I was informed by my 15 year old son yesterday that the perfect summer for him was time with his friends, hanging out. To put it less nicely, anything that didn’t involve me or his little sister. There’s a part of me that wanted to say, no duh buddy, I wasn’t 15 that long ok (ok, perhaps there is a slight fib in the balance of the passage of time, but I at least REMEMBER being 15).
I love the schooling I receive pretty constantly: “Uh, Mom, you don’t match.” or “Mom, I can’t believe you won’t let me go (fill in the blank here) with (fill in the blank here)! You’re the only mother who won’t let me go (boo hoo).” or my personal favorite in response to any number of outfits, comments, or behaviors of his little sister: “Mom, I’m worried about Emma, she’s just so weird”. Long live the ability of teens to scorn their families and any connection to the perceived absurdities of life as part of the family unit.
What’s interesting is that most days, my son’s immeasurable wisdom and distain doesn’t include his two step siblings. It’s as if they hold a close, but just hovering outside of the familial zone, part in the dynamics of his life. People always ask me how we do it with 4 children and the best answer I can give is that we are blessed that they all love each other. Most days (who loves their siblings most days??). Yes, they can all get on each other’s nerves. Yes, the youngest knows how to push everyone’s buttons. And, yes, they all want and need their space and time alone with Pete and I. But they genuinely love and respect each other. I hear we’re an anomaly in blended families – while they don’t always like their parents and step-parents, they *do* genuinely like each other.
There are a few dynamics at play here. First, the gender/age thing plays to our favor. With 2 boys (17 1/2, 15) and two girls (15, 11), it’s a good mix. The lynch-pin is that our two 15 year olds are boy/girl and they go to different schools. I call it the ven diagram of blended parenting – enough differences, varied interests and “own lives” that in the spaces where their worlds overlap, it’s familiar, even comfortable. What they share turns out to be the same things they share with their friends: age appropriate angst, exploration and emerging journeys into independence, big milestones like drivers permits and dating, and right at the core, the overlap of their families.
And then there are those oh my what kind of crazy life do we have days where the balances get off, whether too much family time or too much distance. In those instances, all of us can lose our empathy for each other, or the blending can feel repressive. The magic is in the balance of physical and emotional distance and nearness. I suppose that’s the same lesson in parenting a teen. Maybe that’s why I’m secretly thrilled when I’m schooled, I’ve found the right balance in that moment – close enough to be acknowledged, but distant enough to be scorned.