So much of parenting teens is just waiting around, whether it’s in the car picking them up, reading in waiting rooms now that they are old enough to visit the dentist alone, and quite honestly, a lot of sitting around at home while they cocoon in their rooms or spend hours FaceTiming friends.
Sure, you have your own life. You work, run a household, have your own friends, and plan solo adventures to show your teen that you’re not just waiting around for them all the time. That you are cool with them not needing you so much.
But deep inside, you still are in a state of perpetual wait . . . just in case. Just in case there is a rare moment when they do need your advice or want to divulge a secret or even share a funny Instagram reel. Just like when your baby started smiling and taking first steps, you might miss it if you blink.
So you wait around. 99% of the time, your teen will have no idea you are secretly lingering. 99% of the time, they will not initiate conversation or accept an invite. And it can feel silly to hang around on call for a connection that may never happen. Nonetheless, you wait, because you know that that 1% of the time feels like absolute gold, and, like a rare eclipse, you want to be there for it.
The other night, my husband was committed elsewhere for the evening and my son was having a rare evening with no plans. I cleaned up from dinner and got a few small tasks done. There were plenty of things I could have started and projects that needed to be worked on. But for some reason, I just sat at the table, a bit unsure of what to do with myself next.
Unexpectedly, my son emerged from his room with his phone and tripod. “Hey, I want to get some shots outside, can you help film me?” As an aspiring filmmaker with his eyes ahead on film school, he’s been dabbling for years in making short films even if the process is inconsistent.
Trying not to show the extent of my true excitement, I kept my poker face on. “Sure.” It was dusk. We were about to get a big storm. It was windy and chilly. I was drained from a long week. But when your teen wants to involve you in something, even if it may seem like it’s just for their benefit, you drop everything. You join in. You say yes.
I threw on a jacket and we walked out towards the evening sky. The clouds from the day were opening up for the first time just as the sun was about to set. The combination gave way to a beautiful orange and pink blaze as nighttime settled in. My son instructed me to grab the tripod and video him as he walked toward the lighted dusk. Like every moment I get to spend with him these days, I knew this beautiful sky was momentary. If we didn’t capture the light soon, we’d miss it.
The brightness melted into the sky and the streetlights started to glow an intriguing yellow. The wind picked up. “Hold the tripod just like this, and keep filming as I walk this way,” my son instructed knowingly, his long fingers setting mine into place like an expert. We headed to the grassy cul-de-sac that goes on endlessly into the woods. When my son was little, we called it the “magic circle” because it always felt like such a special place, like sacred ground full of potential.
“Now I want you to run alongside me; don’t worry if the camera is jumpy,” he said. It was cold and dark, but I knew these were the moments that count. I flicked my sandals off and ran in the dusky field, trying my best to hold the camera and film my son. I stayed quiet, knowing this moment was one I would remember forever.
I don’t know if my son will ever follow through with turning what we captured that night into a completed film. I don’t know if the uneven development at 15 will get in the way of his self-discipline to finish what he started. I don’t know if it’ll be any good. I don’t know if he’ll actually make it to film school or have his name on the credit roll of a real movie one day.
I just know there was a bit of magic in the air that night, and I wouldn’t trade my involvement in it for anything in the world. There are so many times I fret about how I can help inspire him, help him reach his goals, and show my support. But just being along for the ride, for better or worse, is what matters.
On the days when I feel stagnant being “on call” for my big kid for those just-in-case moments, I’ll remind myself that they sometimes lead to the very sacred connection I long for as my son grows. These are the moments that keep us both bound together during a season of so much necessary pulling away. They are precious. And they are worth waiting for.