Have you ever seen the "Badlands"?
Those mysterious and unique formations that make up vast areas of the landscape.
Desolate and stark and barren and yet beautiful and captivating.
Uninviting and yet intriguing.
This is how I have come to see parenting teenagers.
This is the "badlands" of parenting.
Let me clarify immediately that I am NOT saying the teens are bad....no not at all....but navigating this particular landscape requires some navigational skill.
A regular GPS won't cut it.
You have to choose to see the beauty and uniqueness as it sometimes is less obvious, less accessible ... sometimes you just have to trust its there somewhere and keep looking.
Sometimes you have to get right up close and just sit quietly to see the intricacies of what is right in front of you.
What you cannot do is just wander off....into the badlands.....its so easy to become disoriented and lost, very quickly it all looks the same and its hard to see where to go, a way out.
My parenting journey to this point has been relatively easy... the map was fairly accurate, the view pretty lovely, the straight parts uneventful, the odd corners exhilarating if exhausting, a detour or two to keep me on my toes, a sinkhole or two narrowly missed.
Somehow though as my teens hit the mid teens I feel a bit of a shift. Not a big flashing hazard sign, just a gentle "curve ahead" sign.....but I am paying attention as we navigate the "badlands" together..
Somehow young adults have moved into my children's rooms. The chaotic clutter of text books and clothes and sports gear (mainly on the floor) a reflection of their busy and somewhat complicated lives.
At one of the road stops recently we picked up a boyfriend.....and more complexity in relationships generally.
We have also had the unwelcome fellow travellers of academic apathy (as compared to world travel..), sibling irritation (to put it mildly), technology dependence, the desire for autonomy without responsibility.
My hope is that the sure sense of direction we have instilled in them keeps them on a path that is safe, that fulfills them, that balances independence with responsibility... If these lands are hard for me to navigate with all my adult tools and perspective, how much harder for them? I have seen the whole picture, the vista from the top while they toil in the rocks.....its hard to look up sometimes, to see the big view, to have any sense of time or urgency.
I don't want to be that tour guide with the yellow flag herding them along yelling loudly when to turn, when to stop, what to look at...there is no satisfaction in that for any of us.
I want to be there....in the badlands.... watching, occasionally calling out when I see hazards ahead, waiting in the quiet when they seek me out, going back over covered paths when we need to regroup, maybe find a new path. To help them see the dead end canyon before they go down it or to wait until they find their way back out.
Some days I think I want to choose a different landscape to be walking but I have come to know that every stage of parenting brings both joy and pain, high points and low points, obstacles and opportunities... so I choose to embrace these badlands.....to be captivated and intrigued and curious as I watch adults emerge....slowly, day by day..... still relishing those odd moments when the child plops down on the end of the bed for a chat, or cuddles up to me on the couch or sends me a love text message.
The storms that created the badlands will come and go and we will weather them.
And soon, all too soon, we will be out the other side either exhausted or exhilarated and excited (or most likely a healthy combination of all those).
In a new landscape....