If someone was to ask me which stage of raising children was the hardest my answer would always be the same ... "whatever age they are right now" I would say. I look back and remember thinking how I couldn't wait for each stage to be over. Now that they are almost 20 and 18 I have finally realised that each stage is designed to ease you into the next harder stage.
I think the last year has by far been the hardest stage for me and my boys. I say this even after some stages have included drugs, wagging school, alcohol, shoplifting, bad tempers, stitches, broken arms x 4 and various other "interesting" moments! We won't even talk about sex. Nope let's leave the sex for another day!
It sounds a lot like my boys have been left to run feral without any discipline or supervision. To be totally honest, on some days they were. Some days it was just too hard to be the boss. It was too hard to deal with the fights. It was too hard to be tough.
A popular saying is "small children ... small problems; bigger children ... bigger problems". This has never rang truer for me than now. When your children are younger their problems are easier to fix. You have more control over their actions and how to direct them in the future. As they get older, not so. They are full of hormones and attitude and are trying to find their own space in the world. They don't want to be controlled ... they want to be in charge of their own destiny. This is normal. This is meant to happen. As a parent, I found this part difficult to deal with. The time when your child, the one who thinks you are way cooler than anyone, suddenly realises you aren't that perfect. This is a moment of truth for parents. This is a defining moment in your ongoing relationship with your child.
When I look back over 20 years of parenting, I initially think there would be some things I'd change, but then when I delve deeper I know that I wouldn't have been able to. When you bring up teenagers in a home where they don't live with both their mum and dad and they have "step others" involved in the parenting process, it opens up a whole new world of parenting pain. Everyone involved has the best of intentions, but they do not always translate.
We faced all kinds of difficulties, clashes of personalities, battles of will and anything else in between. The way I parented was different to how I would have parented had our family remained in tact, I had no choice in that. Rather than being a strict parent and making rules and ensuring they are followed, I was more like a boundary rider. Keeping everything calm, ignoring things that should have been addressed for the sake of keeping the peace.
Despite the rocky road, I'm now watching my boys grow into men who I am proud of. They are kind, loving, decent and both have hearts of gold - that said they still have not so nice teenage traits, which I'm led to believe hang around until they are at least 25!
Both my boys still kiss me morning and night, as well as their step father, and they still tell me they love me every single day. They talk to me about their problems and they tell me about things that happen in their life. This is my true measure of whether or not I've done a good job. What's yours?