Parents need mentors, too

In the last few years, I’ve learned to appreciate the role of a mentor. At work I have a mentor who has helped me make the transition from the newspaper world to the world of higher education.

And I have parenting mentors — those people who have kids older than mine and who assure me that I will survive these tween and teen years.

These mentors didn’t have perfect kids. They tell me horror stories about their children sneaking out at night or doing poorly in school. Yet somehow those kids turned into law-abiding, productive adults. These parents have something I don’t have: perspective.

Recently, I confessed to one of my parenting mentors that I sometimes just hate my kids. This was after my older son had driven to school with my car keys, leaving me stranded and unable to get to work. I had to call the school, get my son out of class, and demand that he come home so I could have my keys back.

This was just a day after my younger son had acted oblivious when I asked him about a homework assignment that I found in his binder. He swore he didn’t know how the assignment got there.

My friend assured me that he used to go weeks hardly speaking to his teenage son because he was so exasperated by the teen's behavior. Now his son is a successful professional with a wife and child of his own.

My friend laughs with his son about those incidents that at the time made him so angry.

One day, I suppose, my son and I will laugh about the day he took my keys. It isn’t today, but my mentor gives me hope that it will happen someday.

Liz Atwood is a former Baltimore Sun features editor who teaches journalism at Hood College. She is the mother of two sons, ages 12 and 16.

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