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On Teaching Teenagers Life Lessons

I’ve come a long way in my fifteen years as a mom.

From a fearful, hovering helicopter to a confident, laid back adviser. It’s funny how differently your kids need you as they grow.

Now that my oldest is a teenager our relationship is much more about guiding him through life lessons and much less about overseeing his day to day affairs. He reminds me often that he doesn’t need my help, thank you very much, and as hard as it is to shut my mouth and sit on my hands, I know stepping in is just an expression of distrust in his abilities. All these years we have been letting him make mistakes over the small stuff. Teaching him how to get up when you fall down, how to move on when you feel like giving up, and how to learn from your mistakes. Now we are in the days of life lessons being much bigger, much harder, and we have to trust that we have done a good job. Some days I wish I could rewind and go back. I would try harder. I would say less and show more. I would be more patient. I would enjoy it all so much more, this journey with him. But we are here, and I am trying to embrace it as best I can.

The most recent life lesson he is learning is what it’s like to have a job. He has worked at our neighbor’s farm for the past couple of summers and it has been a really great way for him to learn hard work and dedication. My advice to Vermont parents: get your kid a farm job for at least one summer. They’ll truly learn to appreciate where their food comes from and the amazing feeling of a hard day’s work! We’ve been working on showing him that just because a farm job is more laid back in the way you dress and conduct yourself, it is still a job and you must prove yourself. Show up on time, be prepared for the day, and maintain a good attitude. If you are working the farm stand (his favorite), smile and work hard. If you are working in the barn that smells of cow manure and bailing hay (not so favorite), smile and work harder.

teenager, farm, job

Once it was time for him to get back to work after summer vacation, waking up on time was proving difficult. On one of his first days back, he was still asleep when I knew he needed to be getting ready to go. It was all I could do not to go wake him up. When he finally heard his alarm (on it’s fourth snooze) he ran downstairs in a panic. I didn’t hear “Why didn’t you wake me up?!” which I understand is a common argument for parents of teenagers, because he is used to the fact that it is not my job to wake him up for things – we’ve been practicing for this day for years. There was no time for breakfast eating. There was no time for getting his boots out and water bottle filled. It was a rainy morning. I knew without his boots he would be wet and cold. I knew he would be starving. And while it made me feel like a terrible mother to not step in and help him, I also knew that this was me being a good mom. Learning this lesson now, instead of when he’s 19 living on his own and not having mommy wake him up and prepare his stuff for him, is a good thing. Even if it means I sent him out hungry into a soaking wet field with barely laced sneakers on.

He could figure this out, as he has told me many times, he doesn’t need my help.

farm, job, teenager

 

When he came home that day, stripping wet socks from his feet, he told me about the fun he had in the barn that day. Sure, his boss was a little tiffed that he was a few minutes late but he made up for it by staying later than planned. He explained how he warmed up a piece of corn in the farm stand microwave on his break since he was so hungry. He drank a entire glass of water in one gulp, because man, was he ever thirsty. In that moment the sadness of sending my boy (my baby!) into the world unprepared for his day of work dissolved and blossomed into pride. He was more prepared than I gave him credit for. I did that for him.

I never felt like a better parent than the day I let my son fail miserably. Isn’t parenting funny?

 

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