So God Made a Teacher Collection (Sale!) ➔

Right before I was married, my mom told me that she read a letter I sent to my college-aged brother when I was around 13-years-old. In a card with a Dilbert cartoon on the front, I wrote that it was hard being at home without him because our mom embarrassed me and wasn’t like “other moms”.

My mother told me she cried for three days after reading it. She made a tremendous effort to connect with me and provide the fun teenage years she never had, and even though she knew we were going through typical pains associated with teenagedom, she didn’t know how I truly felt.

As I listened to her words, I felt the heat of shame creep up on my cheeks. Of course, I apologized. I attempted a feeble apology for my behavior during those years and claimed that it must have been my hormones.

But even though decades have passed by and we have an amazing relationship now, I remember feeling that way. I remember feeling embarrassed by my mother and wishing I could be a little “cooler” than my family could manage.

Luckily, that was a short phase, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was acting like an idiot, and my mother was a living, breathing saint. God and karma had the last laugh, however, and blessed me with three daughters.

I think about that story a lot when I am in the weeds of parenting three teenage girls, which to be honest, is every day. I think about how I broke my mother’s heart, and how she told me she course-corrected a lot based upon my attitude with her.

If I was belligerent, she knew it was often something going on with my friends. She let me get away with a little bit more then.

If I was exceedingly obedient, she knew I was guilty of something, and she tightened the reigns.

When I lashed out at her, she knew she needed to reel me back in a little tighter.

But to think that I didn’t hurt her during these times, to think that she didn’t take it personally, well, I could tell by her face that she carries a little bit of that pain with her to this day.

It’s this knowledge that frustrates me sometimes when experts say, “Don’t take what your teen says or does personally.”

I mean, I understand it in theory. They will make bad choices that are not a reflection of your parenting. Sometimes they just want to get a rise out of you. It could just be hormones or “hanger” or simply them slowing breaking away.

But my relationship with my children is the most personal thing in this world to me, and during this tumultuous time, their words and actions often shatter my heart.

I tell myself that I’m too emotional, too invested, but I don’t know how to parent any other way. I’m not even sure if I would want to.

But instead of telling parents not to take it personally, let’s start acknowledging that there are going to be times your teen strikes you where it hurts, perhaps even where you are most vulnerable. Let’s start admitting that watching your teen make poor choices is gut-wrenching. Let’s start supporting each other through those times when our teens break our hearts.

Because every one of us is going through it, feeling it, trying to figure out what we’re doing wrong. And if you’re not, consider yourself lucky.

It’s all personal.

I’m not glad I hurt my sweet mom, but I’m glad she kept feeling my emotions. I’m glad she didn’t respond in kind, and instead parented the kid in front of her at any given moment. I’m glad she called me out when I acted like a brat and lost her temper because I pushed too hard and coddled me when I needed it most.

She simultaneously felt every emotion as I went through it, and loved me through it all. It was personal to her and part of our story.

I wish the experts would say, “Your teen will break your heart, but I promise you’ll survive. In fact, one day, if you’re lucky, your relationship will be stronger because you felt it all—the good times and the bad.”

Because I’m no expert on raising teens, but that’s the one thing I know.

Originally published on Playdates on Fridays by Whitney Fleming

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.

When Teens Are Hard to Love, You Love Them Harder

In: Faith, Motherhood, Teen
Teen boy sitting with hood up

I lay face down on the floor, praying. Praying in the loosest sense of the word. Praying in the Romans 8:26 way—you know, when the Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Because I could not utter any actual coherent thoughts at that point. I was weary and beaten down. Day after day I had been in combat, battling an opponent I didn’t anticipate: one of my children. My own child, one of the people I had lovingly grown inside my body and loved sacrificially for all these years, had staunchly and repeatedly put himself in opposition...

Keep Reading

Dear Sons, as You Become Men

In: Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mom and two sons, black-and-white photo

Boys, you are currently 12 and almost 10 years of age. This world in which you find yourselves growing up is much different than the one I maneuvered years ago. There are many things I want you to know. These are just a few . . . Always be kind.  To each other, to yourselves, to your family and friends, even to your enemies. Do not let others abuse and disrespect you. But always start with kindness and hopefully there will be no reason to migrate toward another action. Kindness breeds kindness. Always be kind.  Life is full of victory...

Keep Reading

Where Is the Instruction Manual for Parenting Grown Children?

In: Grown Children, Motherhood, Teen
Two teen boys dressed in suits, color photo

You know what’s really hard? Parenting. You know what’s even harder? Parenting a child who isn’t a child anymore. My husband and I have leveled up.  High school graduation has been a major event in our house for the last two years. It’s an exciting time and a great chance to celebrate the accomplishments of each of our boys individually.  That being said, this level isn’t something you can mentally prepare for. It’s just so much. So much of everything. Exhausting. Gut-wrenching. Exciting. Confusing. Rewarding. Bittersweet.  My son graduated last year, and my bonus son graduated this year. I’m equally proud...

Keep Reading

The Little Boy You Knew is Gone, But What Comes Next is Beautiful Too

In: Motherhood, Teen, Tween
tween boy

Listen, you guys . . .  That thing they always warn you about? It happens. The little boy with the dimples and the wide smile. The one who begged you to play LEGOs for hours and always said he wanted to marry YOU when he grew up. That little love of your life . . .  Suddenly, you’ll blink and he’ll be turning 12 next week. A full-blown tween. A pre-teen. Practically a teenager. And before you know what is happening, he’ll be obnoxious and run his sassy mouth and roll his eyes and pick fights with his siblings as...

Keep Reading

10 Tips to Banish Teenage FOMO

In: Faith, Motherhood, Teen
Teen with red hair smiling

Do you ever feel like the whole world is having a party—and you weren’t invited Maybe you worry about being included in the right groups or invited to the right sleepovers. Maybe you envy the relationships you see at school or youth group or feel jealous of the perfect social media posts showing others making memories together. If you’re a teen in 2022, you’re probably well acquainted with the fear of missing out. Knowing or wondering what you’re missing or who is getting together without you can leave you feeling lonely. It can leave you lonely and a little blue....

Keep Reading

I Fight For My Child in Prayer

In: Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Woman praying

The sound of the screen door slamming shut inches from my face took my breath away. He hesitated for a moment, glaring back at me through the pollen-stained glass window that separated us. He would never admit it, but I knew he was checking to ensure the door did not hit me. He didn’t know how badly I needed that momentary glimpse of my sweet and loving son.  It seemed like just yesterday when I stood in front of the elementary school entrance doors with two tiny arms wrapped around my legs. The little red-haired boy with blue eyes who...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Know How to Be a Mom of Teens, but I’m Learning

In: Motherhood, Teen
Teen girl in ocean

I’m a card-carrying baby person. You know the type—the kind of mom who turns into a cooing heap of melty-hearted goo whenever a baby comes into view. I love them when they’re tiny and helpless, when their necks are floppy and their limbs are jelly. I love the way their eyes are deep and knowing and how their heads smell so sweet and fit just right under my chin.  “Give me all the babies,” is a phrase on regular rotation in my vocabulary, and I truly mean it. It’s probably why, at pushing 40, my husband and I just had...

Keep Reading

My Kids Are Teens, but I’m Still a Mom—Please Don’t Forget Me

In: Motherhood, Teen
Mom looking at teen daughter

My kids are teenagers, but I’m still a mom. There are no more diapers to change or sippy cups to fill, but I’m still a mom. My kids can feed themselves and pick out their own clothes (even buy them), but I’m still a mom. There are no more boo-boos to kiss and make better and no more lullabies to sing at night, but I’m still a mom. My kids are teenagers—one is a full-blown, 18-year-old adult—but I’m still a mom. We gush over new moms with snuggly newborns, cooing babies, squishy toddlers, and rambunctious 6- and 7-year-olds. We say...

Keep Reading

I’ll Take Every Hug I Can Get, My Son

In: Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Tween boy on beach

As another school year closes, I’m once again struck by an ethereal sense of being punched in the gut. We have fewer summers left together than summers spent. And you’d much rather spend those with your friends than with your mother. I’m prepping for the daily, “Can I have friends over?” and the daily, “Of course!” because as much as I’d like to say no and go on a hike or to the pool together, this time is for you—to spend with those friends making mistakes and learning about life. It’s been said from the moment you made me Mom:...

Keep Reading

You Don’t Raise Your Babies to Be Little Forever, but I Thought I’d Have More Time

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Little boy peeking over wooden fence, color photo

I can see the yellow blur of the school bus passing in front of my window. Soon my little boy will excitedly burst through the front door with his picture of a giraffe from art class. His big brown eyes will meet mine as I get a toothless “I missed you, Mom” grin. He will tell me everything he had on his tray for lunch, recount the whole soccer game at recess, and share all about that hilarious thing his friend said on the bus. He will then sit on my lap as he takes each school paper out of...

Keep Reading

Get our FREE phone wallpaper to encourage you as the new school year begins

It's bittersweet for a mother to watch her child grow—but you both are ready to soar.