Parenting As We Go Along

Aspen Real Life WTF Parenting


[su_heading size=”18″]Parenting As We Go Along[/su_heading]

Let’s face it, as beautiful and rewarding as it can be to be a parent it can also bite so hard that it wakes you up at 3am in a cold sweat from revealed truths marred by naivety while in a waking state.

First and foremost they are our children. We made them, so we think we know them inside and out, but with every evolving moment our grasp loosens, as does our connection to them. Their essential features remain the same as when they were your small sidekick only now the features are enhanced and you can only dive so far into those beautiful eyes before hitting that wall built to protect a youth no longer innocent, and to look into those eyes you need a stepladder (that is if you have rapidly growing weeds as we do).

They may not be as snuggly as they once were, slipping their warm, velvety hand into yours or rubbing noses to become one single “Eyeclops” but they are still there, needing your affection and love, and the more you spend time alone with them the more they open up and revert back to trying to get as much of mommy as they can by sitting on your lap and smothering you like big affectionate Labs.

Being young at heart, you think you can win them back by being playful and fun but soon come to realize that what they need at this stage in their lives is for you to shed the child within you and be that adult to guide them through their explorations, whether they recognize they need you or not.

As they switch allegiance from parents to their tribe of friends, they try to all but disappear from your life and you navigate on the fly by tightening and loosening the reigns as they delve deeper into exploring their curiosities. As a parent you want and need for them to learn how to test their boundaries, make smart decisions, and make mistakes hopefully, surviving the challenges of becoming a responsibly minded adult.

In a desperate attempt to do this parenting thing right I called all of those parents who seemed to have successfully raised three or more children and my favorite piece of advice I received was this, “Hold them back like wild horses until they are 18 and then let them go”. In other words, establish your rules, be consistent and don’t be afraid to say no, regardless of what all of their friends parents are allowing.


An excerpt from a PBS interview confirmed scientifically why this is important. The following is from an interview with Jay Giedd, M.D. a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Chief of Brain Imaging at the Child Psychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health:

[su_quote]The most surprising thing has been how much the teen brain is changing. By age six, the brain is already 95 percent of its adult size. But the gray matter, or thinking part of the brain, continues to thicken throughout childhood as the brain cells get extra connections, much like a tree growing extra branches, twigs and roots…

…In the frontal part of the brain, the part of the brain involved in judgment, organization, planning, strategizing — those very skills that teens get better and better at — this process of thickening of the gray matter peaks at about age 11 in girls and age 12 in boys, roughly about the same time as puberty. After that peak, the gray matter thins as the excess connections are eliminated or pruned…

…But the pruning-down phase is perhaps even more interesting, because our leading hypothesis for that is the “use it or lose it” principle. Those cells and connections that are used will survive and flourish. Those cells and connections that are not used will wither and die. So if a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hard-wired. If they’re lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV, those are the cells and connections that are going [to] survive…

…Right around the time of puberty and on into the adult years is a particularly critical time for the brain sculpting to take place…

… It’s sort of unfair to expect teens to have adult levels of organizational skills or decision-making before their brains are finished being built…

…The frontal lobe is often called the CEO, or the executive of the brain. It’s involved in things like planning and strategizing and organizing, initiating attention and stopping and starting and shifting attention. It’s a part of the brain that most separates man from beast, if you will…

…I think that [in the teen years, this] part of the brain that is helping organization, planning and strategizing is not done being built yet … [It’s] not that the teens are stupid or incapable of [things]. It’s sort of unfair to expect them to have adult levels of organizational skills or decision making before their brain is finished being built. …

…doing drugs or alcohol that evening, it may not just be affecting their brains for that night or even for that weekend, but for the next 80 years of their life[/su_quote]

Raising teens is like taking an Arctic plunge into unchartered icy waters leaving you feeling as if you are dying and living as fully as possible at the same time.

Now I am guessing that there are some people that are better prepared than others to face these challenges, but predominately we are all in this together – exhausted and facing the challenging surprises as we go along. I figure that as long we live by example and stand strong as participating, mindful, involved, caring parents, we will steer them in the right direction and stop screaming WTF???????????

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