Saving A Teenager. Parenting Or Coddling?

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If you’re set up to get my emails you got yourself a gander into the peculiar world of my fear-dreams earlier this week, you lucky devil, you.

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You might have read this worried-mom post that I shared earlier this week about my son.

It’s a different post than what I usually share - the less-funny and more worrisome side of parenting than most of my posts - and I questioned whether I should share it for a few reasons:

Is the story too personal?

By sharing it, am I exploiting my son?

Is it too soon? Will sharing it now - before we get to the “That was a really hard time, I’m so glad it’s over” point - somehow define my son and put him under a boulder of shame and the judgment of others so heavy that he can’t pull himself out?

This blog is my therapy. Writing things out helps me flesh out my thoughts and helps me identify my next steps.

And sometimes I just need someone to bear witness.  

To sort-of say, “Um, is anyone else seeing this?”  

And, if I’m honest, to gauge the reactions of others and help me nail down my own, because sometimes I just don’t know what to feel.  Should I feel worried about this?  Should I feel mad? 

And what do I feel?  

Because I know I feel something, I just don’t know what it is.

Reading others’ reactions sometimes helps me put my feelings into words.  “Yes, what she wrote!  That’s what I’m feeling!

It’s tricky sharing stories of things your family is going through, because the story isn’t only yours to share.

Not everybody wants their dirty undies on display.

My son gave me permission - no questions asked - to share our story. I say “our” because it truly is all of us.  I mean, we are all in with this child of ours.


The responses I got online and on my phone and in person after I shared the post confirmed I’d made the right choice in sharing it now.

So many others are going through - or have gone through - this very same thing, and our questions are universal: Is it depression and anxiety, or irresponsibility? Am I parenting or coddling? Should I let him fail or swoop in and save him?

He’s an adult technically, but am I allowing him to be?

Or am I stepping in - as a parent should - to lift their child, no matter what age they are, through an emotional crisis?

Mark and I don’t always see eye to eye on this because, admittedly, I’m too soft on my kids sometimes.

And Mark will tell you that he doesn’t understand depression or anxiety because he’s never experienced it, so he doesn’t have a tolerance for any of the behaviors that, to him, look like weakness or irresponsibility or laziness.

And you don't always know, as a parent, if it's depression and anxiety that you're looking at, or if it's unbearable immaturity.

After hours of conversations, and reading through emails and texts, and listening to voicemails from people sending their thoughts to ease this momma’s mind, to those sharing their wisdom - as parents who blazed this trail before us - my brain’s been feeling like mush from mulling over these questions.

But there’s a common denominator in them all and it is this: Are we done parenting when our kids turn 18? More specifically, should we be?

I’ll tell you this the only way I know how: I’d sign up to bleach Harvey Weinstein’s asshole before I’d let my son sink himself.

Suddenly today I had a thought.  A memory of my own.

When I was a senior in college, I found myself in a dark place emotionally.

I’d gotten into a disaster of a relationship and not only did I feel like I couldn’t get out of it, but its downward spiral pulled me into the depths of an emotional cesspool.

Describing that person - that girl - that I was then, is like I’m describing someone else who couldn’t have possibly been me.

I had cut off all my friends and family, and hardly ever spoke to anyone outside of work.

I rarely left my apartment.  

I cried all the time.

I skipped classes.

I no-showed to work.

All of these behaviors are completely opposite of the way I was before.

So completely opposite of the way I am, now.

At 22 years old, my parents had to nose-dive in and save me.

They physically came to me and packed my things for me and moved me to a different town and set me up in a new apartment.

They called me daily to check on me and make sure I was going to work and school.

They went through all the parenty stages of: understanding and listening, then giving firm-but-positive feedback, and then cycling to frustrated shouts telling me to, “snap out of it, for God’s sake,” that frightened parents - exhausted from constant worry about whether their daughter will ever for-the-love-of-Christ come through the other side, much less be a mature and responsible contributing citizen - and then composing themselves and going back to Stage 1: Understanding and Listening.

They did. They saved me.

Did that set me up for a lifetime of not being able to pull myself up in future bad situations?

Did it teach me that I can’t do hard work without the help of mommy and daddy?  

Did it hold me back from being a productive and responsible adult?

The truth is - if I could have a moment here - because you know I’m the first person to say that I am a disaster with time management, I hate nothing more than housework, and I have full-fledged panic attacks when my lips are dry and I can’t find my chapstick, I do have crazy work ethic, and I’ve dealt with plenty of hard times and big decisions that face us as humans.

And I’ve done it all without having to cry for Mom and Dad to help me, thankyouverymuch.

My parents’ plucking me out of that place didn’t turn me into an incapable shit-show.  

It showed me what it looks like to have parents who realize the job’s not over when their kids turn 18.  That they recognized their adult child was capable of doing hard things, but had gotten in way over her head and couldn’t find her way out.

It showed me that I had the two people who loved me most standing in my corner.  

My gut tells me that my son will be a well-adjusted, productive citizen someday, and that our “swooping in” did nothing to cripple his adulthood.

Lord help us if he makes me eat these words.