“A cactus?” I hear you cry. No, cheeky. I can be prickly but the actual type of plant is not in question here. I just am. A potted plant sits in its pot and it’s just, well, there. It doesn’t do anything -some flower, some have big leaves, some have long spidery bits that dangle down, but that doesn’t matter. The point is that the plant is there.
I read an article yesterday (I like reading articles about teenagers and how to deal with them. I think that forewarned is forearmed and I need all the help I can get) about teens and what they need from parents. Money? Well, yes of course that is the main one, but we’re talking emotions here. What do they need emotionally from their parents? To shout at them sometimes? to slam doors in their faces? to make them feel like the worst parents in the world? No, they just need us to be around. Like a potted plant, not saying anything, not doing anything; just being there.
This article centred around a study of teens and their parents work patterns and the effect this has on their emotional well being. It all sounds a bit touchy feely and I am not stupid – I do take a lot of what I read with a large pinch of salt because we can all read into these studies what we want to and make them fit our own outlooks and lives so that we don’t feel that we should start wearing a hairshirt because clearly we are the worst parents ever because we don’t do A, B or C. Anyway, back to the study. The teens involved were reported to say that they didn’t really want much from their parents, they get a lot of their emotional support from their peers, but they just want to know that their parents are around and available if they should need them. It also said that some parents are baffled when their teen comes into the living room and flops down on the sofa, sits for a few minutes not saying much maybe just looking at their phone or chat for a few minutes before buggering off upstairs again. This happens to us a lot. And it is a bit baffling really. I always feel bad when T goes back to his room, worrying that I should have instigated a conversation, engaged him in some way or, when I have tried to do so, he goes anyway and clearly I failed some test. But apparently they are just “checking in”. They just want to know that we are there and that we are available to chat if they want to, even if they don’t want to. It’s not a test; it’s not an opportunity to start a massive discussion; they don’t actually want anything from us. Phew! What a relief.
It went on to say that even where parents work full time, it’s not a disaster. Phew again. It is not important for parents to be there ALL THE TIME (this is where the potted plant analogy falls down a little – a plant doesn’t nip out to the pub, as far as I am aware) but so long as the teen knows they will be there at some point and available then they adapt to that. Being around at dinner time, eating together more often that not – ALL GOOD. Being there every day when they come home from school – not essential, as they really only want food and normally do not want to talk about their day until later on, probably dinner time.This makes sense. I work from home 2 days a week so I am there when they get dropped off from school and on the days when I am in the office I pick the kids up from school so am home with them from that point on too. But I don’t see them. We don’t talk (at least not very often and my enquiries about their days are generally met with “alright” unless some drama has kicked off). They get some food, they sometimes make me a cup of tea and then they disappear off to their rooms only to emerge again when I shout them down to lay the table for dinner. Sometimes they chat over dinner. Sometimes they wolf their food down whilst barely making eye contact with anything other than their plate and then they’re off upstairs without so much as a “that was nice thanks”. IT’S ALL QUITE NORMAL.
So, I am a potted plant. I am here, I am available just in case. Please water me occasionally and pick off my dead leaves. (Ok that last bit was slightly weird, ignore me.)