“I just want to leave home” he sobs, “I just want to get out of here”. I stare at my teenager on the couch opposite me as he chokes out the words.
It’s a taken a morning walk out with an epic door slam, a day of radio silence over phone and text and 45 minutes of screaming and yelling to get to this relatively calm point.
He’s said things he can’t take back now. Hurtful things that can target you right in the most vulnerable bits in a way only a teenager can. I’ve become a little immune for my own protection.
“Our family is broken” he says. Ouch, that one hits home and I think he can tell as I visibly flinch. I see the regret flicker across his face just for a second then that teenage self-preservation kicks in as he remembers how hard his life is, but it’s enough to reassure me that my boy is in there somewhere, I haven’t lost him entirely to the whim of his hormones.
He’s still talking, listing all our faults as a family one by one and everything he perceives as going against him. I see his mouth moving and his step dad responding to him, but I am lost in his last sentence. ‘Our family is broken.’ Is it? Are we? His younger brother is on the autism spectrum so I do have to devote a lot of time in to helping him with his own teenage years, but do I put in too much time? Do I take it away from my eldest? Does he not know how much I love him too?
I am questioning myself over and over, that is the skill of the teenager. They can make you question everything you have done wrong as a parent. They hold up a circus mirror to you and you can’t help but see the worst version of yourself in there.
He’s looking at me now and I zone back in, he’s done with the rest of the family and is about to tell me exactly what I have done wrong to warrant him being so upset. Inside I am a mess but it is important to stay neutral and let him talk. “Ok” I say, “tell me what you need to.”
“You’” he says, staring straight at me, “you are just you. You try to make us a family all the time and you never stop.”
That’s it. He’s moved on to brother and is listing everything that makes his life hard through him and he’s left me behind.
That’s my crime. In this whole teenage angst, I’ve tried too hard.
I stare at him sat there, he’s crying and I can’t be angry at him, as much as I want to be. He’s not trying to hurt me, but for someone not trying he’s done an amazing job. I’ve tried too hard?
I’ll be honest, I’m thrown. I don’t have a response. This boy, who just this week alone has been given more opportunity than I could have only dreamed of, this boy is so very bitter. How does a 16yr old get so bitter for having exactly what he wanted?
When I grew up I had nothing, really truly nothing. I vowed my kids would have everything I could give them, I would go without myself so they could have the opportunity’s they needed, they would always know they were loved. That happened. That’s exactly what I did and I realise now I screwed it up. That’s not really what they need at all. They don’t need everything.
I’ve tried too hard. I’ve gone too far. I question myself, would he hate me if I had tried a little less?
Then I get it. Yes, he would. It doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do. It doesn’t matter what I sacrifice or keep for myself. I’m his mother, I am the focus for all his rage, I am his learning curve. He will see everything I do wrong and he will grow up and try to do it differently. I am the catalysis for his parenting. But more than that, I am his safety.
When he was tiny he would fall or bang himself or trip over and he would run to me. Nothing fixed the pain or the bump until I had cradled his tiny fingers in mine, held them up and kissed them better. No band aid could heal anything as well as a kiss from mummy.
Now he’s 16. He’s a seething ball of hormone and pain and misunderstanding and he’s running to me again but in a different way. He’s throwing words at me as hard as he can and all I can do is sit here, listen to them and metaphorically kiss him better until the pain goes away. No matter how much I want to yell back.
So I do, I sit and I let him talk, I hide the wincing when a particular barb hits harder than he anticipated. I let him talk it out until he is spent then we start to build things back up from the ground. We smile weakly at one another, we laugh a little, we fix him a snack and he is better, for now.
When he finally falls asleep I will take the broken pieces of my heart and slowly start to stick them back together ready for the next time and he will never know.
Until he’s sat opposite his own teenager on a couch, until he’s raised them himself, fixing all the things he thought I did wrong. Until his own child looks him in the eye and says words that can never be taken back, until his baby says ‘I just want to leave home’. He will never understand or know how many times a parents heart can break and how, even then he can come to me and I will try to fix it for him. I will always try too hard and I hope in time he will love me for it.