Hi… my name is Wendy, I am a parent, and I have a confession to make. Well… three confessions really.
There are certain things I try really hard not to do. It’s an image thing really… a way of giving the big, middle finger to those that look down on single parents, with a little bit of stubborn hard-headedness thrown in.
Through the talking back, eye-rolling, neck twisting, foul language, and overall piss-poor attitude – I tried to control this parenting thing all on my own. This year, thanks to the torture that is being the 5’4’’, single mother to a 6-foot, 16-year-old man-boy, I was smacked upside the head by the cruel hand of reality… and I just had to do it.
I had to ask for help.
Not just any help, mind you. It’s not like I could just call my dad for advice. I couldn’t just commiserate with other single moms or parents in general. I couldn’t even just look this one up on the internet like that time I thought I had Monkeypox courtesy of webmd.com (Don’t worry though, it turns out I just had two mosquito bites really close to each other. Chances are, I’m gonna make it).
I had to actually make a phone call, which led to making an appointment, which lead to sitting, on a dark brown fluffy couch, with my kid, across from… sigh… a life coach.
I admit it. I had to ask for someone else to step in and help guide my kid through life. There are a great many issues that us to this decision, and out of respect for Nick, I won’t detail them all but I will say that one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a parent, is admit to a stranger that I need help.
I was expecting the worst most painful hour of my life when I first sat down. Without much effort, I could envision it all: condescending looks, shame, the declaration that I have screwed up my kid…
None of that happened.
Nick was allowed to talk as much as he wanted. I showed, what I personally think was intense and stoic restraint, as I listened to his version of reality, constantly reminding myself that there are three sides to every story: side one, side two, and the truth.
It was incredibly hard to sit and listen to his version, awaiting the inevitable judgment from the life coach himself… but after Nick had given his version of current events, and before I had been allowed to speak, the life coach said something that I will never forget.
“I get what you’re saying, I understand where you’re coming from. The best thing I can tell you is… at some point you have to grow up, man up, and do the right thing which is sometimes the hard thing.”
I really enjoyed that far too much.
You see, according to Nick (and a majority of the nation’s teenagers I think) everything is all about him, everything is done to him, and he is always the injured party. For years I have tried explaining that every action he makes causes a ripple effect in life around him. There was also talk of taking responsibility for ones actions; for accepting consequences for choices made, and… learning to live life without mom looking over his shoulder.
In the spirit of honesty, confession #3A is that at that point, the life coach turned and it went from being Nick’s session – to mine. I was told to stop babying him. Stop allowing “exceptions” to restrictions. Stop catching him each time he falls. Stop jumping each time I’m baited.
Stop treating my 16-year-old like he’s six.
Admittedly embarrassing – but at the same time – exhilarating. With the exception being called out for being a hovering parent, I enjoyed finding out that for the most part, I am not going about this the wrong way. Literally every word that I have preached, lectured, taught, and brow beat into my kid was repeated by our highly paid third-party, degreed counselor. Granted it seemed to click a little faster for Dominic coming from someone else, but still… as long as the message is received.
I am at peace with it though. As long as he hears the message, I don’t care where it comes from. Since that first visit, we have been back, and have future appointments scheduled. Nick now walks in on his own as opposed to being dragged in, and I am now only allowed in the room long enough to pay the bill.
I have however been told by said life coach, in the grand scheme of things my kid is… just a kid. He is 16, and as 16-year-old boys go – mine is right where he would be. So where I have been lecturing but not listened to, it can also be said that I have been told, but haven’t heard. Many a family member has said that Nick is just being a teenager. I didn’t believe them until… the life coach affirmed it.
So, as it stands, I have a normal teenager, and I am a normal parent… and it only took the both of us being schooled by a coach to help us see it.
Okay your turn, GEM nation… have you ever had to ask for outside help with your kids? How did it go and what did you learn about yourself in the process?
More from GEM:
Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 12 and 16. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and this year returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler