“I hate you.”
“You’re the worst mom ever.”
“I never want to talk to you again.”
“All the other moms are cool. Why can’t you be like them?”
“It’s embarrassing being your kid.”
“You’re ruining my life!”
“You don’t get it, and you’ll NEVER understand!”
“Why can’t you be like dad?”
Welp. What you just read is the shortlist of insults I once heard as a mom raising teens. Really gives you the warm and fuzzies, doesn’t it? Let’s roll our eyes together.
It’s hard to prepare for the onslaught of emotions that burst onto the scene during the teenage years—both for parents and children.
As a mom, being on the receiving end of cutting remarks can do a number on our heart space if we believe what our kids are saying. But it feels impossible not to take such spiteful comments personally, right? It’s like our teens and young adult kids know just how to wield the knife and slice us where it hurts the most. The pain is real, it is raw, and something only another parent can appreciate.
The question I’ve asked myself over the years is, why does it hurt so much? Why can mere words wrench my heart and drop me to my knees? I’ve experienced these dark moments more times than I’d like to remember or admit. Moments that have left me curled up in the fetal position as waves of tears heaved from my core.
But why? Why did their words or my failure decimate me emotionally? Why did I react to their outbursts like I just found out my whole family died? Why did I absorb the insult as truth and treat myself so harshly?
I know now that my pain wasn’t because of their behavior or their words. My kids weren’t creating new wounds inside me but rather poking the bear of old hurts and fears already there. Their side-eye and sass reinforced the negative stories I was already believing about myself and illuminated some of my worst fears. Mainly that I would be a terrible mom, my kids wouldn’t want to have a relationship with me, and they would experience the same levels of rejection, abandonment, and powerlessness I felt as a child.
My fear of failing my kids was a cloud hovering over me from day one.
I decided going into motherhood that I had to be everything I never had growing up. I gave myself zero room for error and was ill-prepared for the ups and downs of normal childhood development. Because I already believed I was damaged, I strove for perfection, believing I could achieve and perform my way out of the shame I carried. I didn’t know how to have a fight and be confident things would go back to normal and be ok again. After every blow up, I’d think to myself, “This one is really the dagger. I’ve ruined everything.” I felt powerless as a kid and powerless in these moments as well. Every battle with my kid left me feeling like I would never get it right. Their harsh words proved I wasn’t enough.
This fear-based mentality was toxic. My unresolved childhood trauma constantly bled over the lines of my paint-by-number mothering book. My kids weren’t the culprit of my suffering; I was. My teens were just pushing through the hard emotions of being an adolescent and trying to find their place in the world. Sure, they were disrespectful at times. But it was the thoughts I believed about myself that were the real insults.
So, I went on a journey of healing and fought like hell to feel worthy, valued, secure, whole, and loved. I fought like hell to write a new story about who I was as a woman, wife, and mother. Only then did I have the mental capacity and emotional IQ to hold space for the mean comments, harsh conversations, rule-breaking, stonewalling, etc., from my kids. Only then could I separate my kid’s behavior from my ties to my past. Only then could I believe I really was a good mom.
I don’t know what your story is, momma. But I’m guessing there is something you believe about yourself that isn’t true. I’m guessing there is something inside you that needs some fresh air and a healing salve. The teen years have a way of exposing what hurts, and I pray you find the healing you need as you weather these adolescent storms.
You are loved. You are good.