Most parents of typical toddlers are constantly challenged, mentally drained and extremely exhausted. Not much changes when you’re raising a teenager.
Unlike children in their Terrible Twos, teenagers are extremely verbal like well-versed little lawyers: ready, willing and able to defend or plead their case (though you’ll still hear the occasional emphatic “No!“). Just because they can feed themselves and, thankfully, wipe their own tushies, doesn’t mean you’re home free. You still worry about what they eat, what they drink, whether they play nice with others—and you still pray they sleep in their own beds.
Here are 10 more truths of parenting a teenager:
1. Curfews are meant to be broken. Take a page out of my parenting handbook: better late than never. There really is no excuse for them not to call or text since their cell phones are—if they were born after 1990—practically second skin. However, you’d rather they come home late than drive like mad to get home on time. Deep breaths help while you wait.
2. “I hate you!” No, they don’t really hate you, no matter how many times or how convincingly they say it. They just can’t think of anything else as potent to say. The sooner you get used to hearing it, the better.
3. “But everyone’s doing it! You’re so unfair!” Not everyone is doing it. This just isn’t true. Teens have been successfully pitting parents against each other for years. Don’t fall for it.
4. “One day you’ll have a kid just like you!” Your parents warned you that you’d have a child just like you. And they were right! (Don’t ask me how I know.) What they didn’t tell you is that it would be YOU x 100.
5. Say the opposite of what you mean. Say “No, you mustn’t,” and as soon as you turn your back, chances are they’re already doing it. Every. Time. Pick your battles wisely.
6. “You don’t understand!” Why, yes, yes I do. In fact, my generation, or maybe it was my parents’, or the generation before, invented that. So, yes, I do understand, and the answer is still “NO.”
7. “Can I borrow this?” If you have a daughter and if, miraculously, she actually likes your taste, she will go shopping in your closet and set her sights on your most precious possessions. Lucky for me, by the time my daughter was ready for heels, her foot was larger than mine. My handbags are not as safe. All I ask is that they come back in the same condition as they left. So far so good.
8. They want you. No, I really mean it. They want you (and need you) in their life more than they will ever let on. You may feel as if you’re only an ATM or a chauffeur, but don’t be fooled. They love you and need you more than ever. Just don’t ever expect to hear it.
9. Baby, you can drive my car. If they borrow the car, it will most likely come back without gas and quite possibly smelling like French fries, sweaty socks or worse. I’m just thankful they got home safely with the car—and themselves—intact. As I said, pick your battles wisely.
10. A little bit of humor goes a long way. Especially when trying to defuse idle threats. If your teen leans toward the dramatic—and honestly, whose doesn’t?—and threatens to run away because “you are so unfair” or the “worst parent ever” (though you know for sure they would never leave the safety and security of home and an open wallet, not to mention a well-stocked pantry) smile, and say, “Great, I’ll help you pack.” Then, hum excitedly as you make your way to the storage closet where you keep the suitcases.
Start begging or insisting they stay, and you’ve turned this into a battle of wills they might feel they have to win. Instead, let them save face and get annoyed you’re not taking them seriously. They’ll also be relieved. They just want to bitch and moan. It’s part of the territory.
I say this with authority: My attempts at running away got me as far as the edge of our driveway. Instinctively, I knew I wasn’t going to get very far with a suitcase full of stuffed animals, $2 and a bag of Oreos. I just wanted to be heard. Your kids do too.