99 Problems

Published on June 22nd, 2021 | by Renee Stahl


Cutting the Cord (Again)

My 14 year old daughter has recently been using the line “Let me live my own life.” Oooh, that one stings! Your own Life? Of course it is. I know this. But it sometimes takes a minute to really sink in. I am reminded to go back and read “On Children,” by Kahlil Gibran. 

  Your children are not your children.

  They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

  They come through you but not from you,

  And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

My teenager mostly uses the line when she’s been on her phone too long and I threaten that I am going to turn it off. Other times it has to do with homework or simply when she doesn’t get her way.

There are many cliches out there about teenagers and most of them are true. She isn’t just moody, selfish, wishy washy and makes promises she can’t keep, she is also kind, generous, loving and helpful. And like with all people leaving childhood to enter adulthood, you just never know what you’re going to get. It feels as if she is trying on a wardrobe of clothing to see what will fit her best and then will decide what outfit she would like to present to the world. Sometimes nothing fits and it all lands on the floor with her in a heap of tears and fury.

My feeling is as long as I stay out of the way, no one will get hurt. But as a mother, how can I? I often question how much to help, how much to just let her be and possibly “fail.” I think failing and falling are part of growing up. I can’t protect every heart break, every disagreement with friends.

I even bought the URL for the website “Ijustcantkeepmymouthshut.com,”  which elucidates this dynamic between us. How can a mother not say anything and just watch? That is one of the hardest parts for me. I am not involved in every decision of her life anymore. Now it’s on an “as needed basis.” I am ok with that. However, I don’t really have a choice. When you have a teenager you don’t have to make their “playdates” for them anymore, you don’t even have to make their lunch. (I still do sometimes.)

A friend asked me the other day. “Remember when we actually knew everything about our kids?” 

Back then, we were in charge of what they wore, what they ate, where they went. Instead of feeding, clothing and bathing her, now my job is to let her come to me when she needs me and be there for her.

I remember picking her up from preschool, I would get there early and watch her play, I would wait for her to notice me, when she did, she would quickly run into my arms. Now, I am lucky if I get a hug. I try not to take it personally. I compare her to a cat, when she comes to me, I know she really wants me. 

Having a teen feels familiar, it’s not unlike taking her as a toddler  to the playground. Predictably, she would fall and get back up. A kiss and hug would do. 

And sometimes, unexpectedly, that is just exactly what I get, she seems to know how to mother me best: she was incredibly helpful in regards to my dad when he was dying, in fact there was a day when I was weeping into a towel so know one would hear me she came and just put her hand on my back, she didn’t say a word but stayed there until I was done wailing.

We aren’t always going to agree on everything, we will have our disputes but as long as there is loving communication I am up for this thing called parenting.

So how much do we say to them, how much do we do, how much do we protect? 

I know she has a good head on her shoulders. She says, “Trust me.” It’s not her that I am worried about, it’s the rest of the world. The world isn’t the same as it was when I was growing up.

When I was a teenager, I too pulled away from my mother. I only wanted to be with my friends. I never considered how this would make her feel. I wasn’t always very kind to my mom. I wanted what I wanted. I knew she was there, if I needed her. Knowing this felt like enough for me. I kept a lot of things in when I was a child, I had many secrets that didn’t even make it into my diary for fear someone would read it. I took most of my (boy, etc.) problems to my friends rather than telling my mom.  

I confided in my best friend on the phone every night—we would talk for hours, watch TV shows together (still on the phone). Sometimes I would even fall asleep with the phone to my ear. 

So, every night when my teenager’s bedroom door closes, she gets on the phone, and I hear her through the walls talking with her friends, laughing. 

I smile. 

Parenting a teen feels like I am re-parenting myself. There are two books that come to mind that have been very helpful thus far; one I am reading, the other, simply the title gave me relatable comfort and a giggle. The first,  “Untangled” by Lisa Damour (a must read, if you have a girl), and the second, “Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager Ha! Brilliant.

Despite all of the warnings I read about and was told, I love having a teenager. I do my best to understand her and honor her big changes. 

I often think back to lyrics I wrote with Jeremy when we were working on our first CD, “It’s a Big World.” They couldn’t be more apropos,

I was pregnant, on bedrest with my now teen. (Lyrics from the Renee & Jeremy song “Night Mantra,”) 

I will be your home

I will be your guide

I will be your friend

Always on your side

Sleep now in your room

Quiet of the night

Surrounded by the moon

Till you see the light

Renee & Jeremy rock-starring

MUTHA listened to a LOT of Renee & Jeremy’s earlier work when my older kid was little, and now you may have a little or bigger one, and in any case, you are right on time—their new album dropped this month, Whole Lotta Love. Here’s a link to the first single, a Pixies cover (woot).

Renee created a spotify list for teens exclusively for MUTHA! CLICK HERE

PLUS check out this beyond-awesome video… R&J covering G’n’R’s Sweet Child O’ Mine

Feature photo by Maria Lysenko on Unsplash

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About the Author

Music fans around the world have come to know Renee & Jeremy for their hush whisper-folk covers of classic pop and rock songs. Solo artists in their own right, Renee Stahl and Jeremy Toback (also the original bassist of cult grunge band, Brad) combine as R&J to create a flavor of low harmony all their own… But what some don’t realize is that the duo actually first came together to make lullabies for kids and families. 

Their new record, Whole Lotta Love promises to dive even deeper into their gift for intimate riffs on iconic songs.

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