(*Spoiler alert: If you have not seen Frozen 2, bookmark this post until after the movie)
God love Anna, the younger sister of Princess Elsa, and her journey in the Frozen sequel. These two siblings are like peanut butter and jelly, so when Anna thinks she’s lost her beautiful and magical “north star” sister forever, intense grief and anguish consume her. We watch her lay in agony on the floor of a cave as she begins to sing through tears of desperation what is perhaps one of the most beautiful songs in the movie.
“This is empty. This is numb. The life I knew before is over. The lights are out. Hello darkness, I’m ready to succumb.”
Not sure about you, but these words unglued me. Truth be told, I’ve been ruminating over this song in general ever since I saw the movie because I believe it speaks volumes about our roles as mothers of teenagers.
The life we once knew—when our kids were perpetually happy, obedient, lighthearted, full of joy, and loving toward us appears to be over when our kids hit the tween and teen years. This new world feels lonely and dark, and we struggle to find direction when it comes to raising them up. The weight of worry, fear, guilt, frustration, and confusion often leaves us feeling empty and numb.
It’s easy to feel completely lost when trying to mother hormonal, emotional, hypersensitive, sometimes illogical, combative, and irrational human beings. When that happens, we can begin to lose our sense of self—our identity, purpose, and confidence. We long for the days of old when life was easier and our kids needed us, enjoyed our company, and followed the rules.
All these losses, between losing our personal bearings and having to let go of so many things as our kids progress through the ages and stages of development, constitute a necessary grieving on our part. And grief in any form can knock us on our backsides leaving us paralyzed with all kinds of weighty thoughts and emotions.
So, what do we do in these moments of darkness when we feel like we’ve lost our mojo and are alone on a motherhood island, immersed in our suffering?
I think we take the advice of Anna who continues in her song:
“This grief has a gravity. It weighs me down. But a tiny voice whispers in my mind, “You are lost, hope is gone. But you must go on and do the next right thing.”
Yes! This is when I internally cheered while tears rained even harder down my face in the movie theater. Gah.
Making a choice to do the next right thing sounds like a simple remedy for dealing with heavy emotional burdens, but that’s what makes it powerful. It means we don’t have to try and figure out everything that’s overwhelming us all at once. We don’t need to know the endgame. Instead, we can just make a choice to do the next right thing in the present moment.
Maybe the next right thing is allowing ourselves to lay on the floor and cry for awhile so we can process our feelings instead of stuffing them down, which never works in the long run. Giving ourselves permission to be okay with not being okay.
Maybe the next right thing is as simple as apologizing to our teen if in our exasperation we’ve said or done something we regret. And the next right thing after that might be to forgive ourselves for not being perfect.
Maybe the next right thing is texting or calling a friend and saying, “I’m losing it over here. I can’t do motherhood anymore. Help.”
Maybe the next right thing is getting away for a few hours or a few days to refresh and renew.
Maybe the next right thing is getting help. I’ve been in and out of therapy for decades and have zero shame admitting this. Sometimes we just can’t manage everything on our own and outside counsel is imperative for our health—and for the health of our family.
Maybe the next right thing is choosing not to fight today’s battle. To just let the chips fall and allow ourselves to breathe and have peace regardless of what chaos or injustice is happening around us.
The list of next right things we can do is endless. The key is to pick action steps that are doable and point us in a healthy direction. Things that build up our self-worth, remind us of what is actually going right, and give us hope for a better future.
We may not know much about anything while parenting through the teen years. But if we take baby steps, offering ourselves and our kids heaping doses of grace along the way, eventually we make it to the other side.
As Anna says, “I won’t look too far ahead. It’s too much for me to take. But break it down to this next breath. This next step. This next choice is one that I can make.”
This was a contributed post from Shelby Spear. Shelby is a sappy soul whisperer, sarcasm aficionado, pro-LOVE Jesus adoring mom of 3 Millennials writing stuff & doing life w/ hubs of 25 yrs. She is the co-author of the book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don’t need to say, “I’m fine.”) You can read her open heart about the revelations, screw-ups, gaffes, and joys of motherhood on her blog shelbyspear.com, around the web, and in print at Guideposts.
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