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The Note I Was Scared To Slip Inside My Kid's Lunch Box

What was I thinking?

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Lunch, aarp, girlfriend, mother
Kimberlie Clinthorne-Wong
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Dear Teen,

I have a confession: I have no clue how to parent you. I am really very good at parenting through the middle-school years, and even better during the early, elementary years. Infancy and toddlerhood? Well, I was kind of lost, but I faked it until I made it, and when in doubt, I made funny faces, stuck out my tongue and made fart noises until you had no choice but to laugh.

But now? Now you’re suddenly a miniadult. You are finding your way and gaining independence, and that is exactly where you should be at 15 years old.

But where should I be? Should I stand close by or stay far away? Should I keep asking questions until you engage or should I respect your silence? Should I ask about your classes or keep my mouth shut and just keep checking the grading portal on my own? I have this idea that there is a right and wrong way to parent a high school student, but, somehow, I never received the instruction manual.

I am trying too hard, I know that much. I am so fearful of pushing you away that I am constantly anxious. I want you to be independent, but I sure as hell don’t want to lose you. Not yet. This is too soon. Too quick. Too unexpected. And you are only 15.

I also know exactly who I want to be as a mom. I want to be the mom who manifests the perfect balance between friend and parent. I want you to feel comfortable enough to call me if you are ever in trouble, yet strict enough that you don’t pull any s**t under my roof. I want to be the mom you talk to about everything and the mom whose bed you climb into when you have a broken heart. I want you to feel safe with me and be 100 percent sure that no matter what, I love you.

I just don’t know how to be her. I overthink. I get anxious. I feel confused. You are pushing me away, and I am falling back. I am taking your lead, but perhaps that is where I am wrong. I can sense that my falling back is based in my fear. Maybe I should stop being so afraid. Maybe it isn’t about your reaction or your response at all. Perhaps I have to love you like I always have — quirks and all — and ask you about your day, and be silly and stick out my tongue and make fart noises until you laugh, or until you storm off to your bedroom. Maybe that is OK.

There are a whole lot of things I don’t know, but there is one very important thing that I am certain of: You are doing an amazing job, and I am so very proud of you. I see you making good decisions, being kind, working hard in classes and sports — and doing it all with an amazing attitude. You are strong, beautiful and talented, and you are a great role model for your siblings.

Be patient with me as I try to become the mother I want to be for you, and know that I am still learning.

Here is another thing I am certain of: I love you. And another: You’ll never be too old for me to tell you that, even via your lunch box. I have been giving your younger siblings lunch-box “I love you” notes all year long, but I stopped putting them in yours. Why? Obviously because you are too old for them. I mean, come on, you would be so embarrassed, right? Trust me, as a mom, I knew better than to give you a juvenile lunch-box note.

What was I thinking? You are never too old for an unexpected “I love you.” I need to stop falling back. You can push me away because that is what you are supposed to do. But I am a mom, and I am supposed to keep loving you. I am your mom, and I will always keep loving you. Hell, it is kind of par for the course that moms embarrass their teens, isn’t it?

So, here it goes … I am slipping this note into your lunch box. To be honest, I am a little scared. I am scared that at the end of the day I will get a “Mooooooom, why did you do that?” Scared that it may fall out in front of your friends, who will laugh and point and make fun of the girl whose mom still writes her lunch-box notes. Scared that you may pull away from me for a minute, or for 30, after school today. I am doing it anyway, because I do love you. So freaking much, actually, and I hope I never second-guess telling you or showing you that ever again.

So from now on, no more falling back. If I fall, I want it to be out of love rather than fear: making a fool of myself as I try to get you to laugh; looking like an uncool mom sending you lunch-box notes; tolerating your very natural pulling away while I stay close. Because although you may feel that you’re too old for an “I love you” note, I don’t want to ever again be too afraid to give it.

I love you,