The Joy of Teenagers (Wink, Wink)

I swear. I know why religions perform exorcisms. They want to scare the smart-ass-ness out of their young people.

Take, for example, my kid. He’s possessed by emotions and hormones right now, consumed by what peers think and if he cut his Justin Bieber-style hair straight. (Yes, he thinks he does a better job than a trained stylist. I can’t wait until he sees these teenage pictures of himself when he’s older.)

I didn’t go through this with my older teen. For whatever reason, I was let off the hook. But this kid makes me understand why we need special laws for dealing with teenagers. (For instance, it should be okay to force your child to wear a sign that says, “Dangerous animal: stand back 50 feet.”) He’s also further proof that we are born with certain temperaments, and therefore have limited free will, especially during times when our bodies have hormonal surges.

Sometimes I wish I could yank my teenage self out of retirement so that I could communicate on his terms. “Oh yeah??? (eye roll) Well YOU are even more annoying than Miley Cyrus’ tongue. (eye roll, eye roll) And, like, YOU don’t understand and, like, you’re not funny either, and you don’t have a clue and your friends are really dumb, too.” Like, take that.

That would feel better, right? (Don’t worry, I won’t actually say this. It doesn’t make us bad parents to daydream about saying these things. I think.)

One of the things that never fails to amaze me is that the words said by your kid’s teachers or friends will be “cool” (actually, “sick and nasty” these days), but if you say the same thing, your words will be “stupid.” Like totally.

Every once in a while, though, there’s a break-through, a little sun peeking through on a cloudy day, and the kid is, like the sunshine, pleasant for a bit. Human. A saint, even, offering praise and thanks for dinner and help when I’m carrying even the lightest of things.

And yesterday, when I was driving the grumpy kid south through a town we haven’t been through in a while, I tell him a story of how I brought him there when he was little and he had asked me, “How can workers make these buildings so tall?” and “Won’t they fall over?”

He doesn’t roll his eyes or say “that’s so dumb.” Instead he asks, “Do you miss me and my brother being young?” (I know, not proper grammar.)

“Sometimes,” I say. “We used to have a lot of fun, the three of us. Traveling and dancing and laughing.” I remind him of some of the things we did together.

“We did a lot. I was really lucky.” Remembering his younger self and simpler times seems to lift his mood. There’s a chance I can say a little more that will not be deemed as totally dumb.

“But I also like you bigger, too, because I can talk to you, and I am learning about who you are. I like being your mom and watching you grow.”

For a brief moment, I remembered how hard it was being a teenager, wanting to be near my parents but also wanting to push them away. I remembered how painfully embarrassing I thought my mom and dad were, but also being afraid that they would die. And I remembered my mother always telling me, “This is a phase; you’ll outgrow it.” What she said was, of course, annoying, because it discounted my feelings. But she was also right. It was a phase. I did outgrow it.

So I have to choose my words and actions carefully now in these last few years that he’s in my trust. He’ll remember hurtful words and actions, even if I forget them.

It’s an hour-by-hour thing with teenagers. I never know when his mood will change, but I know that, by ignoring the bulk of his behavior, the sullenness will dissipate. Eventually. I just have to be my adult self and stay the course; otherwise, I’ll teach him how to forever be a moody, defensive, hostile teenager. He’ll grow old, but never grow up.

Thanks for listening to me whine today. If you have stories to share, please do.


53 responses to “The Joy of Teenagers (Wink, Wink)

  1. Debbie, you’re a good momma. I don’t envy your situation one bit.
    I only had one child — and she’s left the nest. I can’t imagine having to go through the teenage years multiple times. Nature is cunning. lol

  2. Teenagers are one of the best arguments against intelligent design:) All that energy, health and strong muscles of youth and their top concern is a pimple or being too fat or, as you said, the Justin Bieber hair cut!ha! Why isn’t that healthy, youthful time in our lives paired with wisdom and critical thinking? Instead, we don’t get the latter until our bodies are starting to deteriorate. It doesn’t make sense! The whole hormone thing making one kinda crazy — what was “God” thinking? [said with tongue in cheek]

  3. @Debbie Like, fer shur and gag me with a power drill.

    Whenever my niece and nephew try to pull the “teenager” stuff, I instantly remind them that I used to watch them run around naked when they were toddlers (both had an aversion to clothes for some reason). It works much better if their friends are around.

    Know that Uncle Dric can out-embarrass them any day of the week seems be a limiting factor on their “teenagedness.”

    You have my sympathies, Debbie.

    • @Derrick Your stories make me laugh, and I would really like to see you in action! (Can you post a video?) My brother is a big, loud guy. He has always be able to simultaneously embarrass and awe my kids. They love him no matter what he does! Apparently, you are the same way!

  4. I have two boys 19 months and 4 years. We let them sleep with us, hang on us, kiss and hug us all the time time because one day we know we will be in your shoes. My son says he will never leave me and will always love me and never marry anyone. I soak it all up like warm spring day after a hard winter. I wish I could bottle it all up for when they are teenagers. Hang in there. It is a phase. They do grow out of it but doesn’t mean it isn’t rough.

  5. “It’s just a phase”…. I remember my mom saying that too, and it’s funny I have said that about my own kids. I think all parents tell themselves that so they can power through those difficult “phases” and honestly, I think most things ARE a phase. It’s a coping mechanism for parenting. 🙂

  6. “But I also like you bigger, too, because I can talk to you, and I am learning about who you are. I like being your mom and watching you grow.”

    Excellent answer. Well said.

  7. 🙂 I have 5 kids 7 and under right now and I am kind of fearful for the time when they will all be teenagers or pre teens… I just hope that I can survive it like you are, with kindness, patience and knowledge that this phase too will pass.

    • @mamabro 5 kids under 7? Holy smokes. (I’m bowing to you.) You must be exhausted by the end of the day! 🙂

      • Lol. It isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I mean there are super exhausting moments when the kids know your extra tired because the 3 month old woke up 5 times that night. But it really is rewarding. The 6 and 7 year old can help out a lot and the 2 and 3 year old can be best friends 🙂 it also helps that I have a devoted husband who loves his kids 🙂

  8. I was similarly fortunate in my eldest child; maybe it was a balance because he was the most horrifyingly exhausting baby ever? I had fun with all my teens, even with my deeply troubled middle child on certain occasions. My youngest son is the one who will grow old, but not up I think.

    I often wonder what the difference is in Europe where teens and parents don’t seem to clash on the same level. There, teens seem to aim their anger at outward targets like the government!

    • @syrbal-labrys I don’t know. Maybe saab93f can answer that one. Maybe because we expect our kids to be like adults while also treating them like children??

      • Oh, the button. You hit the Button. The hot one. I HATE the way kids are treated in the USA….not like people who will be growing up and taking charge, but like being alternately something more or less like pets or totally negligible. I used to watch adults cut in front of them in lines at stores…and called the adults on it only to have the clerks defend the alleged grown-ups. Teens here are generally made to feel useless, they have no place and no function and thus often seek negative attention to figure out what there IS for them to do.

        • @syrbal-labrys I agree–and I remember when I was growing up, my parents telling me to be assertive for that very reason. More than once, I’ve watched sales clerks totally ignore my kids and when I step into the picture, they immediately ask if they can help me. I’ve told them some people will, unfortunately, try to take advantage of them because they’re young.

  9. Thanks for sharing Deb. We have a 15 year old at home, so we can totally relate (“totally”…wow, did we grow up in the 80s or what?). I try not to take the sullen moods personally and also try to remember to make time to hear what she has to say when she does want to talk, knowing that it’s all too rare these days. And every now and again, she really shares a piece of herself with me, and not just the teenage girl drama. 🙂

  10. Did you save the receipt?


  11. I remember answering someone’s question when they asked how old my kids were: “Oh, they’re teenagers.”

    She stopped what she was doing, turned, and looked me right in the eye. She then said, “I promise you this. I know you think that Scotty has beamed your children off of Earth and replaced them with alien beings. But when they’re about 18 or 19, Scotty will beam them back.”

    Here’s to hoping!

  12. Just for perspective.

    When my son completed high school, he chose attending Yale which is 1000 miles from here. I remember the comment I made to someone — “he wants to get as far away from his parents as possible, and the feeling is entirely mutual.”

    I think it is part of growing up and wanting more independence.

    By the way, we continued (and still continue) to have good relations. The distance made that easier.

    • @Neil Rickert I remember you mentioned that you son was ready to move on. You must have made him feel very secure that he could travel 1000 miles away. And you must be proud that he chose to attend Yale–that he even got into Yale!

      My oldest rarely calls. (And when he does it is not for money, thankfully.) I take that as a sign of success…?? 🙂

      • I take that as a sign of success…??

        Yes, I would say. He has achieved the independence for which you prepared him.

        Slightly related, Libby Anne has an impressive post this morning on raising children.

        • @Neil Rickert Thanks for the link. I had never heard of Libby Anne before. Interesting…Seems like everyone is injured in some way, and it’s popular to blame parents. No doubt some folks have reason to call their parents out, but IMO, jeez, we have this unrealistic expectation of childhood. Our parents did the best they could. They did some things wrong; they did some things right. They are limited by their upbringing and their experiences and their temperaments. If they brought you up with lots of love, if they didn’t abuse you, seems to me you’re very lucky….

          • If they brought you up with lots of love, if they didn’t abuse you, seems to me you’re very lucky….

            So very true, Debbie!

            • @CHope. You were definitely one of the ones I was thinking of. I am sorry-really sorry-that you had to suffer…

              • Debbie, it’s not right, but it’s okay. I can kick my past’s ass by being an awesome mama. I’ve got today and the rest of my life to be what my kids need me to be.

                I bet you’re an incredibly understanding mom. You’re so full of wisdom, an open mind and an open heart. Your kids are so lucky to have you in their lives.

                • Oh, gosh, CHope! I am adopting you! My kids would not say those things! I make lots of mistakes, hopefully nothing too serious though

                  Sometime we have to cut those people out of our lives who are toxic and abusove, regardless of whether they are family or not.

  13. Thanks for the link to the Neil de Grasse Tyon video:)!

  14. I love this post, Deb. My oldest (as you know) is almost 17, and although relatively speaking he’s been a fairly easy teenager, at least with respect to staying out of trouble and not getting mixed up with a bad crowd or anything, the moods are challenging. You captured the eye rolling and the ubiquitous use of the word “like,” like, perfectly 😉 My second son and twin daughters are all also on the cusp of adolescence and already the hormonal beast rears its heads with all of them. It’s trying. It’s taxing. And I lose my cool with them sometimes. But I try to maintain a sense of humor (and try to get them to see the humor, too), and I try to remember how it felt to be in that confusing stage of life known as teendom. I do miss their younger selves – sometimes painfully so – but you’re right, it’s an awesome thing to see them grow into the people they will eventually become. I am sometimes utterly awestruck by the knowledge that they each started out as a microscopic collection of cells that I nurtured within me, to squalling, helpless babies, to curious toddlers, all the way up to where they are now. (How’s that for someone of no faith?!) The journey of parenthood is pretty amazing.

  15. I’m actually enjoying my 2 remaining teenagers right now! (I know, I’ll probably soon regret saying that) Their 2 big brothers are off to college, and that has allowed the younger 2 to flex their personalities a bit more. Especially #3 son, who is now the oldest kid in the house. He gets to be the one who knows the ropes and tells his younger sister how life is (Oh, to be freshly 18 and know everything!) But, they talk to me (and to each other even!) and I actually have fun with them most of the time. Yes, they have their moments, when I’d rather just lock them in their rooms, but thankfully, it’s less often these days. The big 2 are off to college, but I find myself receiving texts from them regularly, updating me on the status of the football game, or how often does the car need it’s oil changed, or I’m registering for classes which one do you think I should take, or look at this cool thing I found & I’m sending you the link for it. I kind of like them now. Like you said, they’re big enough to talk to and enjoy hanging out with. You’re doing a great job with your guys, Debbie!

  16. My mother and I were *constantly* at each others throats when I was growing up. It was almost always her reminding me that “I don’t know everything”, while I felt it necessary to tell her she didn’t have to treat me as if I were mentally challenged all of the time. It was damned annoying, but even through all of the yelling, arguing, and pointless drama I still felt I could talk to her more than I could talk to my old man. We wouldn’t have argued if we didn’t care 🙂

    Things will settle down. In my experience, as long as you keep talking then when the hormones pass and they fly headlong into adulthood with all of its responsibilities and obligations, they’ll think much less about the arguments and more about how you were there for them.

  17. It’s a wonder my son and I both survived his 16th through 18th years. But as you’ve said, those turbulent years were just a phase (albeit a long one!). Just keep loving him and keep the lines of communication open because this too shall pass (eventually!) and your relationship will be stronger for it.

  18. It really is hour by hour. My oldest is just entering teenhood and it is wild. It’s such a rough time in life, I would never want to go back there again.

  19. My son is 13 and my stepson is 12, so we are teetering at the top of the rollercoaster, about to start hurtling downward at breakneck speed! The signs of adolescence are just starting to emerge. They each have some bright, interesting qualities that are so fun to watch and engage with, along with some worrisome negative bits that we are trying to nip in the bud. I am terrified and excited in equal measure.

  20. I love your teenage response. I did a similar thing with my 7yo niece . She took a tantrum so i gave her one back. I even sat on the floor refusing to move . She quickly started acting the correct way again. I dread when she becomes a teen because i cant go and get drunk and make a fool of myself, like im sure she will . Or dress stupidly to embarrass her . Oh the teen years how fun they are.

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