When my son was an infant, I thought, “Oh, when he just starts sleeping through the night, this parenting gig will become so much easier.” When he was a toddler, I knew that he would eventually grow out of tantrums and pouting when he didn’t get his way. As he got older and went to elementary school, he became a delightful person with whom I could have an engaging conversation or share a joke. Then he turned 13 and it was like someone flipped a switch – actually, it’s like someone is constantly flipping 100 different switches and you never know which one is on or off. Every emotion and developmental stage is exhibited randomly thought the day.

To be completely honest, I sometimes wonder if he has a personality disorder – then I remember: he’s a teenager – and teenagers are not rational people, they are a stew of emotions and contradictions and although it’s hard for me and my husband as parents, it’s equally hard for the teen. We try to be understanding and patient, but sometimes it’s not so easy. Plus, we were conned into believing that because our kid was kind, polite, engaged, and generally even-tempered, we would be spared the rocky teenage years. Not so. Here’s a peek into what you can expect – and when you say, “not my kid,” just remember, you were warned.

  1. It’s all about meeee! Teenagers are the center of their own universe. Never mind that you’ve worked all day and are trudging through the door at 7pm, the first thing they want to know, after finally looking up from their phone and grunting some unintelligible greeting at you (if you’re even acknowledged at all) is “what’s for dinner?”
  2. I want…. Even if your child isn’t materialistic at all, even if you’ve worked hard to instill a sense of values beyond things, your child will suddenly decide they NEED to have $150 sneakers and pricey brand-name clothing. Brands you need to know: Nike, Adidas, Under Armor, Ugg, Sephora…save up people.
  3. OMG, did you SERIOUSLY just say that to me? Remember when I said my kid was kind and polite? He was…or should I say, he is to others (most of the time) but the back talk has started and it’s not pretty. The best analogy I can give is, remember when your toddler used to stomp his foot, cross his arms, and say “NO!” – it’s like that, only worse – about 100 times worse.
  4. Or, there’s a total shutdown of communication. A typical dinner conversation goes like this, ME: “How was your day, honey?” SON: “Fine” ME: “Just ‘fine?’ Did anything good happen?” SON: “No.” ME: “Anything bad?” SON: “No.”  ME: “I guess you don’t want to talk right now.” SON: “Mmm.” That’s about the extent of it.
  5. Until it’s not. And then, there are times when he wants to have a discussion, and it’s great! We can talk about all sorts of topics and he can be an engaging conversationalist – but when he feels like it.
  6. Then there’s the phone. Yes, you will have to get your kid a smart phone eventually. You may think that it’s not necessary, you will try to limit screen time, you will make rules, have them sign contracts, and ban social media. Good luck.
  7. Get to know YouTube. Generation Z doesn’t watch TV (unless it’s Netflix), they watch YouTube. Teenagers can spend literally HOURS watching videos about…nothing.
  8. You’re gonna need Costco membership and a bigger refrigerator. Meal time is all the time.
  9. They never want to shower, but when they do, you can’t get them out. For young teens, showering is an annoyance – another thing that they HAVE to do. After a lot of eye-rolling and back-talk about how he “just showered yesterday” and “why do I have to do this again” because I’ve interrupted him on his phone or YouTube viewing, he begrudgingly gets into the shower and takes 20 minutes to get him out. At least he’s clean.
  10. You’re embarrassing me!! Even if you were the coolest person on planet Earth, you would be an embarrassment to your child – all you have to do is breathe and it is cause for alarm, so don’t even try. Just sit back, relax and let it happen.

But, this is the MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW ABOUT TEENAGERS – they want and need you. And not just because you are a walking ATM machine. They need to be hugged and kissed and told they’re loved – yes, even if it embarrasses them terribly. They need to know that even if they grunt at you, you’re listening and will be there to listen even when they talk back or pick their heads up from their iPhone or YouTube video. They need you to nag them about taking a shower or keeping up their grades and put limits on what they can and cannot do – even if they don’t follow the rules all the time.  And this is the truth about parenting a teenager.

This post is part of a week-long CT Working Moms blog series.