Having somewhat successfully (he’s still breathing!) raised a child to his teen years, I can unequivocally say there is no “easy” stage. I used to believe that if I could just get through the Terrible Twos, Fu*&ing Fours, or Tween years, I’d be golden. Not so.
Being a parent of a teenager is by far, among the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It requires super-hero worthy feats of patience and self-awareness…and a hearty dose of humor. You’re dealing with an individual who can’t be swayed with promises of M&Ms or a trip to Toys ‘R Us. They are still children, but starting to see the world as a young adult. It’s a real eye-opener – for both them and you.
At school they are reminded that they have to take responsibility for their work and behavior. Teens, particularly middle-schoolers, take this as a personal affront. My son’s response to having to do two hours of homework was, “But, I have a life!” I don’t disagree, but, as I pointed out, sometimes, you have to re-prioritize your life, and that’s what’s being asked of you right now. Writing a report for social studies or memorizing a poem for English is not necessarily what you would prefer to be doing, but we all have to do the work to achieve our goals. It didn’t go over well, and there was a lot of complaining, but it got done – and in the end, that’s what matters.
Their bodies and brains are changing day to day, and sometimes, minute to minute and it’s just plain weird. People always talk about those gawky years, where all sense of coordination and body awareness are lost – and it is true. They’re just not comfortable in their own skin and that’s cause for a lot of emotional upheaval. Add an ever-changing hormonal cocktail just for fun and you have a real recipe for disaster. One minute he’s a sweet, loving kid…the next he’s angry or upset over something that happened a week ago. Some days I have the emotional and mental capacity to deal and some I don’t. It’s the best I can do.
Remember when your little one wouldn’t stop talking? Cherish it. Your teenager will only speak to you when, and if, he or she wants to. This is the era of single consonant communication. “Yes,” “No,” “Huh?” You get used to it, and then, suddenly, your teen wants to talk and becomes a completely eloquent human being – and you’re so shocked that you have to really focus to listen to what they’re saying, rather than dwell upon your surprise – and pleasure – at their ability to express themselves so well.
The challenge of parenting never gets easier, but it sure does keep you on your toes. At every stage there are challenges and rewards – holding your precious newborn, seeing your toddler take her first steps, sending your confident kindergartner off to school, watching your elementary school-aged child discover who he is…it’s a thrill ride like no other. And those teen years, it’s like doing it all backward and without a seat belt. Hang on, it’s going to be a wild ride.