Ok guys. (And girls. Oh who am I kidding, mostly girls.). It’s time to talk about something serious for once. Something tragic and heart-wrenching and life-altering and emotionally exhausting and physically overwhelming.
I am talking, of course, about the very sensitive subject of… parenting teenagers. (What?? What did you think I was going to talk about??)
I am almost done with parenting my second child through adolescence. No, no, that sentence should in no way be read to imply that I am almost done parenting. It’s just the adolescence part that ends soon. My second child is turning 18 in a few months. And as we all know, the magical thing that happens after adolescence is that your child has matured into a responsible adult and leaves home the day after he turns 18, shaking your hand on the way out the door and saying “Good job, mother, I’ll be on my way to my Fully Planned Out Well Balanced Life now. Thanks so much for all your hard work, I will of course reward you for all your sacrifices by keeping in touch on a regular basis, having meaningful conversations with you when we meet for coffee every week so that I can tell you everything that’s going on in my Wonderful Successful Life, and thanking you in my acceptance speech when I receive my Nobel Prize or Academy Award.”
But since we are still a few months off before all that happens, I would like to share a few thoughts on the parenting experience as it pertains to the ages of 12 to 18.
For those of you who still have kids younger than this age group, don’t worry, it’s really not that bad. For those of you who have kids past this age group, get up off the floor, it’s not polite to roll around laughing like that. Yeah, yeah, we know it really actually IS that bad, but there’s not much point telling them, is there? It’s not like they can change anything about it, it’s too late now. And besides, they are still in that phase where they think “It won’t happen to me. I have a connection with my kids. I have a plan. I have read parenting books, taken a class, thought it over, talked to the Dalai Lama and well, I just know it will be different for me!”
Come on now, up off that floor! It’s just rude. Let them have their dreams. There’s plenty of time for the “I told you so”s later.
There’s really only one foolproof way to make sure you don’t struggle through the teenage years as a parent… Don’t have kids. But if you are reading this, chances are you have already created a little bundle of joy, maybe even more than one, and he or she is running around right now being cute and cuddly and asking “but why?” a million times and you think the worst of your struggles are the middle of the night nightmares, the stomach flu and the constant interruptions until you get used to repeating the beginnings of sentences several times.
But no. Well, actually, yes. Middle of the night nightmares with teenagers: check. Only it’s you having the nightmare, and you’re wide awake, in the middle of the night, standing next to the window, eyes darting back and forth from your mobile phone to the road outside because your teen isn’t home yet. And isn’t answering his phone. And should have been home 20 minutes ago. Which isn’t so bad in the “real world” because people are often 20 minutes late for appointments without the rest of the world getting furious at them, but when it’s your child, it’s different. You are standing there with that wonderful mix of feelings that is a cross between loving them so much you are literally aching to see them walk around the corner and being so angry you will probably ground them until three weeks after they turn 30.
Stomach flu with a young child compares nicely with that moment when one of your kids’ friends brings him home drunk. ‘Nuff said. And you thank the friend for having the presence of mind and decency to get him home. And the next day you find out it was the friend who brought the booze.
Constant interruptions? Slightly different twist to that one. Conversation with teen:
I walk into his room and say “Is tomorrow the day of your math test?”
Teen, looking at his computer. “Hahahahahaha. “ Looks at me: “What?”
Me: “Have you studied for your math test?”
Teen, looks at me: “Math test?” Looks back at his computer, which has beeped 3 times. Says “Yeah right!” to it and types something very quickly. Looks back at me with a blank expression.
Me: “Don’t you have a math test tomorrow?”
Teen, having picked up his mobile phone and reading something. Holds up one finger and says: “Just one….” And texts quickly while looking serious. Then looks up and stares at me with a blank expression.
Me: “Seriously, are you ready for your math test?”
Teen, puts down his phone and replies to the beeping computer while mumbling.
Me: “I found 50 dollars, would you like it?”
Teen, stand up, faces me, fully focused, at attention, staring directly into my eyes: “Really? Are you serious?”
Me: “No, now what about math??”
Teen: “What math?”
So you see, it’s not really that bad.
On the plus side my son recently made a Spotify list on his account entitled “Songs Mom Might Like”. For those of you who don’t have teens yet, that is an enormous compliment. It means my son thinks I might have taste, or at least i could be influenced to have taste, and especially, he thinks I have enough computer savvy to use Spotify! It doesn’t get much better than that!!