Thursday, March 3, 2011


I lost the instruction manual. You know, the one the hand you when you have kids (or in my case, adopt kids), with a chapter on what you should expect at each age. What problems you might encounter. How you should respond.

I used the manual when I needed to talk to little league football coaches. Because even though I am a really strong, capable woman, talking to male coaches kind of feels like a dad job. But we don't have a dad at our house. So I consulted the manual and I did ok.

I used it when the boys started middle school. Such a weird age. Kids growing into themselves. Struggling to fit their new bodies. Trying on new personalities. Preying on each other. Sometimes being just plain mean. I used my manual those days when I picked up my guys, and their shoulders were slumping, and I could tell that the world of tweendom had been just a bit much. The chapter on listening helped a lot then.

I used the manual when the boys were ready for driver's permits. I drove them to drivers' ed, handed over my keys so they could spend the day on the road course, and smiled bravely as I said, "Have a good day, sweetie." I consulted the manual again in those first days when I was driving with them. And did the best I could be quiet and let them steer their way toward independence. The chapter on keeping your mouth shut and letting kids learn from their mistakes was really good.

But now, in these last couple of months, I seem to have lost the manual. Teen #1 hates school, spends most of his time in his bedroom, seems to have lost his passion for the things he has always loved most. Teen #2 has had a girlfriend for fourteen months, a delightful young woman that I adore. When he is not with her, he plays video games online with friends. The boys talk to each other and to their friends, but not to me.

And I wish I would find that manual. I need the chapter on how to advise your fifteen year old about his girlfriend, who now has his last name as hers on his facebook page. And the one that tells you what to do to support your teenager as he prepares for his senior year and leaving home. And the one that tells you how to talk to them when they respond with little more than monosyllables and grunts. I really need that manual. Because I miss my guys.


Deb Day said...

Oh, you brought tears to my eyes. Having raised two sons, I know exactly what you are talking about--although I had the advantage of a husband who could talk me through teen boydom....

I think teens in their senior year start to draw away because they know they are on their own next year...and girlfriends--wow. I never did handle that one well.

Mostly you just have to love them. You take them for a drive because they can't escape conversation, you have them wake you up when they get home--for some reason, mine would always talk then, you schedule family bonding time--seriously, I would call them downstairs and demand my time....but mostly, you just love them. They will come back, mine have.

elsie said...

A manual would have helped. Have a lot of faith that the previous years of living and loving will bring them back to you. After a few years of stupid, my son is back. Don't give up, time works for you.

Michelle said...

When you find that lost instructional manual . . . do share! I have twin daughters that are only 10 months old, but I'm worried about what the future may bring as well. Sounds as if all kids go through their phases, but in the end, they realize who loves them most! Deb gave great advice: Just love them. Oh - I also like going for a drive too!

Hang in there and just be there for them!

Donna Smith said...

Unfortunately it isn't that you lost the instruction manual; they just omitted those chapters.
Keep being there. They ACT like they don't notice and don't care, but they do. And they will realize someday that you stuck by them when they were in stupid mode and love you all the more for it.

Nanc said...

The manual might say...24...the magic age, when they tell did it right....thanks for loving me. My son said that this week after writing a family paper in a graduate class. Of course, he still said it in a very grunting way :)