My youngest daughter Sierra has a beautiful gentle soul and loves to draw. She composes poetry, short stories and essays as ritualistically as breathing. She has the voice of a songbird, delicate, light and often imperceptible. She is blonde, beautiful, long-legged and swiftly surpassing me and her sisters in height. Sierra’s beautiful, uniquely wonderful qualities are beginning to mix with a disastrously messy room. She is standing on the brink of womanhood alternately embracing then running from the experience. She is thirteen going on fourteen.
My youngest son, Aidan helps me through the transition of his slightly older sister. His is 10 going on 11 and sees the world with clear, introspective eyes.His hormones have not erupted into a drill sergeant directing his thoughts and actions, at least, not yet.As the youngest of six, he has observed his teenage siblings with awe, wonder, and compassion. He understands them in a way many parents can not, and routinely offers me advice.
Aidan and I developed a little game to entertain ourselves during our journey between his sisters’ school drop off and the 15 traffic lights (I’ve counted them) to his school. A typical morning drive to school generally summons a reminder to play.
Slam! our car shudders in response to the departure of Sierra and her 17 year old sister. Hunched by the weight of their backpacks, they slog up the few steps to the school door. Disgust and exhaustion compete for top billing on their faces. I watch them briefly, sigh, and remember when they would skip instead of slump. The game commences.
“Have a nice day!” “Thanks Mom for the ride!” “Love you!” Aidan and I chant appropriate responses for the girls. We offer up the thank you for them, knowing it has been buried in the temporary darkness invading their hearts.
Aidan finishes the round of play. “I will never be that way Mom, I promise. I will NOT get the teenage disease.”
The Teenage Disease: Aidan’s artfully coined term that guides one needing to learn to live with young adults in transition.
The teenage disease grants perspective. I can detach from the emotional onslaught of anger, bitterness and joy that often shows up in waves within a short 30 minute car ride. These emotions are only symptoms. Remembering the afflicted reminds me to offer compassion instead of judgement. It summons portions of the endless amounts of patience required of a mother of teens.
The teenage disease.
It has many symptoms: depression, moodiness, exhaustion, hunger, disorganization, strength, intense focus, deep introspection, and creativity. The often troubling concern with the teenage disease is that these symptoms can all be experienced within a 24 hour period, and often with great intensity. As a care provider to sufferers of the teenage disease, I generally measure its level of influence by walking into a patient’s bedroom or glancing into their school backpack. Each venue offers a true reflection of the internal struggle. The morning car ride often also serves as a quick assessment.
What Aidan and I discuss as we drive past those 15 stop lights is that this disease will not win. It is not terminal. Sure, it takes hold, often raging body and mind for years, but it does subside and the patient will be restored. Mercifully, the victims of the teenage disease often experience short periods of remission, little futuristic glimpses of a restored whole person more incredible than anything we could ever hope for. It’s a long, arduous battle fighting the teenage disease, but with love, patience, prayer, and lots of pizza, we always win.