What’s all this fuss about raising teenagers?
I find it quite thrilling. An adrenaline rush. It's a lot like living with a bomb that ticks but has no countdown clock.
Adolescents are basically mythical creatures - half child, half adult. It's as if they've been paused mid-metamorphosis. Tilt your head this way and you see the shadow of an almost beard. Tip your head that way and you see the round cheeks of a child.
They stand like giants - one foot in childhood, the other in adulthood. The catch: though they can move between these domains, they belong to neither. They are between worlds. Stateless.
This is where things get interesting. Add in a dash of hormones, a morphing body and surges of independence. Toss in a rollercoaster of emotion, a little sexual revolution and a heaping cup of invincibility and you’ve got yourself a human firework.
And who doesn’t love fireworks?
Let’s start with mornings. Ever wake a teen up before 8 a.m.? They make the most interesting noises. And that death glare is just so darn cute.
Their feet are on the stairs. Suspense snaps in the air. Who needs coffee to be on alert?
You brace (it’s all part of the fun!), wondering which self will they be today. Smiling or scowling? Groomed and buttoned up or wearing pajamas and slippers? Spine upright or slumping?
Parenting teens really adds spice to an overly regulated adult life.
You know your inner critic? The one that’s always picking on you and doubting your abilities and telling you your shirt is ugly? Well now she’s materialized into human form and standing beside you asking for your credit card.
My teens each have their own text tone. The sounds evoke a Pavlovian suspense, my body tensing in instant readiness. What will the message say?
It could be literally anything.
“Hear me out: would you let me leave school early during math and still go to practice? I don’t feel well.”
“Can you order me that hair masque from Target?”
“We’re dissecting a cow eye today. I can’t do this.”
“Can you get more ramen at the grocery store?”
“What are the last 4 digits of my social security number?”
“You just added an appointment to our calendar. Who is Dr. so and so and why am I seeing her?”
“Can I dye my hair?”
“I have a question. Please think about it before you say no.”
“What are we doing this weekend?”
“Look at my bank account!! I’ve been saving!!”
“Can so and so come over after school?”
With teens, everything is dumb until it’s amazing. Everything is terrible until it is great.
They keep you young and etch lines on your face. They eat all your food or despise what’s for dinner.
They love you. They hate you.
They need you. They want to escape you.
It’s push and pull.
It’s black and white.
It’s high and it’s low.
It’s give and take.
(No wait. It’s mostly take and take. And who doesn't need more takers in their life?)
Benefits of raising teens:
- You develop thick skin. I’m nearly bulletproof.
- You keep your negotiating skills active.
- You learn a whole new vernacular, bro.
- You never have to waste your energy on figuring out how to spend your money. THEY DO IT FOR YOU! What a service.
- You’ve taught them so well that you don’t even have to hunt for transgressions. When they drink with their friends, they leave the evidence. In the recycling bin.
- Their expertise is endless. It really takes the pressure off thinking for yourself.
- Those sleepless hours spent worrying about your teenager are great for mental acuity. Almost as brain beneficial as REM sleep.
- The relentless self-assessment - if you have made the right call, set the right limit, taught the right things – keeps you on your toes and is shown to improve job performance.
- Retrieving a plate from the cupboard is an adventure. Will it be clean or have grease smears? It’s always exciting.
Teenagers aren’t jaded by life. They do things because they are fun, rather than hoping that fun will be the inevitable outcome after all the planning and organizing. Guided by an insatiable drive for novelty, a good time or to just stretch into their independence, they aren’t dissuaded by a little thing like inconvenience, weather or how late it’s getting to be.
Drive thirty minutes for your favorite drink? Why not? Jump in the lake in March? Sounds fun!
Somersault off a concrete retaining wall? Epic. Forgot my toothbrush? Who cares.
Things I’ve learned from teenagers:
- The stairs are a useful storage spot. Easy access, convenient and doubles as a display of your belongings.
- Energy drinks are a viable meal replacement beverage.
- “I don’t want to” is a valid reason not to do something.
- There is no such thing as too many skin care products.
- Soap is optional when washing dishes.
- If Tik Tok says so, it’s real.
- If you do a task really badly, people will step in and do it for you.
- Eight hours of sleep is for amateurs. The pros top out at fifteen or sixteen.
- Slippers have been upgraded to shoes.
- Blankets are the new winter coats.
- Phones are virtually indestructible. Until they aren’t.
- Trash cans are optional.
- Reading is also optional.
- Memorization is archaic. Behold the advent of open book tests and retakes.
- Forget what you know about nutrition. There are new food groups: sugar and fast food.
- Sarcasm really is an art.
- It’s best to acquire a $50 sweatshirt at every event in which you participate.
- All emotions can exist, activated and expressed, inside the same moment.
See? Parenting teens is not that complex. Just stay steady amid the mood swings and changing social circles, the travesties and the triumphs.
All you need is an unshakeable sense of self and an unlimited bank account.
Trust in the solid human you built. Because you’re a good parent and you produce good work.