Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Parental Angst

I know much has been said on the topic of Angst, particularly of the teen aged variety. For proof, just look at the money-making machine of the "Twilight" franchise. The whole story is based around a teen aged girl with a load and-a-half of angst that is almost palpable.

What the story doesn't share is how her parents must be feeling. I'm certain, as any parent can tell you, that their concern, worry and "angst," is just as real and just as painful.

As a parent, we do get the advantage of perspective. We know that time heals more than we know. We know that the future holds opportunities that we could never imagine today.

However, we also get the bad stuff in spades. We feel helpless against our child's feelings. "How can we "fix" this?" we wonder aloud to our spouse.

We know all the trappings of the "wrong crowd" or even just "wrong" decisions. We realize that actions done today can follow you for the rest of your life.

So, we parents experience vicarious angst for our kids, and then we have our own set of worries, as well. That doesn't seem very fair, considering we already made it through childhood ourselves.

And yet, here I am, worried when my child says she doesn't think anyone likes her. "Not like you?" I asked, jaw dropped. "How can anyone not like you? I think you are fabulous beyond measure!"

The obligatory sigh and eye roll is followed by, "Mom! You HAVE to say that! You're my mom!"

I'm concerned when my child says he feels bullied. "Isn't there a school policy against that? You need to find an adult!"

"Mom," he explains patiently, "If I don't fight back, I'm a wimp. If I tell on him, I'm a snitch."

I'm perplexed when my child tells me her friend can't play with her because she's mean. "Why would you be mean to your friend?" I ask.

"I wasn't mean," she replies. "I just told her I didn't want to play with her right now. And her mommy told her I was mean and she can't be my friend."

Ugh. The impulse to charge in and take over is almost overwhelming. But rationale jumps in and says, "Wait! Give it time. And train them to fight their own battles so they'll be equipped for anything."

Intellectually, I get that. Emotionally, I'm watching a child with tears rolling down their face and I would move the earth and the stars to make them happy.

What to do? What to do?

Fortunately for me, I have a close support group who allows me to bounce ideas around with them. I also have kids whose friends' parents are open to conversations, and who speak with me objectively and rationally.

Does this make it "all better"? Of course not. But it does make it more tolerable. And, I hope, it makes it easier to train my kids to stand on their own, and be their own person.

I guess only time will tell. But I have to have faith, trust myself and my kids and remember to laugh as often as I can. Because as far as I can tell, the opposite of angst is joy.

So, together, my kids and I look for ways to laugh and ways to enjoy life. Together, I know we can get through it all!

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