Thursday, April 4, 2013

The good, the bad: The Teenager

Published for KSL.com -- HERE's the link
Published in Cross Timber Gazette -- HERE's the link

“I don’t want him to be a teenager. He won’t play with me anymore.”

My third child, age 9, voiced this concern when I was putting him to bed after his older brother’s 12th birthday party. Having observed the emotional roller-coaster ride his oldest sister (age 14) had been on in the previous few years, he had a good idea what was coming — and he didn’t like it.
Despite my wishy-washy assurances to the contrary, I knew that my son’s prediction was pretty much spot-on. Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the idea myself.
To be clear, teenagers have tons of fabulous and enviable traits:
  • They’re funny. The other day at the dinner table, my 12-year-old son took a firm stand against eating what was on the menu. His 15-year-old brother looked at him sideways and said, “There are hundreds of children in Africa who would take issue with you turning your nose up at perfectly good food.”
  • They think outside the box. I walked into the kitchen recently to find my 17-year-old daughter sitting on the kitchen island eating a bowl of quinoa, and my 15-year-old son sitting on the opposite counter eating a bowl of cereal. Apparently, tables and chairs have become too cliché.
  • They’re wonderfully empathetic. I can always, always count on one of my teenagers to whisk away the tears or frustrations of their 7-year-old brother. Granted, some of their methods — wrestling, teasing, shooting Nerf bullets — are unconventional (this goes back to thinking outside the box), but it works and is much appreciated. In fact, it’s simply awesome.
These positive, great moments with my teenagers are unforgettable. They leave me feeling happy, hopeful and confident. They leave me thinking how glad I am that I’m a mom.
But as long as I’m being clear, I’ll be honest. Teenagers get a bad rap for good reason:
  • They make inexplicable decisions. Like when my daughter, upon being asked to turn off the TV because we were going to bed, decided to make a grilled chicken salad. The chicken had not yet been grilled. The grill was right outside our window. It was midnight.
  • They dig in their heels, even when "undigging" them would make so much more sense. Like when my son refused my help on a fairly difficult writing assignment for his freshman English class. I happen to have taught freshman English — plus, I write for a living. I went out on a limb and reminded him of those details about me — in the event he had forgotten. He hadn’t. He wrote the paper on his own.
  • They display various degrees of emotional instability. In the interest of protecting my kids’ dignity, I’ll leave it at that. Which reminds me — I need to thank my parents for protecting my own dignity. Karma being what it is, my teenage stories bear remarkable resemblance to my kids’. The biggest difference I can see is that most of my emotional outbursts were made while wearing leg warmers and sporting very big hair.
So I shouldn’t be surprised (yet I sometimes am) when the negative, not-so-great moments with my teenagers are as unforgettable as the positive ones — but on a different level. They leave me crying, losing sleep, worrying and praying. They leave me wondering why I ever became a mom if I’m so bad at it.

I speak only for myself, but suspect that I might not be alone in feeling this way.
Last week, my 12-year-old son — the one who had taken such a strong anti-teenager stance — discovered that there was Nutella in the house. He is keenly aware of my weakness for Nutella. So, he took a spoonful of it and waved it back and forth in front of my nose, chanting, “This will make all your dreams come true!” Eventually, I caved — it was inevitable. As he was walking away, my son laughed maniacally and cackled, “I can break them every time.”
I believe I’ve just been invited to board my third emotional roller coaster.
There will be huge ups, huge downs, serious twists and some surprises. But I wouldn’t miss the ride. It’s sure to be awesome and unforgettable — just like my teenagers.

1 comment:

  1. LOL. I could especially relate to the big hair...and to the inexplicability of my kids' penchant for refusing my editing help, despite the fact that I was a professional editor for nearly a decade. I have now decided to embrace that independence. It makes for a happier relationship between us and no doubt on anyone's part that "their work" is "their work."

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