When you have a big, boisterous teenager who spends half his life texting and the other half in the shower, it’s easy to wax nostalgic for that sweet little boy staring back at you from the scrapbook pages… the one clutching the stuffed t-rex, the one who’s fallen asleep on your Golden Retriever, the one digging contentedly in the sand box with his shovel shaped like a shark.
But before you start blinking back tears, let me just say this: There are some real advantages to having a teenage boy rather than a little tyke. Here are several of the biggies:
1. No more standing in a two-hour line for Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride… followed by another hour and a half waiting to float through It’s a Small World. Nope, you send him off –and the friend you’ve brought along for company– with Disney Park Hopper Passes and a room key, along with instructions to meet you at the hotel check-out on the following Saturday—bags packed. They’re too old to be victims; if anything, they’ll be the perps (but your local paper won’t cover it, so relax). Meanwhile, you and your husband can kick back at Jellyrolls and take in the dueling pianos.
2. You can leave food and water out for him, like you would for a cat. You don’t have to dish it out, heat it up, or serve it. He can move it on his own from refrigerator to microwave to table. Just have a gallon of milk in the house so that he can wash everything down and you’re good to go.
3. And while we’re on the subject of food, teenage boys are not picky eaters. They will – they do – eat everything in sight. Moldy, slimy, dried out, expired – doesn’t matter. Every bite has the potential to make them bigger and stronger, so they’ll take their chances. Gone are the days when they hid peas in their napkins or refused to eat foods that were too squishy or too yellow or foods that touched other foods.
4. Car rides are immeasurably easier with teenagers. They listen to their music through earbuds, so you no longer have to feign enjoyment of the Fisher Price Little People Sing Along CD. Even if they don’t happen to have their iPhones or iPods with them in the car, they’ll fall asleep within a few minutes, so you’re free to tune in to NPR. And unlike toddlers, for whom nodding off in the car for half an hour means going to bed four hours later that night, teenagers will always sleep for at least 12 hours, no matter how much napping precedes their actual bedtime.
5. If they do wake up at night, bored, they won’t cry out for you. They’ll entertain themselves. That’s all we’ll say here.
6. They’re useful: They can lift things, fix things, and make things. They know what to do if that little color wheel on your computer spins endlessly for no good reason or if the TV informs you that there is No Signal. If something starts clanking in the car, they actually have an idea of what it might be. (This is not gender specific, I must say. When my daughter was a teenager, she knew more about car engines than anyone in the family.)
7. They up your game. Your athletic skills will improve dramatically because boys rarely sit across the table from you and tell you about their feelings. They talk in the context of doing other things. And those things include shooting baskets or tossing a Frisbee or batting a ping-pong ball back and forth. If I need information, I know I will have to put on my sneaks and my stretchy clothes and get ready to move.
8. Running errands is a cinch. Drag a teenage boy around with you on a Saturday morning and you’ll be amazed at how quickly and easily you can check things off of your to-do list. The teenage girls who work at Starbucks, at the return counter at Target, and at the CVS pharmacy will clamor to help you out when you approach them with a teenage boy in tow.
9. If you read to them, it’s not The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners. It’s a few sentences about college football or maybe a cautionary tale about texting while driving. Not thrilling stuff, but still preferable to reading (and re-reading) about Mama Bear and her Politeness Plan.
10. And – best of all — there is a decent chance that in a dozen years or so, your teenage son will be married and his wife will have babies and you can have all the fun of a little boy all over again, without having to pay for braces or car insurance or college and without worrying about whether the babysitter is stealing from your change jar.