Moms and Teendom
By Lida Sideris
I’ve been diagnosed with a fairly new disorder that has a tendency to strike parents, particularly mothers, of teenagers. The surefire way to determine whether you are indeed a sufferer of this malady is from the remarks of those closest to you. In particular, your teens. Some sample remarks:
“You just don’t get it.” “That’s not what I said.” “Don’t you understand anything?”
These pronouncements are often accompanied by shaking of heads and looks of pity accompanied by annoyance. This disorder is referred to as M.M.S, or mistreated mom disorder.
I should have recognized the signs early on. For instance, I commented to my younger son, Michael, about how nice it was that he was invited by a friend to be a guest at a private golf club. My son’s response,
“I’m not his guest!”
First sign: Wrong word usage.
Another example occurred when I asked my older child, James, if he’d like to take a mini ice chest to the beach with him to keep his drinks cool.
“What kind of question is that?”
Second sign: Failure to consider the usefulness and ramification of a query.
M.M.S. is thrust upon unsuspecting parents with children entering the double digit age bracket. Reactions and symptoms of M.M.S. sufferers may range from momentary displeasure to snarling fury. Moms may often feel as if they were living the life of a serf in Teendom. I am convinced that a bleary, dreamy-eyed mother of teenagers wrote the escapist fairy tale, Cinderella.
I must add that despite being plagued by M.M.S., I really do consider myself lucky. Teen torment didn’t begin until James turned fifteen. And Michael only aggravated me intermittently. Most astonishingly, I received compliments on my kids’ behavior outside of the home.
“Your children have excellent manners.” “They are so thoughtful and kind.”
M.M.S. appears to be triggered by frustration, theirs and mine. I once advised my children that in order to work out a frustration, they should write a candid letter to the source, pouring out all that needed to be said. Afterwards, the undelivered note should be destroyed. Michael informed me that he was going to write just such a missive…to me. Only instead of tearing it up, he would allow me to read it. The letter went like this:
You think you have all the answers (I try).
You need to be more laid back. (I probably would be more relaxed if my kids were not teens who constantly kneaded me into pliable dough).
You need to be nicer to me. (Comment deleted by author)
You talk on the phone to Grandma way too much. (Hello? She is my official M.M.S. hotline).
You only think you have too much to do when in reality, you have plenty of time. (This coming from a kid who once advised me to get a night job. That way I could make more money and not cut into the time he required my services).
My son generously invited me to write him a letter in kind. So I sat down to write. My immediate reaction was to list his unappealing traits. I know the trials of having teens are temporary, like one long bout of indigestion, but who needs it? Instead, I re-read his note more closely. In a moment of clarity, I realized what he was really saying:
You really do know a lot. That’s why it’s important to me to follow all the things you’ve taught me. I carry you around with me everywhere I go. I don’t always behave my best at home because sometimes I need to test your love. I like it when all of your attention is on me.
Okay, maybe I read a little too much between the lines, but basically, I don’t doubt that my sons love me. The way they conduct themselves in public makes me proud. After all, if they cannot act like utter, immature children at home, where can they?
In my letter to Michael, I decided to implement another piece of advice that I’d given them: nurture the good, so the good will grow. My letter went like this:
You are an outstanding young man whom I love dearly, and of whom I am very proud. Forgive my impatience with you sometimes, as I am still learning how to be the best mom.
Let me tell you, I had him eating out of the palms of my hands for weeks afterwards. But truly, I realized that if I focused on their positive traits, all else would fall by the wayside. Eventually, anyway. Meanwhile, an impromptu splurge or shopping spree does wonders for M.M.S.
Lida Sideris hails from Los Angeles and worked as an entertainment attorney for a film studio. She now resides in the northern tip of Southern California with her family, their rescue shepherds, and a flock of uppity chickens. She was the recipient of the Helen McCloy/Mystery Writers of America scholarship for her first novel, Murder and Other Unnatural Disasters. To learn more, please visit www.lidasideris.com.