Connect With Me: A Premiere Season in Mothering Teens

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Learn about Connect With Me, a program developed by the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services to strengthen the bond between parents and their kids.

It was 7.23 pm on a Wednesday and, for the third time, the whole house heard my impatient and angry voice as I asked my teenager, again: “Can you please come upstairs, take a shower, and set the table?”. The day had been long. One of my children was ill, another had demanded extra time to study math, shoes and Legos were scattered across the floor, the roast in the oven was starting to get cold, and I just wanted my teenager to listen to me (for the third time) and come upstairs.

My child, who was once a baby that only slept on my lap, a toddler whose wounds only healed with a kiss from me, and a child who only ate my lasagna, is now a teenager demarcating his own territory. You, my teenager, were the first to steal my heart, and now you seem to want to return my most emotional organ, and you want me to pay you back by staying silent. Not upsetting you. Not calling you for dinner. Not forcing you to go on family outings. My love, I know you still want me with you, but you want me now to keep at a distance, without risk of compromise.

Being a teen is tough. It can be one of the most demanding, confusing, and dramatic phases of a person’s life. But being a mother to a teenager is not easier. We don’t have acne, but we have gaps. We are not challenging ourselves at Tik Tok, but we do contortion acts in the shadows, so that we won’t be seen while listening to everything. We don’t communicate in emoji idioms, but we identify every accent of their moods.

I still don’t know how to be the mother of a teenager, I am going through this process for the first time, but I know that I have to be well prepared and equipped with the best tools. One day, while researching some literature related to this topic, I came across the project Connect with Me, from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Connect with Me cards are a great tool to strengthen connections and help start meaningful conversations between youth and adults. I truly believe that in this journey of teenage-hood and motherhood, communication is key. These cards work as conversation starters and make an approach to several important subjects, sometimes in a subtle way, other in a more explicit (but it will always be your choice to use, or not use, some cards). We have been using these cards at dinner time (not every day, maybe twice a week), and it has been such a good time of connection.

The Connect With Me cards are free, and you just have to fill an order on the website:

https://health.mo.gov/living/families/connectwithme/cards.php

It has been funny, deep, and rewarding, but most of all, it has been a time when we reunite and reconnect. We are both learning, but together it gets so much easier.

My sweet teenager, you were one of the best things that happened to me, and I will always cry for you, be angry with you, and call you to come to the table to have dinner with me. You are my son, no matter how old you grow, whether you are potty training or the chief executive officer of a multinational company, I will always be your mother. 

I will always be here to connect with you, and waiting for the day when you come back, wanting to connect with me again.

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Maria Ines Goncalves is yet another Portuguese mom named Maria (like most of the women in Portugal), but now she is a Portuguese mom in the USA. Born in Portugal, Maria graduated with a degree in Political Science and believed she was not ready for motherhood, wanting to pursue her career and travel the world, although not wanting to live overseas. Guess what? She turned into a stay-at-home-mom of three (2007, 2010 and 2018) and moved to St. Louis due to her husband's job in 2017. Changes are a pattern in her life and, when she’s not adjusting to another life change, she loves to dance, bake, photograph, sew, draw and paint with the kids. But mainly she loves to enjoy the beauty and craziness of motherhood, her real and most precious purpose in life.