When my kids were little, we were so busy learning manners and basic life skills. They needed continual guidance, correction, and care. In many ways, despite the constant vigilance I had to keep, those were some of my best days. Nothing beats observing a child explore the world around them. I hoped they’d never grow up.
During those days of raising my little ones, sometimes older moms would tell me, “Oh it’s fun now … but just wait until they are TEENAGERS.” I almost envisioned it to be like my sweet child would turn into a horrible monster on their 13th birthday. Honestly, after hearing many warnings like that, I was kind of scared of having teenagers in my home. Hormones! Rebellion! Arguments! Sudden mood swings! Pushing the limits!
I tried desperately to remember my own teenage days. Was I really that bad? Then I remembered that I was a teenager in the 1980’s. We didn’t have social media, cell phones, internet, or 350 channels on the television. I remember when we got our first VCR and deciding what movie to rent at the video store was the most controversial challenge between me and my parents. Telephones were attached to the wall back then, and anyone could listen in on the extension. My wildest ideas came from brat pack movies, books, and my own imagination.
And so, my own children grew up. Ten candles on the birthday cake were a big deal – the teenage years were getting closer! I think I mourned a little as my oldest turning “double digits”. My daughter followed two years later, and the signs of puberty hit harder with her. Crying for no reason … wanting to fit in … a lot of hurt feelings. If anything, I say, dread the preteen years!! (Just kidding. Sort of…)
Then the fateful 13th birthday arrived. And you know what? My son was still the same kid in the morning that he had been the night before. We had grown into the teen years together. I had kept up with him, and he didn’t evolve into a monster at all. Sure, he started growing facial hair and didn’t play with toys any more, but at the core of him, he was still the same son that I had been raising all along. My daughter was the same way; despite the hormones that raged (and oh, did they rage!), she was still my sweet girl when things settled down again.
I am not saying my children were perfect and never challenged me. Believe me, there have been days when I was at a loss for what to say or do. We’ve had some minor discipline problems, but honestly, the values that I taught my kids from the beginning stuck: be honest, be kind, be respectful. I will admit at times, I was the one who lost my cool, and I was the one who had to learn a lesson in self-control and apologize. It’s been a mutual growing process.
I think teenagers these days are so aware of their world; the internet and social media gives us the opportunity to engage them in subjects that I never dared approach my parents with. There are also so many resources available when your teen is struggling. I have turned to my daughter’s pediatrician for advice. We have talked with qualified counselors when I didn’t have answers. And my very best supporters have been the moms of the teens who have grown up with us. My parents have also been a wonderful resource; good, old-fashioned values don’t go out of style.
Do not fear the teenager. Just like having a toddler who will be unpredictable, teens will be as well. You may not have all the answers; they may not act like they are listening when you do. There will be phases, the worst of which will hopefully pass, and if you reach the end of your rope, then reach out for help. You can do this — together.
I love having a carefree girls’ day out with my teenage daughter. She helps me stay up-to-date with my wardrobe and make-up, and I learn about her friendships, hopes, and dreams. I have deep, thoughtful conversations with my son, my fellow night owl, when the house is quiet. It proves to me that he actually is thinking about his future and attempting to make reasonable choices. These days are great.
I can’t wait until you have a teenager!