Even before I my oldest daughter hit her teens, I heard a lot of stories about what having a teenager was like. Not unlike, what happens when you’re expecting your first child, the stories fall relatively flat until you experience it for yourself. People always say, “No one ever told me…” but I don’t think that’s true. I think people do tell you. You just can’t hear it, process it, or understand it until you’re there for yourself.
So, I won’t start by saying “No one ever told me.” But, I will say that I wasn’t expecting to revisit so much of my daughter’s toddlerhood now that she’s a teen. Who knew?
Here’s my list of the many ways I liken having a teenager to having a toddler:
1) They push you away. I remember the days when my toddler would try to wiggle her way out of my arms. I feel a similar struggle with my teen. The closer I try to get, the more she’ll push me away. The object is learning how close I can get without eliciting a push back response. Or when I do get the push, that I don’t take it personally. I’ve heard it said that the pushing in their job (both as toddler and as teen) which make make it a tiny bit easier to take.
2) They are needy. Despite the fact that teens push you away, they usually have ways to pull you back in. There is never a day that I don’t feel deeply needed by my teen. What I am needed for might appear to be different than back in the toddler days, but fundamentally, it feels very similar. She just wants to know that I am available when she does need me (and not a minute sooner…or later).
3) They want to be held. Believe it or not, I have heard from many mothers, that their teens hang all over them; hugging, snuggling, sitting on their laps. It sounds counter to so many teen scenarios you hear about, but it’s true. My daughter wants to hug me and even walk arm and arm. She will ask to sit on my lap, carry her up the stairs (yah right), and asks me to rub her back nightly. Sometimes, I’ll admit, it seems ridiculous but, I try not to pass up any opportunity to love her in the way she needs to be loved; even if she is 5 foot 8. Disclaimer: this could be a daughter thing. I only have girls so I can only speak about girls on this one.
4) They never ever stop. Much like a toddlers affinity for always being on the move and seemingly never giving us moms a break, such is the stamina my daughter has with getting her point across. Like with anything there are pluses and minuses to this kind of incessant energy. When she’s arguing with me or totally revved up about high school drama, for example, it’s a minus. When I see her pushing back after being wronged, or rallying behind a noble cause, it’s a plus. I try to remember that her tenacity will likely serve her well in her lifetime if uses for good and not evil.
5) They know how to push your buttons. For every parent trigger I have, my teen knows how to pull them. All. They learn that move early. Like, let’s say, when they’re toddlers. And my guess is they’ll never stop, so we’d better just get used to it.
6) They change every day. I never saw this one coming. I thought nothing could rival the developmental changes and growth spurts of those early years. But, then my daughter started high-school. The transformation into an early young adult and the learning curve involved is far more intense and rapid than I had expected. It’s literally as if I am watching a time lapse movie of my daughter growing up and because she’s not home all day with me like she was as a toddler, things seem to change from the time I drop her off at school in the morning to when she comes home later that day. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true.
7) They are always hungry. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s just the often monotonous nature of motherhood where the same things happen over and over and over again; like mealtime. Or maybe my teen really is as hungry as she says she is. It takes me back to the early days when she wanted to nurse so often, I never bothered buttoning up my shirt. Sorry. TMI.
8 ) They need their sleep. The rigors of the high school routine have been a rude awakening for our whole family (pun intended). My daughter went from an average of 10-12 hours of sleep every night to 6-8 (and sometimes less). In other words, she’s pretty much chronically exhausted. We all know what happens when a toddler is over-tired. It’s no different with a teen. In other words, anytime they want to nap, let them. I’ll leave it at that.
9) They want to “do it themselves”.
No matter how much they struggle, flounder, try, fail, and try again they desperately want to do it themselves. That goes for toddlers and teens. Why it’s infuriating to them that someone just wants to help them make things a little easier for them is beyond me but hey, a mom can’t help but try. My challenge is to learn how to take ‘no, thank you’ for an answer and leave it alone.
10) They throw tantrums.
Although my teen no longer throws herself on the floor during a tantrum, she will still scream, yell, and cry. Her tizzies might not force me to abandon my shopping cart and leave the super market anymore, but she does know how to slam a door like a pro.
Going back through the photo archives of my teenager, I thought it would be appropriate to share some images of her back in her toddler days…especially the ones that remind me of her now.
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If you have a teenager, does this ring true for you? Got anything to add to the list? Do tell me what I’m missing.
For more about Tracey and how she elevates the everyday, visit her at traceyclark.com.
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