Oh, Those Teens
Some might say the early days of parenthood are the most challenging. Night feedings and the subsequent sleep-deprived haze that accompanies all the chaos of caring for a newborn can be daunting. But however difficult all of that seems while you are in the trenches, when they become teenagers, all parents long for is just a taste of “the good old days.” It is with grace, the gift that time gives, that allows you to recall your first days as a parent through the tint of rose-colored glasses. Or it could also be that maturity and gainful experiences have led you to realize all of the phases of your child’s life are unique, and special, each filled with challenges and so monumental in their own way, each to be celebrated. But for many, including myself, parenting teens has tested my patience, forgiveness, and inner soul like no other.
It occurred to me during yet another argument with my teen (on hygiene, or missing forks, or the need to brush teeth, especially teeth that are walking around with thousands of my hard-earned dollars attached) that parenting teens has become the singular most demanding thing I have done. You miss them, or who they used to be, and are not so certain who they have become likes you very much. You are happy to have any interaction with them, particularly since they’ve developed a penchant for being alone behind a closed door. They do not like to talk as much anymore, so if you do see them in the shared areas of the home, it is crucial to use these fleeting times to remind them to do stuff. Forget chores, or reading, or anything that might be useful, they just need to partake in the daily ritual of body cleansing, taking garbage out of their own space, or playing with the dog they said we sorely needed. And therein lies the problem. Because the minute you corner your teen with even the slightest discussion of doing, well, anything they might not want to do, the result is fierce pushback. You could have just said, “I love you” and left it at that but depending on the mood of the teen-beast, even that can produce a tantrum.
I do not know. I mean, I really don’t have a clue what the answer is to successfully parenting teens. These boys, who are as large as adults in body size and attitudes at time, yet their childish sweetness still seeps through, are still my babies. I think of the words I used to describe their emerging personalities when they were little. “Delightful,” “sweetest,” “so caring,” were all phrases I uttered. Thankfully, I still see all of that in them, tucked way behind the hair that covers their brooding eyes. There are days now when “delightful” comes out like, “You are so delight…. full of the backtalk buddy, please make it stop.” And “sweetie” sounds like, “Oh sweet…. either finish the juice or not but leaving the empty bottle in frig not an option.” And “wonderful” ends up being, “You are wonder…full on awake at 3 a.m. playing that game? Go to bed!”
I guess for those of us navigating tender, traumatic, and trying years with our teens, it is important to not lose sight of the fact they will be out of our nests in just a few short years. On those days where his only goal seems to be to either avoid me or go to battle, I am trying to pause and not let his drama become mine. I am not always successful. After a really tough year where it became easier to say “yes” than tackle some hard realities, I sometimes fall back into the comfortable mode of giving in, rather than giving my teen a hard “no.” Remembering his brain and body are still developing provides perspective and helps me to bite my tongue when I would rather lash back. And I am also trying to remember this time with us is laying the foundation for their adult years, so in the spirit of giving the world nice humans, I am trying to tread lightly. Just as we look back at those sleepless nights and endless diapering of our babies as some of the best days of our lives, we will reflect upon these teenage years with the same fondness.
Until then, hang in there, mamas and papas, this too shall pass, and probably faster than we would like.
Photos courtesy of Teenage Parenting (Raising Teens) Facebook page.