on loving a teenager

October 10th, 2012

They love us in a different way.

I said that when someone asked what it was like to have a teenager.

I feel like we’ve lost a daughter.

My husband said that after a silent and inconsequential Sunday.

Just shut up.

I said that to her after a ride in the car yesterday.

And yet, there is love, so much love between us and it has gone nowhere! I am standing on the high bluff over death valley, infinite openness in all directions, stunned dumb in the emptiness, but I know the space before me is pure love. Pure love. Life grows here, even when we can’t see it. Refreshed in a cool night, fed by invisible rivulets. A whisper of sea sails five hundred miles across five mountain ranges, and the whisper is this.

They love us in a different way.

They love us in the space, the space that is nothing but love.

Love is not a feeling, not a thought, nothing given or got, not more or less. Not a precaution or warning, not a push or a prod. Not a reminder, not a teaching, not a performance. Love is not what I say and not what you hear. Not how was school how was the test what about homework what are you wearing wash your face eat your dinner pick up your shoes I don’t like her him that when if what did you do what did you say what about your terrible wonderful failure success happiness sadness what about me what about me what about me?

Love is the space between us. There is so much space.

What will you put into that space today, I ask myself before I hear the roar of my own echo.

Just shut up.

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  1. I’m printing this off and putting it in Momma Zen so I can re-read it in, oh, about 7 years. Although it also comes in handy today.

    Comment by Kathryn — October 10, 2012 @ 8:03 am

  2. They teach it to us from the first moment, Kathryn, but this is the final exam.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — October 10, 2012 @ 8:07 am

  3. I will try to remember this, when in 3 and 4 years my parents and I are raising teenage nieces/granddaughters and in 11 and 12 years when my daughters are teenagers. Thank you.

    Comment by Diamond Cambareri — October 10, 2012 @ 8:23 am

  4. You can try to remember, but it is also the thing that doesn’t need remembering, the thing that is most obvious when there is nothing left to do.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — October 10, 2012 @ 8:26 am

  5. Oh, this echoes deep inside of me … my daughter is just a tween, but I can see this next season on the horizon and it frankly scares me. Thanks for reminding me there is love, even in the space. xox

    Comment by Lindsey — October 10, 2012 @ 8:32 am

  6. I figured out how to share you by pasting your link on FB. No extra app needed but now all of my friends can read you words for today.

    Comment by Erin Wheatley — October 10, 2012 @ 9:02 am

  7. the door opens and closes, opens and closes but the love is always there always expanding to fill what needs filling

    Comment by carrie — October 10, 2012 @ 10:40 am

  8. Thanks so much for this, Karen Maezen Miller. Only when I shut my mouth and open my eyes, in my silence, can I really see my son with his beautiful, clear and wide open eyes. And I am reminded love is always there.

    Comment by Jen — October 10, 2012 @ 11:28 am

  9. hi Karen,
    perfect timing. this morning i was grieving for my 21 year old son who is now on the other side of the country in art school. He isn’t a ‘communicator’ long distance. Over the years, our connections happen spontaneously, when we walk the dogs or bump into each other in the kitchen.. but not easily by phone or email… and i miss him so very much. I feel this hole in my life. Your writing helps me realize that, inspite of no ‘connection’ we love each other deeply, beyond the absence of words. thank you

    Comment by ellie — October 10, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

  10. A prose poem, and all that is unsaid here is as powerful as the words you do choose to use. Love is in the spaces. And these days, I mother by faith. Thank you for this Maezen. (Suspect there will be plenty more silent, inconsequential days ahead.)

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — October 10, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

  11. Oh, my goodness. I laughed here like the buddha, so happy to read it. It made me want to cry, too,– all that space between us, waiting to be filled with love.

    I adore this and and thank you for passing it all along.

    Comment by Elizabeth Aquino — October 10, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

  12. She may be ten, but I am already raising a teenager, who fell apart this morning, insistent that what she needed was a quiet day of rest at home until I finally surrendered. She just called from her room down the hall, “Are you ok?” when she heard me sitting here, in a strange kitchen, at a familiar table, crying. The space, indeed. Thank you.

    Comment by Jena — October 11, 2012 @ 6:43 am

  13. Yes, they love us in a different way. Different from when she was little and thought I knew it all. Different from when she fell and skinned her knee and my kiss healed it. Different from when she held my hand to cross the street. But I’m happy to know that she still loves me. Even if it’s different.

    Comment by Tracey — October 11, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

  14. Thank you for this. To me, this age spam seems so distant, but I know my kindergartner will be 13 one day 🙂

    Comment by anna — October 11, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

  15. This phase is not for the weak of heart. I too have a 13-year-old. Do your arms not just ache for your babies sometimes? I actually voiced this to my daughter the other day, and then at bedtime got a hug a little longer than usual (small pleasures:).I sit now, as my 13-year-old does homework at the dining table, my 11-year-old just got off the phone from an hour-long conversation with a friend…and I feel the love in the spaces…

    Comment by Kirsten — October 11, 2012 @ 2:27 pm

  16. Today I read a poem called Packing the Car by Lee Crosfield and cried. Tonight, I read this and cry again. Both happy and sad tears. Much like the space I supoose- a space created by both the pushing away and the pulling close. Deep breaths as my first little girl enters this world of tween-ness. Just a preview and already daunting.

    Comment by Stacey — October 11, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

  17. This is beautiful, and just what I needed to read this morning. Blessings to you, my cyber-teacher!

    Comment by Pamela Gottfried — October 12, 2012 @ 4:10 am

  18. Oh my deep goodness, Maezen.
    Given my last comment to your post a few days back, about a fresh start…this speaks to that something I so deeply intuited – something I didn’t even really, fully get until you gave words to it – something that so many of us are afraid of – that space that is love.
    Thank you, so deeply.

    Comment by Katharine — October 12, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

  19. Karen, thank you. One son has grown into adulthood. There are now three teen sons and one of them will not ever again live at home. The space that is love…

    Please, the space that is love, be.

    Comment by melody — October 12, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

  20. Hauntingly beautiful.

    Comment by Crystine — October 13, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

  21. thank you
    i nod
    thank you
    i write
    thank you
    thank you

    sometimes i walk into the space and sometimes out of it
    when things got terse and tense and tough with my 9 year old,
    i decided to listen

    and i say to myself, oh so often these days,
    “denise, keep your mouth shut”.

    it helps.

    as do your lyrical words, laden with wisdom, dear teacher.
    thank you.

    Comment by denise — October 17, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

  22. I just wrote about my 13 year old and something similar…. About the space that grows in the teen years and the helplessness I sometimes feel to even offer assistance, though I am sitting right beside him.

    They don’t write about this in the baby books, do they?

    Comment by tracey — November 5, 2012 @ 6:20 am

  23. Oh yeah.

    Comment by Diane — February 17, 2016 @ 3:20 pm

  24. Thank you so much for this post. I love it and it resonates deeply with me. I can feel this next stage has arrived with my daughter and sometimes I find myself trying hard to hold on to what we had and who she was. Thank you for reminding us that the love is still/already there and that we don’t need to try to hold on – we just need to open up, as this love is unconditional.
    Sometimes I find myself telling my daughter off or putting her in her place, but it never feels good. Slowly I’m learning that although it is difficult to let go of my inner struggle and to suspend judgement, it feels much better to ‘shut up’ and to listen and be there for her. What helps me to stop withdrawing into my head and to keep my heart open is to reach out for her. I like to give her a hug and to let her know she’s loved and I’m here for her. Not easy but worth it.
    Your post has helped me to see this process more clearly. So thank you. Be well.

    Comment by Ann — February 18, 2016 @ 9:04 am

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