Building a Bookcase: Are you Mom Enough?

May 14, 2012   //   by admin   //   KMT Blog  //  1 Comment

Have you ever tried building a bookcase with your teenager?  Picture it: using a hammer, screwdriver, nails, wooden plugs, screws and all the necessary tools – sounds disastrous. At least, that is what I thought when I decided to work alongside my teenage son to assemble bookshelves for my home office.

To prepare, I didn’t approach him. I gave him the lead to ask for what he wanted in his new assistant. He invited me into his space and provided instructions as to what my role would be to complete the task.  Knowing that neither he nor I have ever put together any kind of furniture, much less trying to do it together, I knew it would either be an accomplishment for both of us or an attitude of will, leading to referees being called in to save the furniture meltdown.

As he took the instructions from the box and began separating the long from the short pieces, the screws from the nuts and bolts and putting in place the appropriate tools to assemble the job, I had a feeling that half the battle was already won.  He taught me what a star head was and that I would need a Philips screwdriver. I did not know what a metal wash was, but quickly learned that it supports the screw (holds it in place).  As my lesson continued, I could hear joy in my son’s voice; the joy of having a partner in the process not an enforcer or dictator just waiting to take over if he messed up.  Instead, there was laughter, high-fives, positive words of encouragement along with the lifting, measuring and banging of wooden pieces slowly shaping into a bookshelf.

Many of you may be wondering what is so important about building a bookcase with your teenager. Well, it was one of our most fulfilling bonding experiences. I would encourage any parent of a teenager to try building something with them and allow them the opportunity to lead.  My teenager guided me through something that was uncommon for both of us. An opportunity such as this allows them to see that, as parents, we are not perfect and that we are interested in learning, growing and connecting.

Now I am not saying it has to be a bookcase, but try doing something that allows them to lead and you to follow. Try some activity where they guide you through the steps from concept to completion, where they are able to teach you an unfamiliar task. If something messes up, provide words of encouragement, let them know you are in it for the long haul, and time is not a factor as you are committed to seeing the task through to the very end.

Cherished moments occur along the journey. One of ours was when one of the wooden plugs got stuck to the corner slab of the shelf as it was positioned incorrectly. We had to remove it or the bookshelf would be unstable. We pulled and pulled. I gave up as it seemed easier, but my son continued to wiggle, pull and wiggle, pull and wiggle some more. I was not sure what his motivation was:  the need to impress his mother or his determination to complete the task? Then I realised that this was not about the bookshelf, but his desire to make me proud and share with me his will power and perseverance. After the wooden plug was finally dislodged, after all the high-fives, words of encouragement and smiles, I could see pride and accomplishment on my teenager’s face. Pride that he fixed the problem and accomplishment that he did it himself.

As we continued nailing, lifting and measuring our way through, the conversation and communication flowed, laughter ensued and when I heard my son say to his mother, “mom you are enough”, I knew that the boy who one day will turn into a man still believes that I have value in his life.  As I swallowed the lump in my throat, I looked at my once small baby and saw a budding father, nurturer, encourager, protector but most of all I saw my boy becoming a man.

I realized that everything teenagers put us parents through and the hectic lives we live (and God knows they don’t always do what we expect them do or become) at the end of any task and every journey, all they really want is approval and respect.

To all the mothers of teenagers (birth, adopted, acquired or otherwise) let me encourage you to stay steadfast in the journey with your teenagers as they still need us to the very end.

Happy Mother’s Day to All!

Share your Mother’s Day story – let’s communicate.

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