Parenting: The Teenage Years

Aug 5 2011

It happened this week.

I am officially the mother of a teenager.

I say “officially” because I feel like we’ve been having foreshocks for years.  You know — all those little rumblings before the Big One hits.  I swear, when each of my three older children turned 9, we acheived complete hormonal saturation.  Their eyes glowed neon green.  Their moods shifted with the kind of speed and destruction that can only be explained by the discovery of previously undetected faultlines running deep under the surface.

They were happ… SAD!  Angr… GIDDY!  Sill… FRUSTRATED!

I have a crick in my neck from watching the feelings volley back and forth.  NASCAR should consider powering their cars on preadolescent mood changes.  The velocity they could attain would be well worth the angst and aggravation of harnessing the power.

Even though I’ve experienced this in three children now… and despite gawking at the veritable mountain range of pure emotional evidence that’s right in front of my eyes… I still shake my head in disbelief and say, “Nine?  Nine years old??  Isn’t that too young?”

But the answer is no.  It’s apparently not.  The nine-year-old era appears to be a freakazoid stage of life.  Regardless of gender.  Regardless of genetics.  It’s a natural force, bent on chaos and very, very effective at acheiving that goal.

You’d think, given my experience dipping my toes into hormonal waters with my pre-adolescents, that having an actual, real, bona fide TEENAGER might freak me the heck out.

But, even though we crossed the point-of-no-return line a few days ago into full-on teenager-ness, I want you to know that I am not daunted.

I am not fazed.

I feel no fear.

Abby is a treasure.  What is there to dread?

Her lethargic grunting in the morning is like a melodious sonnet.

Her eye-rolling is like the rising and setting of the sun.  As high.  As low.  As constant.

Her work-ethic is like an atrophied muscle that has remained too long immobile.

No; none of those things make me afraid.  Not the way a crying infant can still inspire abject terror, anyway.  At least my teenager lets me sleep on the nights when she’s not awake with a gaggle of girls giggling LOUDLY in my echoing stairwell.  She allows me to run errands.  And paint my toes.  And complete tasks around the house.  And she never, ever asks to sit on my lap while I’m going potty.  After babies, having a teenager is a miracle.

And, truth be told, her morning zombie impersonation and less-than-eager volunteerism phases are few and far between.  One week in, my teen is remarkably personable and often downright delightful.

As for the eye-rolling… well, let’s just say that if you had to put up with me as your mother, you might find your eyes accidentally careening out of control and driving the circumference of your eyelids, too.

The pending doom known as raising a teenager hasn’t really had time to settle.

Now, you experienced parents of teens… you’re probably thinking what I think whenever a new mom tells me that her 4-week-old baby is sleeping through the night.  Or that her toddler just loooovvvesss all kinds of veggies.  Or that it’s really possible to potty train in a day.

Good luck with that, Mama.  I hope it’s like that for you forever.

And, hey!  For some of them it’s true, and it works out blissfully.  I know people who had TWO easy babies IN A ROW.  So, to all those “Oh.  You think it’s easy with your first kid? Well, just wait ’til the next kid’s born.” naysayers out there… it can happen.  I mean, not to me. But it can happen.  Honestly, it probably only happens to a mom who, as a child herself, never spit her veggies into her dinner napkin… or who never lied to the new neighbor kid for weeks about having a twin sister named Stacy… or who didn’t ruthlessly mock her brother when he pooped his pants.  But still.  Two easy babies in a row can happen.

In fact, I know people who swore their toddler went from diapers to undies with nary a mess.  And I know people for whom “gentle redirection” or “distraction” works with their kiddos much, much better than the hairy eyeball to which my children are accustomed.

So who am I to say pfffftttt at new moms’ Pollyanna assumptions for the way child-rearing will go?  I am not a dream-squasher, ladies and gentlemen.  I am not a discourager.  I am not a pessimist or a know-it-all.

At least, not out loud.  To their faces.

All I ask, experienced parents of teens, is that you please do not enlighten me just yet.  I intuitively recognize my own need to live blissfully in La La Land for just a little bit longer.

I have had one awesome, incredible and remarkably easy week as a parent of a teen.  And I’m certain that the rest will continue to be blissful, uneventful, and extraordinarily fulfilling.

Undoubtedly, Abby will never argue about, much less break, her curfew.  She will not have moments of flinging herself crying onto my bed.  She will not freak out…

  • or emote unnecessarily
  • or use the car without permission
  • or need to be grounded for the rest of her life
  • or BEG to go on that camping trip that ALL my her other friends get to attend and if only my her parents were reasonable human beings they’d see that it’s in my her best interests to send a pack of teenagers into the woods alone for a long weekend
  • or insist on an increase to the prom dress budget while railing against parents who won’t let her go tanning just because they don’t want her to get skin cancer
  • or say aloud that NO ONE is looking forward to her leaving for college and moving out of the house as much as SHE is

Or any of the other things that I imagine, based on no particular experience from my own teenage years, could happen.

Surely not.

But regardless of the way that the next years pan out, I realized recently that I’m about to have lots and lots of practice as a mom of a teen.

Because I had a thought.  A terrible, huge, fascinating thought.  A thought that stopped me dead in my tracks before sending me racing for my calendar and my calculator.

And this is what I discovered.

Through the magic of toddler adoption and birthing twins, I spent a grand total of 1 year, 9 months, and 3 weeks – not consecutively – as a mother of infants (aged 0-12 months).  Which apparently carried enough trauma that I keep having flashbacks and, to this day, cannot bear to hear a crying baby without wanting to pick that child up to soothe myself her.

By contrast, I will spend a grand total of

15 years, 2 months, and 18 days

consecutively as a mother of teenagers.

Eleven days down, baby!

Only fifteen years, 2 months and 7 days to go.

Like having a baby, there’s nothing so powerful as on-the-job training.  Nor anything so stunning as the realization that I am not prepared for this, one of the most important jobs I’ll ever have.

Nevertheless, I jump in.  Two feet.  Deep water.  Fully committed.  With a little bit of a scream on the way down.

‘Cause there’s nothing like the thrill of the race, the surprises along the journey, and the joy of the adventure.

Here we go!  Yeehaw!