By Lisa James
Where do I begin to tell the story of my journey as a parent?
We all have our own personal memories of good and bad times, experiences we will never forget and even some we may wish to forget. But there are shared moments as parents, we can all relate to.
I think back to my son’s first day. That cute little boy, with a gigantic school bag and socks above his knees.
The emotion of that farewell on his first day and then seeing him off to high school, is no different to the emotion of the final farewell, seeing him leave school and off to adulthood.
They are ‘bittersweet’ moments. Sadness at the loss of those younger years, excitement for his new experiences. Concern he may not be ready, that I haven’t prepared him for what lies ahead and hope that he will be safe and happy.
Between the ages of 13 and 18, teenage boys test our parenting skills to the limit. These teenage years are times of great change for them, physically, emotionally and socially and an exciting time of ‘firsts’.
First day of high school, first job, first date, first driving lesson, first time drinking (legally that is) and other firsts that I probably don’t want to know about!
And while I always encouraged many of these firsts, especially the driving and jobs, it isn’t easy to let go of the child in support of the young man.
As parents we experience a change in our relationship with our sons. We step back a little, leave them to find their own way, try to keep our perspective, grow a grey hair or two and supply endless cash to support a teenagers lifestyle.
I have found that you need to develop a special set of parenting skills to get you through:
- Enrol them in sport – any sport – as long as it gets them out of the house and running around
- Master the art of the ‘death stare’ – when words fail you, this always works
- Have food available at all times
- Always keep a good bottle of wine handy – for you – not them
- And lastly secretly stalk them on social media (tip – Facebook is for oldies)
On a serious note, guiding my son through high school and preparing him for his future, whatever that may be, is probably my most important job as a parent.
This job has thankfully been shared with his teachers.
It takes a special kind of teacher to navigate the challenges of educating teenage boys and to motivate them to study and for that I thank them.
High school is also more than education and exam results … from my experience it has been a place that is caring, respectful and supportive, where lifelong friendships have been made, where students begin to understand how to interact with others, where as a community the students come together and decide what issues are meaningful and important to them.
So finally, from my experience some advice to my son and others:
- Don’t leave wet towels on the bed
- Put that in the dishwasher
- Eat breakfast
- Get some sleep
- Put your phone away
I am sure you’ve heard it all before!
But from the bottom of my heart Tom, your future is waiting and while your journey may take you along many different paths, wherever you go and whatever you do, try to remember:
- To act with kindness and with manners
- To make mistakes, own up to them and move on – this will teach you a lot
- To be confident and brave enough to be yourself
- To work hard and play safe
- That you are never too old to give and receive hugs
- To laugh a lot, with others and sometimes at yourself
- That men may cry – it is a normal human reaction
- To pray for one another
- To phone your parents – Dad if you need money and Mum for everything else
I am so very proud of you. Proud of your efforts of the young man you are and the way in which you have pulled together during your final year. I wish you health, happiness, friends, good times, success and anything that you dream of and aspire to for yourself.
Whatever path you choose next, you can be certain of these things;
That although I may not be perfect, I as your parent, am proud of you, I stand beside you and I love you.
No matter where you are, I am your lighthouse. I am there in the day and in the night, I will shine a light for you in the storm and I will always guide you home.
Lisa James is the mother of Thomas James who completed his 13 years of Catholic Education at Marist College, North Shore this year.