Dear teenager of mine, there’s something you should know. I’m in it for the long haul.

I’m not going to lie. The fact that you can’t seem to get your dirty jeans from your skinny, long legs into your laundry basket kind of drives me crazy. Every time I see the mess that is your backpack I wonder where did I go wrong. And when you tell a fib, right to my face—well, it just downright hurts.

I‘m often frustrated by your ambivalence, your surliness, your ability to tune me out when I need you to hear me the most. And just when I’m ready to throw in the towel, just when I feel like I’ve failed, just when the struggle seems to be too much—I remember how far you have come.

We live in the age of the quick fix. Five minutes to rock hard abs! 30 days until a new you! Order that blender now, and it will be on your doorstep in the morning!

It’s hard not to get sucked into that mentality, hard not to get upset about that one bad test, one bad judgment call, one bad semester.

Sometimes I lose sight of the long game in parenting. Sometimes I forget what the end goal is. Sometimes I get so caught up in the fights about clothes and the state of your room and the papers you left on the counter (again), that I forget where you started on this journey.

And who knows what you will become if we keep our eyes on where you are headed.

A friend of mine talked recently about how it took her and her husband nearly three years to build their dream house, most of which they crafted themselves brick by brick. Most of the work was tedious. Wiring, pouring cement, putting together the frame with thousands of nails. There were moments when they thought their project would crumble to the ground, like when the plumber installed an ill-fitting pipe and a flood occurred, or the zoning commission almost shut the construction down—but they accomplished what they set out to do, and they could not be more proud.

Raising you is much like building my dream home. There are going to be so many stumbling blocks along the way, most of the work is tedious, and I worry about your choices that are outside of my control–but we will persevere, together.

My goal is to help you become a successful, independent adult that contributes to the world around you. When I look at how far you’ve come—no matter how frustrated I get with the day-to-day bumblings we both make—I know we’re headed in the right direction.

So, I’m in it for the long haul, dear child, and I’m reminding myself that these mistakes, these personality quirks, these things that drive me crazy—just like the parenting gaffes I make, too—usually result in a wash at the end. We’re both going to end up fine.

There’s no direct line to adulthood. There’s no one way to grow up. That disorganized, grumpy teen that sometimes greets me in the morning won’t be the same person five, 10, or 20 years from now. 

I know I’m not the same person I was what seems like so many years ago.

So, I’m in it for the long haul, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. But if you could just clean that room once in a while—well, that would be pretty awesome, too.

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.