I lost the instruction manual. You know, the one the hand you when you have kids (or in my case, adopt kids), with a chapter on what you should expect at each age. What problems you might encounter. How you should respond.
I used the manual when I needed to talk to little league football coaches. Because even though I am a really strong, capable woman, talking to male coaches kind of feels like a dad job. But we don't have a dad at our house. So I consulted the manual and I did ok.
I used it when the boys started middle school. Such a weird age. Kids growing into themselves. Struggling to fit their new bodies. Trying on new personalities. Preying on each other. Sometimes being just plain mean. I used my manual those days when I picked up my guys, and their shoulders were slumping, and I could tell that the world of tweendom had been just a bit much. The chapter on listening helped a lot then.
I used the manual when the boys were ready for driver's permits. I drove them to drivers' ed, handed over my keys so they could spend the day on the road course, and smiled bravely as I said, "Have a good day, sweetie." I consulted the manual again in those first days when I was driving with them. And did the best I could be quiet and let them steer their way toward independence. The chapter on keeping your mouth shut and letting kids learn from their mistakes was really good.
But now, in these last couple of months, I seem to have lost the manual. Teen #1 hates school, spends most of his time in his bedroom, seems to have lost his passion for the things he has always loved most. Teen #2 has had a girlfriend for fourteen months, a delightful young woman that I adore. When he is not with her, he plays video games online with friends. The boys talk to each other and to their friends, but not to me.
And I wish I would find that manual. I need the chapter on how to advise your fifteen year old about his girlfriend, who now has his last name as hers on his facebook page. And the one that tells you what to do to support your teenager as he prepares for his senior year and leaving home. And the one that tells you how to talk to them when they respond with little more than monosyllables and grunts. I really need that manual. Because I miss my guys.