The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stormclouds and Hormones

While it has been over 25 years since either Teri or I were teenagers, neither of us has really forgotten. Growing up is hard, sucky, stressful and the fact that so many of us manage to not only survive, but to also thrive into adulthood is a mystery.  I honestly think it is a miracle that we are not taken out by our own surging hormones and the destructive forces of socialization.

There are the cranky and inept adults who have power over our time and space; there are the peers who confuse us with their own hormonal unpredictabilities--there are anger and insecurity and sex and humiliation and often all of these things gurgle up in a crazy salad before mid-morning!  There are inequities, bullying, abuse, privilege, and myriad social strata and bureaucratic structure to maneuver on a daily basis.

What I have learned about myself as a mother is that while I did pretty well with younger kids and babies,  teenagers are my speciality. I am learning that Teri is pretty darn good at adolescence too. Neither one of us can be shocked, scared or sucked into drama and we are fierce and informed advocates. My motto is stolen from Anne of Green Gables: tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it--and a good motto for the all-or-nothing-life-is-over-and my-existence-is-doomed stormclouds that surround the teens.

The fact is--life truly is pretty damn crappy for many struggling teenagers.  LGBTQI kids are much more likely to end up homeless and kids who come from unhealthy households are battling through the typical turmoils of teenageland with both hands tied behind their backs.  They need the basics--a warm bed, good food, and a roof over their heads; but they also need some things the more privileged take for granted: someone to ask them about their day and listen, someone to advocate for them, sit with them at the doctor's office, help with homework, or even model how to solve problems without it being the end of the world.  You might be amazed at how normal can seem so unsettling...

What happens when spilled food is not an emergency, but merely a mess to clean up?  How odd that two adults can solve a disagreement quickly with humor and a hug?  How strange that an altercation with a teacher can result in an adult advocate sitting down with the school folks and working out a solution?  What if there was always enough soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, milk and heat?  What if no one asked for anything in return?  What sort of strange world is this?!

Teri and I are woefully ordinary people, not the slightest bit heroic.  There are good days and more challenging ones; things we can control and things we can't.  Talking, hugs, a pan of warm brownies, a walk through the neighborhood--we cope in rather boring and ordinary ways.  I can't really speak for Teri but for me, I feel for all the world like a 100% grown-up who remembers very clearly what it felt like to be a teenager or a kid just trying to move in the world. I don't have to relive or retrieve anything because this middle-aged adult is who I am now (and besides, I have my own bucket of perimenopausal hormones to contend with.)

But the way I see it is that we can either be a help or a hindrance.  Either I can participate in a positive way in the lives of people who need and struggle or I am supporting the systems of oppression.  It isn't really that hard--I just have to stay present, compassionate, responsible and aware.  Adolescents need us--not to throw them to the wolves and hope the strongest survive--but to care enough to provide the basics.

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