The pimples. The awkward body changes. The excruciatingly unbearable insecurities. The anxiety attacks on Sunday nights before school. The hot, angry tears shed because a cute boy didn’t like me and some kid made fun of the way I look.
This was my life from age 11 until about 16. I don’t look back on that part of my life too fondly. In fact, I can safely say I wouldn’t go back to repeat it again if someone paid me a million dollars.
I was always a happy, creative child. But when I hit my pre-teen and teenage years all my hopes and dreams of what I wanted to be like when I got older were capsized by worrying about my perpetually oily skin, acne, feeling like an outcast at school, and sinking into a somewhat morbid depression.
So, now that I have an actual almost teenager in the house and another child who is 5 going on 16, I’m starting to wonder how on earth I’m going to get them through their teenage years in a positive and inspiring way when that part of my own life left almost everything to be desired.
I know there are adults out there who look back at their old junior high or high school yearbooks and smile. They had a good time during that part of their lives. I admire them. They were probably involved in sports, after school clubs, and had lots of friends. They were engaged in their teenage lives. It doesn’t mean they didn’t have any problems. But they made a great effort. I didn’t.
So how do I foster a relatively healthy attitude in our children as they approach the teenage years when all I feel is dread looking back on that time?
How do I guide our kids through the devastating emotions that the teen years can bring? How do I prevent my stepson from falling into a pit of darkness when a girl he likes rejects him or a friend he trusts betrays him? How do I make sure my daughter doesn’t alienate herself socially or become obsessed with her appearance and weight?
The truth is, I can’t stop any of those things from happening. More than likely, at least one of those scenarios is going to happen no matter how much I try to educate or love our kids.
Once children begin their journey into adulthood, they first have to walk through that path of raging fire which is becoming a teenager. All parents can do sometimes is just cringe with one eye open, hoping and praying their children don’t burn themselves too badly on the way out.
We all have our own burn scars to show for that vulnerable time in our lives — some more than others.
I would be remiss not to warn our children that once they start puberty and beyond the world may seem like an unfair, dark, and uncompromising place. But I also need to let them know that, as a teenager, the world will also be full of new independence, first loves, unbridled laughter, self-discovery, and pure glee.
Just because I didn’t have the most pleasant teenage experience doesn’t mean our children won’t actually enjoy theirs. While I may prepare for the worst and hope for the best, at the end of the day our children are on their own journey.
Teenagers can be all at once impulsive, endearing, reckless, sweet, ungrateful, disarming, passionate, depressed, creative, angry, loving, selfish, and full of hope. They are continually molding themselves into the adults they’ll eventually become.
I cannot tell our kids what the teenage years will be like for them. I can’t control how they will react or engage in any given situation. I can only arm them with as much support from the adults in their lives as humanly possible.
Despite my own grievances about being a teenager I realize that I shouldn’t project my own troubled experiences onto our kids. All I can do is be there for them and have absolute faith that our kids will make it through the fire.
More from Michelle: How To Finally Stop Body Shaming & Mind Your Own Body Business