Parents of Teenagers Kind of Piss Me Off Too

The Cliff of the Teen Years

The Cliff of the Teen Years

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I guess this is the week all my inner angst comes out.

Phase I of the move is done.  As in, old house is now sold, we’re settled into the new house, boxes are unpacked and we’ve done our first wave of changes to the house.  Now it’s time to sit back, save some money and prepare for phase II.  Which will include things like furniture for two empty rooms.

So now that I have the breather, apparently all the things that swirl in the back of my head are rising to the surface.

Like how I read all of this “advice” to not give new moms advice.  “It doesn’t matter anyway – they’re not going to get it because they have to live it first.”  And how we seasoned moms shouldn’t foist our own feelings about new motherhood on others.  It should be a unique experience for each  mom.

All the while knowing the advice happens anyway, hundreds (nay, thousands) of books are written on the first 5 years of life, and everyone wants to share their biggest sleep deprivation horror story, their biggest diaper blow out horror story, and their biggest tantrum in Target horror story.

Why?

It makes us feel better.  We did it!  We’ve crossed the first hurdle!  Pat us on the back when we tell you what to expect!

And yet.

When it comes to teenagers, nobody’s talking.  I read an awesome blog post a few weeks ago that made its way around FB.  It was all from a mom of teens to moms of other teens and it said, in a nutshell, “I know you can’t talk about it.  I know we’re all going through the same things.  I’m here for you even if I can’t tell you why and how I’m here for you.”

It was poignant and touching and REAL.  Darn if I wish I could remember who it came from.  Sorry about that.

It’s not parents to fellow teens I’m pissed at.  We’re still in it together, experiencing the rapid changes in real time.  And most of my friends, like me, are on the cusp of it.  Most of our kids are just turning 12 and 13, so our time is coming.

But that’s what’s PISSING ME OFF.

WHAT time is coming?  What’s going to happen?  How do we handle it?  What decisions do we make that will help our kids make the decisions that will keep them alive through the teen years?

And I know it’s all I can imagine.  And more.

All the things I did as a teen and the exponential differences that social media and modern technology are adding to the teen mix these days.  And things we can’t even imagine that will come next.

But you know what I get from parents of older teens and college kids?

Short, exhausted barks of laughter when I tell them I have a 12 year old.  Followed by:

“Enjoy it now – it’s ending soon.”

“Good luck – you’re going to need it.”

“Let me know how it goes when it’s over.”

AND IT’S PISSING ME OFF.

Where are the stories of blow out diapers, tantrums in Target and sleep deprivation that I heard when my kids were babies?

I imagine the grown up version of those stories would be things like alcohol poisoning, tantrums over not giving  your child unlimited spending money and sleep deprivation of a different kind.

But no one gives you specifics.  Because no one wants to share the colossally shitty decisions their own teen made.  And maybe I won’t either.  Maybe if I find one of my teens passed out in our driveway some year late at night and I have to take her to the hospital to get her stomach pumped just to survive, I won’t want to share that kind of tidbit with moms of younger kids.

Because that kind of thing may reflect on my parenting.  And it may hurt my kid’s chances of a good college acceptance.  It could hurt reputations.

But if tantrums at Target and blow out diapers aren’t considered reflective of my parenting skills and are just considered “part of being a baby,” why aren’t the teen challenges considered the same?

Don’t we need to help each other through this?  Don’t the upperclassmen of parents (so to speak) need to help us underclassmen with the path?

Isn’t that the least you upperclassmen can do?  If you don’t give me specifics because of privacy concerns, can’t you do a little more than just laugh and say “good luck?”

Can’t you give me ideas how to make sure my kids have a parachute attached as they jump off the cliff of being a teenager?  Can’t you give me a parachute too?

I’d really appreciate it.  And if you want to give me some specific stories too, I promise I’ll keep it in confidence.  I just want to be able to prepare myself.

Pretty please?

Comments

  1. I cannot agree more. It is like the adult world expects instant grown up behavior with zero tolerance of eff ups by teenagers. They are still learning and still making mistakes. Where are the teachable moments for teenagers? Where are second chances? It is like the parents, schools, teachers, adults related to these teenagers all are more worries about their reputations, standings, scores than the young adults and teenagers they are supposed to be nurturing still and giving them consequences–definitely consequences–but something that is not going to ruin the kid’s life and make them better people. So later on when they still can get into college and make a life they will then turn with empathy to a struggling younger adult or teen and say “I messed up once. And it isn’t the end of the world even though you think it is.” Perhaps we would have less teen suicides, depression, drop outs, cutters, pregnancy…..it goes on. And we, adults, do this to teenagers. Us.

  2. Beth Hester says:

    I am guilty–I am in the THICK of parenting teenagers–2 girls who are 17 and 15.5. And I don’t want to talk about it. I have found myself longing for the teenage-version of MOPS, but can’t imagine what that would look like. I imagine it would involve a lot of alcohol. Here is my theory–most of us have babies when we are young, or perhaps just “young” in our relationship with our spouse. Everything is new. And you can’t be mad at your baby for pooping everywhere or not sleeping normal human hours–it’s a BABY. A teenager IS a baby with a much larger vocabulary and they are too big to put in time out. Or spanked. Or force to take a nap. (which is what they need most of the time). And–THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER! What happened to all of the SPECTACULAR parenting I did all those years ago when they were little? I am tired. Worn out. And shocked that my sweet daughters are behaving in such stupid ways. I did not raise them that way. See–that is the difference–a baby is a blank slate and you get to do your best to do a good job with them. With a teenager–your job is almost done and, quite often, it is not looking like you are qualified for the job of “parent”.

    • DUDE – An teen version of MOPS – brilliant.

      Hmmmm . . . maybe you’re onto something here!

      Hang in there – I’m guessing your feelings are felt by every parent of teens. That’s why you get the “good luck” comments. The self doubt is what I’m addressing here. Much like infancy – if we’re all dealing with the same thing – which is, namely, that teens make terrible decisions NO MATTER HOW GOOD OF A KID THEY ARE – then having someone to rely on with it or talk to about it would help the self doubt so much!

      Thanks for your honest comment. :)

  3. Jen Simpson says:

    Missy – I’m right there with ya. Twin Daughters turning 12 this week, and I would give my left arm for some good solid advice/tools/strategies for helping them (and me!) through the murky waters ahead. Screaming tantrums and slammed doors over bad hair days and my lack of knowledge of the “new math” are just the beginning, I’m sure. I treasure the few moms I’ve met who have shared with me their trials and I wish I had more friends like them. I guess all we can do is buckle our seat belts — I wonder if, as in trying to regain control of a swerving, skidding vehicle, we should be prepared to steer into it instead of against it? Seems like the only thing to be sure of is a bumpy, winding road without a map ;)

  4. Yikes. Sounds like some real winners around you!!

    I have a freshly minted 13 year old… and I am happy to share the things that I have learned, the things that baffle me (all the time)… now you have my contact info so you can email whenever!! :)

    It’s not always easy to share – older kids do present different challenges and there’s some weird lines and dimensions around what to share and what not to. I used to blog a lot – but I don’t anymore because it’s often to hard to find the words that will explain a situation or issue in a way that is accurate. What you describe with people guffawing or being high and mighty is so sad – and useless. I have no time or patience for that either!

    Key things for us have been:

    Friends – know their friends. Really – KNOW them. I have on occasion emailed the 7th grade AP for input on the kids in the little group at school to get a feel for their “vibe”. Their friends do have incredible influence – but when you know the friends (and even more important, the friends know YOU) it’s seeming to go along ok. We develop an unspoken mutual trust… all of us (parents and kids).

    Family time – at this age he/she will want to spend more time alone. Mine is quieter/introverted by nature, so he tends to gravitate to xbox or booting a soccer ball outside alone in downtime. I pull him back in every day no matter what – some of that is ok, but we don’t let it be countless hours. It might be we hang out as a family watching hockey or playing cards – whatever. Just something that allows for space, and then togetherness.

    New Experiences – last weekend was the first time EVER I left my kid with a group of friends at an outdoor shopping/dining/entertainment area. I was mildly freaking the whole time, but it was GREAT! He had his phone, and he did text me a couple times as they moved around. He went to target by himself. He bought dinner for a friend that forgot to bring cash. I mean these sound possibly mundane – but he had to do this stuff on his own, make choices and decisions and HE DID IT! I picked him up shortly after 8PM and he declared it the most fun he’d had in months so… it was good. Finding ways to test the waters is awesome… (I was close by, BTW – just a mile or two away at a different restaurant… it will take time for both of us!!)

    Hope that helps a little!!

  5. I heard something about these teenage years recently on a podcast (freakonomics or radio lab). Essentially “it’s not them, it’s us.” I haven’t lived through it yet, but I hope I remember this perspective if it turns out to be true.

  6. My friends and I share our stories and even my friends with younger kids know my “stories”. I know they won’t judge me, it’s just another phase. But you are right, I wouldn’t want just anyone who may not know me well to hear my stories…

    This being said, stories are too long to write but quite often to say the least. I will share stories with you anytime. I just need a cup of coffee or some wine ;)

  7. I’m a homeschool mom of six 20, 19, 15 and three younger ones so I’ve been through the teenage craziness and I’m still on the roller coaster.

    I have to tell you one of the reasons people probably don’t share their war stories is because while you are going through them you are all consumed. Once their over…(and they take years) you are exhausted.

    Since all teenagers are different there is no way to tell a specific situation and the outcome the same way you can do with a tantrum with a toddler. Toddler experiences are easier to sum up. Plus you go through them so quickly you can easily share what worked with others just starting out. The journey with teens is so long and none of us know if what we are doing will work until they are out of it.

    I can gladly share some of my takeaways from my experiences though but before I do keep this in mind:

    Even the most normal child has out of body experiences as a teen. Girls usually begin around 13 -15. Boys usually begin around 15-16. Try to keep in mind that teenagers frontal lobe in their brain shuts down during this period of life. The frontal lobe is reasonable for reasoning, planning, decision-making and other high-level cognitive functions.

    Before you blow your stack try to remember they can’t help it.

    The most important part with teens is to stand your ground. They are just children trying to find themselves. They need guidance, support and understanding and when that doesn’t work they need a firm knock upside the head (lol) and strict consequences.

    So here is how we rule our house and I haven’t had an issue yet. We practice abstinence, no drugs, drinking, etc. but we believe in fun and want our children to express themselves as long as they are respectful to us, others and follow the rules.

    1. Zero tolerance for disrespect. Nip the talking back in the bud the very first time.
    2. No slamming doors..unless you want it taken off the hinges. (see number one)
    3. Just because you have money you may have earned on your own doesn’t mean you can buy or do anything you want with it. You still need to have a conversation with us. (see number one)
    4. Noone comes in my house after hours. If I’m not doing it, neither can you. (see number one)
    5. If you get caught doing something wrong outside the house, expect to deal with the consequences. Because that is what life is all about.
    6. Keep an open line of communication with your kids. My 20 year old will tell anyone that we are best friends. We talk about everything and that allows for her to share with me.
    7. Do NOT talk at your teenagers, talk to and with them. They hate to be lectured so say what you gotta say and move on.
    8. Remind them that your goal is to prepare them to live on their own. Once they reach late adolescence you should have the training wheels off while you walk beside them as they ride, occasionally grabbing the wheel if they are about to fall.
    9. Follow up with consequences immediately and make them mean something. My oldest daughter lost her phone for 1 1/2 years after using it inappropriately two times. Three strikes your out. My punishments are strict but lessons are taught. When she earned it back the last time she got her mind right!
    10. Nothing belongs to you, your privacy is at my discretion. I will do phone searches, electronic monitoring at any time, etc. If you don’t want me taking something or seeing it don’t bring it in my house and/or follow our rules. (see number one)
    11. We eat dinner together every night.
    12. We spend time together as a family every week.
    13. We do electronic freezes once in a while to force everyone to reconnect.
    14. We don’t advocate dating but we do advocate friendship. Teenage girls can have male company visit the home…with the family present.
    15. They are allowed to go out in groups only!
    16. Know their friends and nix relationships that are poisonous ASAP. Let their friends come over so you can get to know them if possible.

    I have two in college who are on the Deans’ List, still living at home, are normal again and aren’t rushing to leave. Many people will say teens need their space and you have to let them go or they will be wild. I say that isn’t true. Be a parent, friend, disciplinarian and love them. But just remember you know best.

    No two teens are the same and no two circumstances are the same. You may have one that you will allow to drive at 16 and another not until they are 18. You can’t parent across the board but you need to have some rules in place.

    There is an old saying: If I am parenting correctly I will say no more times than I will say yes.

    Here’s to your success. If you hit a snag in the road, feel free to reach out to me, I’ll be glad to offer some experienced advice.

    Lisa

  8. In about two weeks, I will have 2 teenagers and years and years to look forward to more. So far, it hasn’t been bad at all. I like to say that teenagers are just overgrown toddlers. They throw tantrums, they freak out, and they want everything to themselves. Maybe it’s because I still have a toddler that I haven’t found it to be overly trying. The key for us has been to have them actively engaged. The more time they have to kill, the more trouble they can get into. I know all of our teens won’t be smooth sailing, but so far, it has actually been kind of fun.

    As far as not sharing as much, I don’t. I worry about how something I might say may affect them one day. Or maybe a friend will stumble across my blog, or a parent may mention it and they may receive torment because of it. Maybe we need a private place to discuss all the gory details of teens! LOL

    I think if you remember that they are just trying to navigate a big scary world and that deep down they are good kids, that will help.

  9. Lisa Aucoin says:

    This Lisa agrees with the previous commenter named Lisa, 100%! With her permission, I may make it my Momma Manifesto :)

    #11 and #12 are harder for us to achieve regularly but I try. Every other point is spot-on. These are the guidelines I follow as a parent, I trust my instincts and I trust (but often verify) my children.

    Why other parents don’t share? Lots of reasons. Yes, it is all-consuming, and it is also so different than toddler tantrums and diaper blowouts. It’s sexual awareness, it’s pregnancy, it’s mental health issues, it’s drugs, it’s teaching my sons to respect women and girls, it’s teaching them that anything other than a direct “yes” means “no”, it’s,it’s, it’s…HARD! And, I can only talk about these things for so long, to so many people, before I’m exhausted.

    And, it’s harder to watch the floundering kids who have parents that don’t care, don’t get involved, don’t step up. My heart aches for some of my oldest son’s friends. Twice this year I’ve decided to call the principal and report stories I have heard about other students. I can’t sleep at night sometimes for thinking about these kids.

    I’m fortunate, I have thoughtful sons who still care to share with me. My oldest wrote me a letter for an assignment telling me that he respects me. The teen years have been different and fun, but we’re just getting started and I do see subtle changes in my almost 14 year old. I miss him more and more.

    Overall, it’s been good. I think that this partly stems from my developing a small group of authentic female friends (and a few close male friends) with whom I choose to share the good, bad and ugly. They’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs. We let it all hang out. We speak to truth. It took me to age 47 to get these friends but it has made all the difference.

    I invite you into my circle. I’m here to listen, here to talk anytime. I like wine.

    You’ve got this, girl. You really do. Love them. Hug them (usually in private ;). Let them know that you always have their back. Let them know that no one will ever love them as much as you. Then, let out the slack…and breathe. xo

  10. As my kids age, I withhold information about them that might be embarrassing. So it could be a level of, “If this gets back to my kid, she’ll be mortified” that keeps them from speaking up. Or it could be that it’s no one specific thing, just a constant barrage of attitude for four to eight solid years. Or it could be the alcohol poisoning thing, or something similar.

  11. It never occurred to me that parents stopped talking about the specifics once their kids became teens. My mom ALWAYS talked about us as teens – still does, 20 years later! :) Mine two boys are still wee ones, so I can’t help you, but thanks for letting us know to expect other parents to go silent. And thanks for having the courage to reach out and ask for stories and support! You’re a fantastic mom. While the teen years may be hard for some, they are still a short chapter in your beautiful story.

  12. Fear no more! We are a online and print magazine for parents of teenagers. We have personal stories, expert advice, a Q&A, blogs and more – please check us out at http://www.yourteenmag.com. Really enjoyed your blog – maybe you would be interested in blogging for us too! Happy to send you a copy of our print magazine – send me your address!

    • I’ve just subscribed to your weekly emails. Will definitely be interested in talking further about blogging. I will send you my address for a copy of the magazine. Thanks!

  13. Kathy New says:

    I may be crazy, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the teenage years. I think the biggest struggle is knowing that during these years they are testing their ground and gaining confidence in their decisions good and bad. As a parent, the most difficult part is determining when to intervene (life changing decisions) and when to let them learn from mistakes. That is how we all learned and goodness knows there were times when I don’t know how we lived, Missy. :-)
    We have such a decent dialogue with our son. He is a typical 17 year old boy and by no means an angel. He has grown up knowing we have his back, but also allowed him to make those stumbles along the way which have helped him learn. He has learned to trust us and believe it or not tell us occasionally we were right. It has been a pleasure watching him come into his independence.
    I will admit the most difficult moment was when he got his license and drove down the street by himself for the first time …. all the way down the street … and around the corner … out of sight … until I could no longer see him. Had to be the hardest thing ever, but I made it. So yes, I worry. I worry a lot. I worry that he makes good decisions. I worry that he doesn’t look back and ever regret the things he did or didn’t do. Through all those moments they will surprise you. They will make good choices. They will make you proud. They will let you know that they are ready to take on the grown up life. I guess that is why I love these years. I think somewhere in there it is really me learning to let go and part of that is knowing he is ready to be let go. Who knows, maybe that is why people don’t really talk about it.
    You will love the teenage years. You will butt heads, but you will also gain a buddy who knows you have their back and love them no matter what. What more could a teen want :-)

  14. I don’t post stories about my teens because unlike a tantrum or blow-out when a child is little, or even a cute story in elementary school, my concerns would be embarrassing to them now.

    I talk a LOT in person with my friends or via email that’s private. But I am not going to talk online about the fears that keep me up at night when they could very well read it – or their peers could. It’s not about my not wanting people to think my kids make mistakes. At all.

    But that’s just my two cents.

    My daughter will be 15 this summer and my son will be 17.
    If you email me ANY question, I’ll totally tell you what our experience has been…
    openly and honestly.

  15. Missy–I love this–and you are so right–there is a tightening of lips once those teen years hit, once that first mistake has been made conscientiously by one of our children–and why is that we become quiet and can’t or don’t share? Is it the hidden fear that maybe we have failed as mothers? Is it shame? Maybe a little of both. I also think that there is an issue of trust that grows between mother and child as they hit those volatile teen years–They “screw up” or struggle with an issue and our instinct is to protect and teach and solve and learn and move on—With that comes a trust they have in that special relationship with us as mothers. So those mistakes are quieted inside the family home because it becomes a question if it is our place as parents to share our teenagers growing pains– Mistakes aside; we do face challenges in the teens that are so different than the ones we were up against when they were kids–And your words have helped remind me how important it is for us as mothers to be open and available to listen and share what we have experienced–I know I am thankful to have a few close moms with older kids who I have gone to during those trying times–I’m here if you want to get a glass of wine (or two) and share. Hugs-

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