There are SO many ways to horrify your teen:
- Dress too old
- Dress too young
- Dress in anything that resembles what they are currently wearing
Solution: jeans, black t-shirts and mid-length, unadorned cardigans in earth tones. Jeans should be a simple cut but brand name (DO NOT buy jeans in a grocery store… nothing to do with your teen…just don’t)
It doesn’t matter if you had a top 40 hit when you were in your 20s or danced professionally. Trust me… I am confident that Paul McCartney’s children/grandchildren roll their eyes from the back of the limo when he tries to hum along with the radio.
- Tell “When I was your age…” stories
You were NEVER their age. Period. This is core teen belief #1. To accept any other reality is to acknowledge that they might someday drive a minivan, have conversations about taxes, and get excited about watching DVRed episodes of Coronation Street on a Friday night. The mere suggestion that you were once an impulsive, passionate, dare-I-say INTERESTING person sends shivers up their spine.
- Tell “When you were little…” stories
Core teen belief #2: He/she hatched, fully formed, from an egg, has always had a full head of hair, and has always peed in the toilet. He/she has NEVER run naked through a family event, mispronounced the word spaghetti, or said anything “cute” to strangers in an elevator.
- Attempt conversation with their friends, parents of their friends, their teachers, or random people you encounter in public places (this includes both acquaintances and strangers)
The ideal parent is silent. A quick head nod to acknowledge the presence of someone entering the home or minivan is acceptable and, depending on the situation, you may be able to utter hello or good-bye, but that’s about it. Anything more will bring on a near-epileptic seizure of eye rolling and sighing.
- Make physical contact
This includes hugging, kissing, and spit cleaning that dab of ‘something’ off their chin. The personal space periphery around your teen is slightly wider than the smallest room in your house (Yes… this does mean just ‘being’ in a small room with your teen may be too much for them).
- Remind them to put on a coat
Coats are for old people, like you, who get wet when it rains or cold when it snows. Yes, I know he/she has a collection of outerwear options worth more than your first car. But these garments are not for WEARING. They are for display purposes only.
It is impossible to avoid horrifying your teen. They love you in a conceptual way but the reality of your existence is essentially a nightmare. You are a ticking time-bomb that might explode at any moment, effectively destroying the delicate teen-ego ecosystem it took them 60+ minutes in the bathroom to create.
So have a heart. Try to remember (but not verbalize) what it was like to be a teen. And if you need a reminder, take your own mother/mother-in-law to the Apple store in the mall and hang with her while she discusses her iPhone troubles. It’s all relative my friend… it’s all relative.