My youngest child officially became a teenager this year. While I am cautiously optimistic that both of us will survive the experience, it is difficult to hold onto hope as I stare down seven long years of eye rolls and heavy sighs and endless drama.
With her sisters, I laid awake at night, performing forensic audits on each argument and kicking myself for not managing to remain calm and composed and reasonable. I read books about parenting teens. And I took advice from anyone willing to offer it. FYI…
Every person on planet earth who IS NOT parenting a teen has advice. The rest of us just have wine.
As I venture into this rough terrain for the third time, I have the confidence of a seasoned veteran. The parenting books are long gone and I only accept advice from women who have (a) successfully gotten at least 2 children from diapers to adulthood, (b) done it while managing a successful career, and (c) drink. I don’t trust anyone who did (a) and (b) without wine.
The biggest difference in my approach is that I have ditched the second guessing and the accompanying guilt. Because here is what I know …
Teenagers are arguing machines. They argue louder, faster and stronger. And they are kamikaze. If you both come out alive, pat yourself on the back. It was a win.
Parenting a teen is not for the faint of heart. It is a long, messy slog, and no one gets an award for doing it right. In fact, I am not sure that anyone has ever been recognized as having done it 100% right.
There are a few things that are definitely wrong – like hitting, or belittling, or kicking them out of the house! But “right” is a lot more subjective. With that in mind, I offer up a few pearls of wisdom based on what I have learned from many years on the front lines:
#1. Screaming never killed anybody. Trying not to raise your voice while debating (for the millionth time) whether your request for them to clean their room is reasonable or proof that you are a “control freak” will make the veins in your neck throb. If raising the volume lets off a little steam, go for it.
#2. Bribery works. If offering $20 gets the dog walked and the room cleaned and the dishwasher unloaded, pay it! ‘Cause let’s be real about this … they are going to get that $20 out of your wallet one way or another. At least this way, you get a little something out of the deal.
#3. The car is your greatest source of power. Teenagers ALWAYS want to go somewhere. Without walking. The promise of a drive or the use of a vehicle is an irresistible carrot. Hold it high. Run fast. Get as much as you can for it!
#4. No one fights at the movies. There will be moments when it seems like you have been arguing FOREVER. Since the beginning of recorded time. When that happens, take them to the movies, where there is calming darkness and a shared experience that does not involve the exchange of words. Priceless… Although you will probably resume arguing in the car on the way home.
Lastly… and most importantly…
#5. Kiss them when they are sleeping. Because despite their height and their attitude, they are still children. Not that far removed from those years when you bathed them and put them to bed in one-piece pajamas with feet.
Asleep, my teenager looks like an angel. A sweaty, smelly angel that didn’t brush her teeth or use the $200 water flosser I bought to get around her braces… sigh… but still an angel.