The Totally Real Stress of Being a Teen

Like most people my age, especially those who are parents, my life is controlled chaos. Every day requires multitasking through each hour, often needing to be in more than one place at a time. I am almost continually plugged in as I check email, follow twitter and facebook, and manage phone calls, all while trying to write and get some laundry done. This summer, my mind was so occupied with working out a problem that I went to pick up my son, drove past the building he was in instead of parking, and started home without ever picking him up. I was a mile away before I realized I had missed the whole reason I was driving. My son still makes fun of me for forgetting him, even temporarily.
My life is stressful, demanding, and uncertain. I never know when an emergency room visit for one of my kids will rear its ugly head or what changes to my schedule my family has in store for me as they regularly text me their demands for pick up and drop offs.
I often wish I could be my kids, sitting on the sofa watching a movie or playing a game, having a mom who spoils me.
This past week, however, I have begun to reevaluate this wish as my oldest child enters tenth grade. The pressure is on.

My son loves hockey. Not in a “I’m happy to sit on the sofa and watch the Pens” kind of way, but in a “This is the only dream that means anything to me” kind of way. His dad and I don’t need him to be in the NHL someday. I’m not sure I would even want that for him. But it is exactly what my son wants and he works really hard to get it. Maybe harder than I’ve ever worked at anything besides being a mom. He plays sick, he plays hurt. He gets up early for practices or games and stays up late for practices and games, only to have to go to school the next morning. He takes any chance he can to be on the ice: going to stick time, helping with his younger sister’s team, volunteering to help with the local sled hockey team, and practicing with the local junior team any time they ask him even though he’s too young to be on it. So, naturally, he wants to go to a D1 hockey college.
We have begun looking at D1 programs. There are some exceptional schools to aim for: Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Colgate, Notre Dame, and the list goes on from there. The rules governing when and how a school can talk to a student athlete are daunting. The recruiting forms for student athletes to fill out for these schools are intimidating (other sports? Really? Between the hours of 0200-0400?) The SAT scores needed to get into a great school are impressive. And then, of course, there are grades. The telescopic lens of every college my son will want to apply to is now squarely aimed at his GPA. My learning disabled fifteen-year-old is still putting together what works for him and what doesn’t. But he can no longer afford to make any mistakes. He can no longer afford to slack off, drop the ball, or be a teenager who wants to tune out for a while. The rest of his life will be determined by his performance, academically, socially, and athletically, in the next three years. Is this an overstatement? To some degree, yes. But the reality of the situation is, these are some of the most important years of his life. Make or break years. Years that determine your future options, at least initially. Yes, you have to perform once you get to that great college or graduate school. But those initial choices are all riding on the next three years. Even though he’s only fifteen. Even though his frontal lobe won’t be fully developed for another ten years. Even though he doesn’t know what he wants to major in (since hockey isn’t actually a major), or work in (because even if you’re Sidney Crosby, you should have a back up plan for when you aren’t playing anymore).
Suddenly, being a carefree teen doesn’t seem so appealing because dating, acne, and everyone around you gossiping endlessly aren’t the real things a teen has to stress over. What they really need to stress over is that little item called “the rest of your life.”

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