Sometimes our near grown children become our teachers as they introduce us to fresh ways to do things and creative ideas to embrace. There are moments when we find ourselves talking to sensible, responsible beings who feel like new friends. These wonderful times are followed, sometimes instantly by confrontations with sullen, shouting teenagers who act as if we were the enemy from whom they must escape. Our own feelings grow confused, we feel sympathetic, then resentful, wanting to help them and yet wishing sometimes they would go off somewhere and leave us alone.
Several times a year my son and I share a living experience in a purposeful community of open-hearted friends. He is able to feel at home in the community and participates in the ongoing projects making significant connections with people and nature. After a few days of retreat however, when the silence and lack of background noise from electronic appliances sets in, there will be moments when my son will call me, loud and clear: “Mom! Mom!” from another room without checking if I am busy or even present nearby. His voice is searching the territory, trying to find my listening ears. He is an only child and I was very responsive to his needs in early childhood as unbalanced as a working mom can be. (Plus being of Romanian origin we speak louder than what is considered inside voice and cut each other off many times in conversations).
I find myself feeling ashamed if people are present or talking to me and my son loudly interrupts me for no apparent or important reason. This shame makes me feel like a lousy educator, unable to help my kid perceive and apply different behaviors to fit cultural differences. Sometimes I simply feel disrespected and taken advantage of by my own son. The majority of the time, I explain to him that I would not respond to his call if he didn’t check my availability beforehand. He would say: “Sorry, mom!” and then do it again.
I recently went on a trip with my parents. The experience was special because it was the first time in my life when I could practice daily meditation, physical exercise, recite mantras, participate in the Global Sadhana and eat a healthy diet without conflicting with the precious time of being together and present with my parents’ living choices. One afternoon, I heard my father calling my mom in a way that resembled my son’s inclination. I had a very strong internal reaction and still I was able to ask myself what might a person that makes a call like that need. The answer came fast, like it was there all along: my son needs respect and my full attention. I froze; realizing that what I was craving for from my kid, I decided that I would him my complete presence, gracefully, totally, and with no expectation for reciprocation. The practical aspect of this realization is always different than the joyous moment of “getting it” and requires unending willingness to be present. Leave the prefabricated answers and the endless expectations behind, Mom! It is what it is!
Living with Teenagers: 3 Ways to Give Meaningful Attention
Put yourself in his/her shoes. To understand my teenage son, I try to imagine myself as him. I allow myself to be curious. What does the world look like from my son’s point of view? How does it feel to be him? What do I notice while being him? I maintain this perspective for 2-3 minutes at a time. At night before I go to bed I reflect on: what new perspectives did I include in my awareness today? What did I learn about myself or my kid? There are no right or wrong answers in this role playing, the practice is simply an exercise to help a parent more fully understand their child’s point – of – view.
Pay attention to one action at a time. This is by far the biggest challenge for me! Trying to do everything all at once is like I want to stop a very fast train in a hundred feet. I have been “smashed” many times by my own excitement and dedication to multiple causes. So instead of trying to put everything I know into play all at once, I practice keeping my attention gently focused on one simple action at one time.
Consciously unlock the divinity within and radiate! To be able to be fully present and enjoy my life with my son, I know that I need to keep up with my practices. Whether that is meditation, yoga, hiking or another kind of personal ceremony, having time for myself allows me to feel full of ease and grace. Doing so also helps me to recognize the beauty and grace in my son and to truly understand that we are one!