begrudgingly reconnect the wifi and settle the naked makeup palette dispute, and assure my drama queen of a strong willed girl that there are MANY mothers out there just as mean as me, and one day she too will be shutting wifi off herself. Of course, she tells me that she will never be doing that because she knows all too well how it feels and how important it is to contact important people. Oh Caitlin, if only you knew.

My important person IS my mum. SHE would have assured me I am doing great. She would have no doubt taken her grandchildren, the oldest of whom is only 4 years younger than she was when she left this world. I know she would have. She would have done this so I could not lose my patience. So I could remember all the cute baby things. Remember the laughs and smiles and frequent hugs and kisses, and returned to my girls refreshed. Or, at least have a few piles of laundry washed and be up to date on Grey’s Anatomy. So I could MISS them.

Instead, I pour myself a glass of wine, and I miss her.

I.MOTHER.ON.  I have to.

I have NO choice. I mother alone. There IS no one but me for this. There is NO ONE to pick up the slack.

So, I.TAKE.A.BREATH

Sometimes it feels like my patience and sanity held hands, and ran away. Sometimes it gets too hard understanding teenagers. Both in a humourous way, and in a generational gap sort of way! I personally think this happened somewhere between the overplaying of “Juju on that beat”, the social trending of the Kardashian/Jenner sisters, and the delivery to my door of a package, for my daughter, that included butt enhancement cream and her first pair of spanx. *Note to self, and parents like me: Buy store specific gift cards! Do not leave your child to the wonders and splendours of online ordering with plain old Amazon or Visa cards.  

 

Parenting teens has opened my eyes to what I think I could have been like under “normal” childhood circumstances. Growing up without a mother is unlike any of the experiences that my other friends shared. I was the receiver of hand me downs from boys. The girl with the dad-given haircut. I was both under-parented and naive, and yet simultaneously mature and thoughtful for my age. I missed out on many things and grew up way too fast. I try to avoid this happening to my own children. I never wanted for them to lose this period of “freedom” they are in, where they do not feel they HAVE to take on every household chore, or be absolutely independent, and make ALL of their own decisions.  I feel this is a brilliant and selfless thing for me to do! I mean, what teen doesn’t want their mother to continue to do their laundry, and call the doctor for them, or tell them what to do and advise them in every situation? It is not only selfless of me, but I realised along the way it was dumb of me. It was a mistake in my parenting choices. I see that in hindsight, and where I, maybe, left them some of my own naivety. Especially with my oldest, whom I didn’t want to see struggle with the burdens that I had to shoulder at her age. I got better by the second child. My guess is my hypothetical 3rd, 4th and 5th children would have been utterly amazing!  Not that my two are not. I just would have been better.

Still, I have learned to rethink what I am doing. To not only consider WHAT I would like to see in my daughters, but what I  would have liked to have seen in me at that age. I think about what I feel “normal” mothers would have done, and what I missed out on. Often this leaves me having to say I’m sorry. Usually, that apology is to MYSELF. I did not get to grow up in a typical home, so I am not going to parent in a typical form. I need to accept that. I need to forgive myself. I need to keep learning. I do not want my girls to think that if you make a mistake, or choose a style of parenting/discipline/path that is not “in”, or not “normal”, that you are somehow not a vital part of this world. That you are not “normal”.  I am. They are. We are.

The best thing I have found I can do for myself is to go on, mother on. Accept the challenge that has befallen me, and rise to it. I also like to keep what little I have of my own mum, very present. Aside from her name tattooed on my wrist, and the one picture I have of her framed, my girls are both very aware of who she is to me. Of what their grandmother is to them. I keep her present. My youngest daughter has even told me she would use that name as a middle name for any future daughter she would have.

 

Someone does not need to be around, for them to be known. She, too, goes on, mother’s on. 

If you find yourself in the midst of Mothering On. In going on without your own mother around, or parenting without help, I invite you to join my new community, where we can share stories, and be compassionate towards our tribe, as we struggle through this together. Whatever your own personal story is.

Logo 1