Recently my friend Niamh and I spent a few hours catching up over a cuppa and some homemade caramel. As you do, we talked about life: our homes and gardens, the people we know, and our children. It’s when we were talking about our children that Niamh said…
“You know…they need to kill-us-off in order to grow up.”
And for about an hour we talked about what she meant. She’s no stranger to teens, my friend Niamh. She has three and she is surviving. I, on the other hand, have only one at the moment and, some days, am barely hanging in there.
Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments of greatness. But for the past year-and-a-half, those are becoming “occasions” and not “the norm”. What happened to my sweet girl with the great belly laugh, who used to say, “thank you” and “I love you” and “look what I made for you Mama!”?
I miss that girl.
Sometimes I secretly wonder if she’s been abducted by aliens in the middle of the night and replaced with a girl who looks like ours but is often surly, angry, insensitive, self-centered, and entitled.
In the past year I have thought “is it us?”…have we done something to change her? Are we too controlling? Have we become her bully…always passing judgement on the way she looks, how much time she spends on social media or how she never seems to buckle down and just get her flippin’ homework done at night?
Thanks to Niamh, I am starting to look at our teen angst differently: they need to kill-us-off in order to grow up. Clearly we’re not talking about grab the kitchen knife and stab us in the heart kind of “killing”. We’re talking about the “separate themselves from us” kind. Either way, it is slow and painful for us. And, in reality, it’s not fun for them either. In pushing us away…our teens oscillate between wanting their independence from us and wanting to depend on us, which makes for an intensely confusing time.
Case in point…the other day our daughter was complaining about 1) not being able to find her gloves; 2) having to get up at 6am for school; 3) sharing a bathroom with her younger sister; and 4) being forced to eat a hot home-cooked breakfast before going to school…all this grief before 7am. Then, in the car, she says to me, “Mom, I wish I could go back to being young again so I didn’t have so much responsibility.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or to throw my arms around her and give her a cuddle. She’s up before the sun, faces a tough day at school, plays sport, comes home after dark, and then has at least two to three hours of homework. On the weekend, she’s got more sport and more homework. Thanks to peer pressure and social media…she’s also got to stay up-to-date with Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and Vine. My husband and I think she’s relaxing when she’s looking at her computer but, in reality, she’s scanning those pages much the same way we scan The Irish Times, The Sunday Business Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. It’s fun but it’s also work.
Killing us in order to grow up…that’s what our teens are doing. If we want to keep our teens close in the years ahead, we’re going to have to pick our battles. I don’t mind telling you that I sought out some professional help on this one. My recent visit to a therapist taught me that we need to decide what we want in the long run. Do we want our kids leaving home one day “thankful to be gone” or “looking forward to calling in”? The other piece of advice I was left with is this: let them fail…let them make mistakes. Sounds simple but it bloody well isn’t!
Our daughter goes to a fee paying school and I can tell you that when she chooses to blather away an hour rather than study for an important test…I see red! When she doesn’t turn in a homework assignment or paper she’s completed because she’s forgotten to put it in the right place and she can’t put her hand on it…I feel frustrated by her disorganization!! When she’s roaring and shouting at me because she can’t find something in her room in the morning (because it looks like a nuclear bomb went off)…I want to shout back…”THEN CLEAN YOUR ROOM WHEN YOU GET HOME!!!” None of these reactions are helpful to her or me.
My friend Moe recently said to me…”When my son gets frustrated and starts shouting, I imagine that we’re at the train station, walking along the platform. His destination is Crazy Town and I don’t have to get on the train with him. I can let him climb aboard and wave to him from the safety of the platform.” I like this imagery. Now, when our daughter starts getting puffed up and cross, I try to remember what Moe said…she’s headed to Crazy Town and I don’t have to go.
Raising a teen…be it a son or a daughter…is not easy. I think it’s helpful to realise these years are not easy for them either. In the heat of the moment, let’s remember why they are killing us off (hint: they have to grow up)…and be sure to pick our battles carefully (so what if his/her room is a mess)…and stay focused on what we want our relationships with them in the future to be like (positive and loving)…and let them fail (failure leads to success)…and, finally, remember the phrase “Next stop Crazy Town” (you don’t have to get on board too!). Then and only then will we all survive in one piece. Lastly, be thankful for dear friends who remind us that, though it may kill us, our kids will grow up. Now…where are those caramels?
225g (8oz) salted butter
225g (8oz) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons treacle or golden syrup (light corn syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
400g (14oz) tin of condensed milk
8x12in baking sheet, lined with parchment paper
1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Melt the butter is a heavy-bottomed saucepan (about 8″ wide) over a medium-low heat.
3. Add the sugar and treacle or golden syrup.
4. Add the vanilla and stir until well mixed.
5. Add the condensed milk and stir constantly until the caramel is a rich golden brown colour. To know if the caramel is done cooking, use a candy thermometer. When the temperature reaches 118ºC/245ºF, you’re done. To confirm, fill a small glass with ice cold water and drop a tiny amount of the hot caramel syrup into the water. Pull the cool caramel from the water and check the consistency. The caramel should be firm but pliable.
6. Carefully pour the hot caramel syrup onto the baking sheet. Using an off-set spatula, quickly spread the caramel syrup to desired thickness. Let cool completely.
7. When caramels are cool, lift them off the baking sheet and onto a cutting board. Cut the caramels into candies with a sharp knife. If the caramels stick to your knife, spray your knife with nonstick cooking spray.
8. Wrap the caramels in wax paper a little longer than the caramels, twisting the ends to close. Caramels will keep at room temperature for about two weeks.
1. 15 Sites and Apps Kids are Heading to Beyond Facebook from Common Sense Media.
2. Teen drama overload article at NPR.
3. Irish Whiskey Salted Caramel Recipe at Cheese and Chocolate