Gutted Glory – Raising Teens

mental health parents never give up

The definition of Gutted is: cause (someone) to feel extremely upset or disappointed.

The definition of Glory is: a state of great gratification or exaltation

I’m a cool mom, right? I am gracious and giving at just the right times. When my teens come to me, I always have the right answer. When I hear about others that have problems with their teenagers, I think, wow that must suck – but it will DEFINITELY NEVER be me! I will NEVER let my relationship with my teens get off-track. They will be superstars at school, home, and work. The usual teenage dilemmas don’t apply to me, right?  Wrong, a million times over!

In actual fact, my teens will be just like I was when I was a teenager…just trying to figure it all out. And, my teens will be just like every other teen out there in the world. The difference is, I am the adult now and things look  a lot different on this side of life’s journey.

I don’t think I really remember, like truly remember, what it was like to be a teenager.

Call it selective memory, but I don’t remember letting down my mom, ever. I remember just living my teenage life, going to school, work, coming home before curfew.  In fact, I don’t think I even had a curfew because I was so respectful and mature, and always came home before my mom would start worrying. Are you laughing out loud yet? Gosh, I sound like a complete angel, like a dream-child, don’t I?

My expectations may not exactly match up with reality – now or then. Was I a superstar at school, home, and work, when I was growing up? Not even close. In fact, with all the stunts I pulled as a teen, I am lucky to be alive.

I tell myself that I remember what it is like to be a teenager to convince myself that I can relate to whatever they are going through. I might regale them with stories and try to persuade my memory to accept a new version of a story, but I am lying to myself and to them.  Take note of the many lies that I told you in the first paragraph: I bet you were believing me up until I said, “I’m a cool mom”, am I right?  I’m not a reliable witness!

But, if I stop and really think about it, my mom was probably a lot like me right now. My mom was always up when I got home late at night – I now know she was up waiting and worrying. I would go right to my room so she wouldn’t smell the whisky and smoke on my breath. I would usually have mascara running down my face because of something my boyfriend said (I was so upset I thought about driving off the road and straight into a tree most nights). I would never get up for school on time and most days I would be running out the door without breakfast. My marks were just barely passing grades in high school.  It wasn’t until my mom’s funeral, just a few years ago, when I found out that my mom had been in constant contact with my teachers, worried that I would not graduate.

You see, I thought I knew what it was like to be a teenager, but my idea of teenage life was clouded by my selective memory and the stories I have been telling myself.

The thing is, some days I feel completely gutted – I say and do everything wrong and no matter what, my teens grow further and further away.  Then there are days when I bask in glory – my heart bursts with love and pride for them and in how I’m parenting them.  I have decided to call this stage of my life “Gutted Glory”. If you are a parent of a teen, you know exactly how I feel.  We’re elated one minute and just plain gutted the next; so thankful for each moment, yet, heartbroken and a complete wreck simultaneously.

It wasn’t until I began seeing a therapist last year that I got a real handle on all of these emotions. My “Gutted Glory” of a rollercoaster life slowly became more smooth with grace and thankfulness. My days filled with more understanding and acceptance of the changes my teens were going through; I was getting control of my emotions.  I finally realized that my expectations did not meet up with my reality for me or for my family. I could go ahead and blame society, the media, and the archaic notions of the past for the challenges I was facing, but the answer to moving ahead in a relationship we all felt safe in in didn’t lie in blame.  It was found in acceptance, kindness, understanding, and forgiveness.

Idea #1 

After a few sessions, it became crystal clear that the only way for me to get my relationships back on track was to take care of myself. I know, I know, you are probably going to skip over this point and think, “well, ya, nice thought but who has time for that?” Please, I am begging you… read that sentence again: the only way for me to get my relationships back on track was to take care of myself. I would love to tell you why you need to squeeze yourself into your life myself but I think my therapist can do it more justice!

Input from Brenda MacGillivray

“This can be tough for Moms especially because as women we’re socialized to believe that we’re responsible for the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to our kids.  We can internalize their struggles and feel that we have to influence their outcomes.  Try to remember that your teens have their own lived experience and, despite all we do, or don’t do, they have to live through these experiences in order to make it to the other side.

If we go too deeply into their experience, we can’t separate their experience from our own and it’s hard then to know how to show up for ourselves and for them (when they’re ready).  Remember the flight instructions to put your own oxygen mask on first before attending to your children.  It will also slow down reactionary responses that come from a place of fear and panic; and allow yourself a little more time to think about how you want to respond.”

Idea #2 

The other unexpected reality of parenting teens is that at some point, you need to stop treating them like children, and start treating them like the adults you want them to be. OK, this sounds so easy, right? Of course I can do this! Hahahaha (to infinity). No way am I going to let go of control over my child. I mean, for close to 15-16-17 years, I have been responsible for what they eat (mostly), who they are friends with (kind-of), what they wear (I do the shopping), and what activities they do! Are you telling me that I need to stop all of this – like now? Not a chance!

I read somewhere that by the time your child reaches the age of 14 you have taught them everything they need to know. No longer do you need to teach – you just need to listen. Oh my…just listen? Although I don’t agree with this statement 100%, I do think there is some truth in it.  Brenda does, too:

Input from Brenda MacGillivray

“Listen to what they are saying to you.  Try to silence that voice in your head that goes to problem-solving.  Even if they’re really good answers; they likely will be rejected because you’re not allowing them to figure out their own answers and ask questions.  Ask them how they feel about what they’re telling you: “How does that make you feel?”  Try not to judge or critique their responses.

Just let them talk…they’re trying to formulate their own ideas and trying to process their choices.  If they have to worry about your judgement of them, it’ll shut down their [efforts to process].  Be honest but kind.  If you’re scared, tell them you’re scared and why.  Tell them you love them unconditionally (no matter what, NOT “only if”) and that you have their best interests at heart.  Now, release them…they have to figure some of this out on their own and yes, that means they may get hurt, make mistakes etc.”

Idea #3 –

The final step that brought me back to where I wanted to be as a parent of a teen, is to “Hold Space”(insert link) for them; to love them unconditionally and remind myself to not take it personally.  This one was a tough one for me – I mean, loving them unconditionally – I can do that with my hands tied behind my back and blindfolded… or can I? Don’t I have expectations for them? Of course I do, but it has nothing to do with love. I think all parents only want the best for their kids and sometimes you need to alter your expectations and remind yourself that their path will not always look like the one you imagined for them. So, check, and check, I can do this! But, reminding myself that it is not personal? This one is not so easy.  I am the parent. I am responsible for what my kids do and say and become. Anything that is done or said by my child is a direct representation of my parenting skills. How can I not take it personally when my kids reject me or my efforts? To top it off, sometimes teens say things that hurt – things we would never have thought they’d say to us – so pile on the shame in thinking that I am not a good parent to the hurt in thinking that they think I may not be a good person (or at least deserving of name-calling): gutted! Utterly and completely gutted.

Here is how Brenda helped me work through this one:

Input from Brenda MacGillivray

“This is a growing journey and you won’t necessarily get a road map.  Be kind to yourself and to your teen when you take a detour or end up off the road.  Allow yourself and them the space to work through their questions into their answers.  This doesn’t mean you condone all their choices; be honest in your responses…but it doesn’t also mean you condemn them for the choices that you may disagree with and not understand completely.”

My journey back to myself through this Gutted Glory era has given me renewed kindness and understanding, not only for myself, but for my teens that are growing into fine young adults.

I know that I couldn’t have done this alone, and that is why, on our website, you will find some of the best parenting coaches and experts in the world. These experts work specifically with parents of teens to help parents navigate through these teen years. Reach out and connect with them. Working with Brenda and connecting with all of these parenting experts has been the best decision of my life. I knew I wanted to be better for my teens, and I owed it to them to figure out how. The thing is, I am not alone. I know you are right there walking beside me, raising your teens the best you can, and wondering how to get through some of the difficult days.

Join me and many others as we find more glory in our life by being kind to ourselves and allowing time to treasure the unique people our teens are becoming.

My hope is that our Gutted Glory days are fewer and the path that lies ahead is paved with patience, kindness, love, and compassion for our teens that are just trying to figure it out like we are!

You can find Brenda on LinkedIn


Written by: Jennifer McCallum and Brenda MacGillivray, edited by Vanessa RZ

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