Parenting Teens and our Own Darkness

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I was running this morning along the creek and  came upon 3 teenagers, probably 13 to 15-year olds, smoking weed under the bridge.  My first reaction was the Mom-teacher-community-member-judgmental (silent) rant “What are you doing down here?! Do your parents have any idea where you are?”  Then I got past them and I thought “I wonder if any of the parents do know where they are? Did I know where my kids were when they were that age all the time? Especially during times of stress and struggle… Did I really notice what was going on with my own kids? I remember my son smoking pot in our backyard one morning after I put my foot down and insisted we were going to Church.  I found him (because he was late getting in the car) crouched down in the shed– my own 15-year old, lost in my own backyard.

Did I ask him what was going on? Why didn’t he want to go to Church? Why did he want to smoke a pipe in our backyard? How hard was it to get out of my own skin and ask him? I don’t recall whether we made it to Church or not that morning, or anything except my mortification at “what that looked like”. In retrospect, he must have been nervous about something, but that fact didn’t get my focus.  I definitely did not “put the relationship before the behavior” like the books say. I failed him that day.

Today, he is no longer a teenager and lives in a different state. I don’t know how he is doing on a daily basis and I don’t know if he would share difficulties with me because I don’t know if I’m that kind of Mom for him.  That felt sad to acknowledge as I was running along.  Really sad. I really failed him that day. Suddenly I was jealous  of the kids with their pipe, escaping the world.

I want to escape the pressure of it all sometimes, to tag out and let someone else do the working, the worrying, the important talks, the figuring it out.  Let me go under the bridge for a few hours and be a child. I felt that way when my kids lived with me fulltime and still do sometimes. .

Luckily we’re grown-ups and we do know what to do to help ourselves feel better and we do know the routines and habits… Like I’ve said before, we have to parent ourselves. And we can choose to be kind and loving, with positive reinforcements for ourselves.

“Underneath it all, we all have the same longings.  Parents, children, teens: we all want to feel safe, seen, and unconditionally loved.  It can be difficult and frightening to connect to this vulnerable depth within ourselves – yet only when we come from this place can we communicate as a family with full authenticity.  From here, we can cut through the misunderstandings, hurt, and disconnect.  We can relate to our emotions, experiences, and parts of ourselves with consciousness and compassion — so our kids can learn to do the same.  We can prepare our children to live as a human being from a conscious, grounded, empowered place.” ~Michael Vladeck (A great author!)

Breakthrough Action for today: Write a paragraph to yourself, parenting your teenage self. What would you want your parent to tell you? I suggest that you choose to be a loving parent to yourself… tell yourself what you would like to know. Talk to your teenage self and tell her what an awesome job she is doing.

PS- I just texted the now 20-something son. He replied back right away, with kindness and honesty, salving today’s guilt that I had completely ruined him and our relationship 10 years ago. I made plenty of mistakes, and you will too.  And we will feel guilty sometimes. 

But odds are that we did a better job than our parents, and if we keep taking care of ourselves, and our issues, we will do a MUCH better job than our parents. 

“We all grow towards the light when we begin to face what lies in our shadows that holds us back.” ~Michael Vladeck


More soon, Go love on yourself today!

Photo by Albert Rafael on


  1. Hello Anne, Being a parent does not necessarily imply that we’re perfect parents. It is impossible to know everything. That is a time when lots more is also happening in life. Today my wife and I also reflect and find many things we could’ve done better. We can’t go back in time. But we can give a lot more unconditional love now and make up.
    I think you’ve been a great Mom. Have a wonderful life. I will follow your blog

  2. I don’t think you should blame yourself for what happened in that moment. We all do our best even if it’s not perfect.

    1. Thank you 😙. Hindsight is 20/20, right? My kids now know that nobody needs to be perfect bc they see their Mom giving them the gift of imperfection.

      1. I remember my mum being imperfect and as much as I try, I can’t nail being completely perfect either. I just try to be different to her but definitely not perfect.

  3. Because of the setting of the story of your son, I am going to suggest an alternative cause for his action, but I am not trying to criticize your parenting. This is more for current or future parents of teenagers.
    If your child would rather do something you think is stupid rather than going to church (from my own experience) with you, the child may be in a crisis of conscience, where he or she is questioning their belief in your god, or belief in any god.
    My mother had died by the time I became a teenager, but my father forced us to go to church every Sunday. Somewhere during that time I became very disillusioned with religion, but I was afraid to tell my father that. I would hide in various places so he could not force me to go. Later I would run away every Sunday morning. When he did catch me sometimes, he would never ask me why, he would just drag me to church. That was the end of our relationship. I moved out at 16 and never spoke to him again.
    My experience is just one possibility, but things may have turned out different he he had just bothered to ask me why, and not reacted with force.

    1. I totally agree. I failed to slow down and ask him what was bothering him. I still have time to do that though. I will ask him today, 9 years after. Better late than never.

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