7 Universal Truths About Raising Teenagers
I don’t have babies.
The other day I was lying on a lounge chair at our neighborhood pool. My friend was lying on the chair next to me. We were chatting and flipping through magazines. A toddler ran by us, her harried mother on her heels, scooping the child up before she reached the pool’s edge.
My friend and I both let out little gasps over the cuteness of the baby– her chubby thighs, her pink polka dot bathing suit, her blond hair curling at the back of her neck. Then we went back to our magazines. As the toddler ran by squealing again, determined it would seem to launch herself into the swimming pool, my friend turned to me, “I am so glad I don’t have one of those anymore.”
My youngest is going to kindergarten this year. My oldest is in highschool. They all sleep through the night. I don’t have to wipe any butts other than my own. They can dress themselves. They can feed themselves. They can get themselves into the car without help.
This year marked the first time that everyone can swim proficiently. Going to the pool is now just as relaxing for me as it is for them. I no longer need to be within arms reach of anyone. I no longer count, and recount, bobbing heads in the water.
As I lay there enjoying my delicious freedom, my phone rang. One of my teenagers was calling. I spent five minutes in intense negotiations with him, before hanging up. I turned to my friend who was laughing in commiseration.
“Some days I think chasing a toddler around the pool’s edge would be less exhausting than parenting older kids.”
“That is because there is no gray area with them. That mother has one focus here, to keep her baby out of that pool. And so she chases her back and forth. At the end of the day she will feel accomplished, you know, her baby is still alive. Big kids? Who knows where the edge of that pool is. Sometimes I worry I am not even paying attention to the right things.”
Me too. Oh yeah there is still a pool, its edges are just undefined.
But I have learned things being a parent to older kids. I present to you these 7 Universal Truths about parenting teenagers.
1) Teenage brains do not work properly.
I am pretty sure that there is scientific evidence to support this assertion.
Do you remember back to before you became a parent? Remember all of those ideas you had? Remember how you thought you were going to be the perfect parent to the perfect baby?
Then you had that baby and realized that you in fact knew nothing. Remember?
That is exactly what raising teenagers is like. Except that unlike parenting babies, teenagers point out to you the fact that you know nothing.
Before I had teenagers I thought I would be the most empathetic parent. I would understand my teens in a way my parents never did. I would be the cool mom. My kids would share everything with me and hang on my every word. My advice would fall upon them like it was manna from the sky, welcomed with open arms.
Then, my kids grew. I had teenagers.
One day I stood there listening to them and I had an epiphinal moment. And that epiphanal moment was not one where I felt a kinship with my teen over having been misunderstood 20 years ago. No, it was a moment of realization that teens, by their very nature, are out of their minds. And that once upon a time I was one also.
2) You will decide to pick your battles.
Those absolutes you held onto? Your line in the sand?
All those ideas I had about only feeding my kids healthy, organically grown food? I had a special food mill, for crying out loud. Yeah, teenagers eat a lot of food. I am almost almost embarrassed by my grocery cart and live in fear that Jamie Oliver is suddenly going to pop up in front of me and yell at me. I will only be able to point weakly at the organic fruit at the bottom of the cart that is in danger of being crushed by all the boxes of frozen pizza.
3) There is a reason they have grown bigger and stronger than you.
It is a survival mechanism. Face it, they are just too big for you to bury the body alone.
4) You will want to turn everything into a life lesson.
Resist the urge.
Most of the time the best thing you can do is listen to their stories, laugh with them, and make a mental note to call your own parents, because in spite of what you think, you were exactly the same.
5) You will question your sanity.
I am not proud of this fact. One day last week I yelled at my teenage son.
No, there is more. I stood on a chair in my kitchen to yell at him. In my defense, if there could be such a thing, I wanted to be at his eye level. Just so you know? Standing on the chair did not give me the air of authority I desired. Unless people laugh at authority figures? Yes, that must be it.
6) You will hear your own parents voice coming out of your mouth.
At times it will shock you. Other times it will feel perfect, like you are reciting out of the Parenting Handbook you somehow were never issued. When your kid says, “Everyone else is doing it,” what else are you supposed to do but invoke the Brooklyn Bridge?
7) They will make you laugh in spite of yourself.
Today I was driving my son to his friend’s house and I was a little annoyed. I had spent the morning criss crossing the city, but my son waited until I was home and working to ask for a ride to his friend’s house. As I went on with my lecture about being considerate, my son turned me and said, “You know, you really should cherish these moments. Soon enough I will be gone. Then what will you do?”
What will I do when that day comes? I will be thankful I successfully navigated the edge of the pool.Published July 21, 2010. Last updated June 24, 2018.