I am so glad my kids are my kids! I won the lottery. Let’s be clear on that. However… They are of a certain age. It’s an age that I, like many, often find myself struggling with and unprepared for. It’s like being a new mom, all over again.
By the time my girls were 10, I thought I’d found my mom groove. My kids were (and still are, for the record) what I would describe as “good” kids. Perfect? No. But they make me proud on a regular basis. I was pretty sure about the kind of parent-of-a-teen experience I would have.
I was wrong. Which is nothing new, incidentally.
Before I had kids I was also sure I’d exclusively breastfeed my bio children, that they’d all be potty trained by two and reading by six. I was certain that I’d never put up with a public tantrum, serve a drive-thru dinner or leave the house in yoga pants that I’d worn continuously for two days. Oh no! Not me!
Some things never change. I’m still clueless when it comes to predicting my parenting future. If you have a toddler in your house, and no teens, you probably are too. Read on, if you dare.
When my kids were in the tender middle ages of grade school, and American Girl Dolls and Disney Characters still held huge sway over them, it was easy to judge the teens and parents of teens that wafted through my life. I was shocked that my niece left the house wearing what appeared to be lingerie. I was appalled by the time my nephew and his friends spent on violent, bone chilling video games.
My kids, and their friends, would be different, I swore. Innocent yet wise and infinitely more prudent with their personal Facebook feeds. All the lessons they’d learned from Little Bear, Mulan and Sesame Street would stick.
Now I’m in the hot seat and incredibly aware of it. I still have toddlers in the house, and parents of toddlers and school aged kids in my life. I can feel them looking on, heads shaking, when my oldest posts a photo of herself in a bikini or loudly announces something “sucks” in front of her four year old sibling. I can sense their thoughts; “Can you believe what her daughter just posted?! Do you hear how she speaks? My daughter will never say/do anything like that.”
Yeah. Maybe. I’ll check back in with them when their daughters are no longer 7.
You know when you are pregnant for the first time, and someone comes up to you and starts telling you about how to treat the inevitable hemorrhoids and what to do when your boobs start leaking like crazy and gives you the real scoop about sex after pregnancy? Part of you doesn’t want to know. But not knowing means you could be thrown for a loop later. You listen, hoping none of what you’re hearing ever becomes useful.
I wish someone had done the equivalent for me about parenting teens.
Perhaps this is why I find myself in the position of annoying informer when it comes to parenting teens. Torn between letting my pals with younger kids live in their blissful state of denial (I enjoyed it while it lasted) or risking their judgment, shocked looks, and friendship abandonment by sharing a little reality with them. I’ve learned it’s kind of like talking to kids about sex or death. You have to let them lead the discussion. Not give them more than they can handle at any one time.
Maybe you don’t want to know what it’s really like out there. I don’t blame you one bit. Back to your regularly scheduled programming. Tell Elmo I say hi.
If however, you are a planner and not too easily shocked, I’m willing to share some of my experiences from the parenting teens front. Buckle up.
Love You, Love my Phone More… 1 of 20It's hard to imagine life before cell phones, right? Teenagers can't imagine such a thing. Going without food and water would be fine. Going without a cell phone would be cruel and unusual punishment. Most teens are addicted to their phones and have serious separation issues.
Insert $1 if You Want to Keep Talking 2 of 20Remember pay phones? You had to nurse them along or your conversation would get cut off. That's what it's like to talk to your teens. When the conversation is going, you'll have to nurse it. Pay attention! Don't lose track of the time or forget to feed the convo. with non judgemental questions and supportive comments. You don't want them to hang up on you in the middle of an important call.
Where’s My Stuff? 3 of 20First it's your curling iron. Then a necklace. Then your handbag and your shoes. Teenagers have a special way of helping themselves to all your stuff.
What’s Yours is Mine… and What’s Mine is Mine 4 of 20Teenagers are territorial about stuff. Their stuff. And yours. It's not a two way street. Don't get suckered into thinking that you can borrow from them, just because they can borrow from you. Hell hath no fury like a teenager whose special burrito was consumed by a hungry family member.
There’s no Food in the House! 5 of 20Your picky eater delicate flower of a nibbler just put away a five dollar foot long? And she's still hungry? Don't panic. Teens consume a lot of food. Which is painful when you go out to eat. Instead of the "kids eat free!" menu your active, growing teen will be ordering adult entrees and eating the whole meal. Forget about splitting a dish or bringing home leftovers.
Playing With Fire 6 of 20Teenagers are reckless and irrational. I once took my daughter and another girl shopping only to discover the companion had been shoplifting her way across the mall. Even "good" kids make mistakes at this age. They just don't always see the looming consequences as clearly as an adult. From drugs to alcohol and riding without a seatbelt, you cannot always count on a teenager to exercise their common sense. Keep reminding them.
Choosing Tracks 7 of 20Some of your teen's friends will take drugs. Quite possibly these will be sweet kids you've known since they were in preschool. Your teen will have to make choices that are terrifying for a parent to consider. This applies to all teens. You'll be shocked by some of the choices the kids you know make. You'll pray for your child even if you are not religious.
Drama 8 of 20Teenagers feel things strongly. So strongly that their emotions may overwhelm your whole family at times. They may throw tantrums that are like toddler tantrums.Your even tempered ten year old can turn into a hormonal hot mess by the time she's a teen. This too shall pass. At least I hope so!
Bullying 9 of 20Chances are, at some point, your teen will have to deal with a bully. It's much worse than when we were kids thanks to cell phones and the internet. This is an actual text I got from my teen. I managed not to call 911, but only barely.
Just a Little Bit… 10 of 20R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me... You'll find out for sure when you have a teen rolling their eyes at you. Teens are famous for their lack of respect. No matter how well you think you've trained your kids to be polite, they will test your patience and sense of self worth
Extra Sauce 11 of 20When I travel to the east coast I pick up a New Yawk accent. When my kids go to middle and high school, they pick up a sauce mouth. Sauce mouth is recognized by the use of curse words and melodramatic snorting, scoffing and sighing. Everything is a negotiation. It's easy to get sucked in and take offense. If you have younger kids around, you might have to start a cuss jar/college fund.
Crushes and Fads 12 of 20Oh Em Geeee. My life depends on getting tickets to this show. Or buying this backpack. It's ridiculous. But they mean it (see drama).
My Way or the Highway 13 of 20Power struggles with toddlers are almost exactly the same as power struggles with teens, except one involves ice cream and the other involves the keys to the car. It's easy to be stubborn. You'll be frustrated by their lack of reason and possibly by your own obstinate ways as well.
What? I Can’t Hear You 14 of 20Are you kidding me? You never said that. Since when do I have to brush my teeth and clean up my own dishes. Is this a new rule? Teens have selective hearing AND selective memory.
I’m Sexy and I Know it 15 of 20Oh hey look! Your little girl has boobs. And scads of black eyeliner. And she's wearing a short skirt! Uh oh. She's trying to be sexy isn't she? Worse yet, she IS sexy. It's nerve wracking at times. Like watching your kid play with a loaded gun. We all want our girls to be beautiful and desired. But we want them to be safe!
Welcome to CVS 16 of 20If ever there was a time to buy stock in a pharmacy, it's now. You'll be visiting the drugstore daily for stuff like makeup, deodorant, shampoo, acne meds, nailpolish, more shampoo, more makeup etc. When your teen is done with her stuff, she'll use all of yours. Without asking (see Where's my Stuff) so you'll be shopping for yourself too.
But I’m Tired! 17 of 20How can someone who eats so much, sleep so much? How can anyone sleep till one in the afternoon. It's been a mystery to teen parents since the dawn of time. At least when they are sleeping, they cannot steal your stuff.
Sexting 18 of 20Your teenager may be sexually active. Their friends will probably be sexually active. If you have a girl, boys will ask them to send pictures. They also may send unsolicited sexual pictures. This may baffle your teen as much as it baffles you and those on the receiving end of imprudent tweets by senators.
Lots of Teens Have Checked Out Parents 19 of 20You know that mom who would cut you if you gave her kid non organic milk? She's the most likely to check out by the teenaged years. You can't always count on other parents to parent. Many feel their job is done by the time their kids start high school. They act like their kids are perfect, possibly because they never had non organic milk... The truth is teenagers need their parents just as much as toddlers. It's hard to parent without community. You'll have to be the pillar.
But I’m Just a Kid! 20 of 20Ten minutes after you've calmed down about what your daughter tried to wear to a party, she'll hit you with this. And she's right. Teenagers are not adults. Sometimes they still need to be treated like kids. They'll always be your baby after all. As frustrated as you might get with your teen, you'll never forget that.
Note: Mileage may vary – my experiences might not be the same as yours. But I feel I’ve shared with enough other parents of teens to know that my experiences are not unusual. I’d also like to reiterate that I have awesome teen/tween daughters. I love them to pieces even when they steal my stuff and I want to lock them in a tower.
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