Gone are the days when I was chasing my three active boys around the playground, or wiping their chocolatey mouths or their cute, little butts. Although two of my three boys are now teenagers, my house is still chaotic, dirty and noisy with a large dose of testosterone pulsing through it. Still, there are times when I long for that phase of them being young again, when I could pick them up and kiss their pudgy cheeks. Yet, I’ve recently discovered that being a mom to teenage boys has benefits that I never would have foreseen when they were little guys…
If someone would have told me years ago that I would someday be teaching a teenager to drive, I’d have laughed my butt off. Seriously, I’d be sitting here without a butt. Instead, I have a rather large butt and I am teaching a teenager to drive.
I have real problems with this, not the least of which is that I am the worst driver on the planet. Hey, I admit it. I don’t do freeways well. When it rains, I start to freak out. About the only thing I do right when driving is refuse to use my cell phone.
But somehow I was elected to teach the teenager to drive, which should make all of you very afraid.
When I hear parents of young children talk about how their kids are up before the sun rises, and how they can’t wait until they’re older so they can get some extra sleep, I empathize. Then I tell them not to wish it away too quickly, because sweet toddlers in the pre-dawn hours beat grumpy-teen vampires any day of the week.
When my sons were little, they were early risers too, though luckily, they didn’t feel the need to do somersaults the moment they opened their eyes — a big help since I was often up late doing freelance work. Still, 6 a.m. came awfully soon. To ease our way into the day, television shows like Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and Arthur were my drugs of choice, along with my mother-in-law’s video gifts of SpongeBob SquarePants and Yu-Gi-Oh! – both shows I swore I’d never watch but ended up doing exactly that, laughing along with the boys. On the rare occasion that they overslept, I couldn’t — certain that there was something wrong, I’d sneak into their room to check to be sure they were still breathing.
Years passed. And as they did, the boys woke later and later, until, as children tend to do, they became teenagers, and the only part of the wake-up routine that was familiar was the checking-to-make-sure-they-
Oh, mommies. I read so many blog posts and articles about the trials and tribulations of raising toddlers. And YES, oh sweet 18-month-old Jesus, YES they are all spot on: having a toddler (or two) at home is kind of like having the most obnoxious, handsy, drunk frat guy at the party living with you 24/7. Parenting the two, three and four year olds deserves its own special child-proofed circle in Hell some days.
But let me tell you something, ladies. There will come a day when you look back on these years with something that feels like wistfulness. A longing, even.
Because that pea-soup spewing, head spinning, chicken nugget-clutching abomination in the car seat behind you is going to be a teenager some day.
And then things get really fun.
I was walking a friend through the process of setting up a Facebook account and had just said, “The most important thing to know is that everything you post on your wall or anyone else’s can be viewed by everyone who likes you,” when a little popup appeared notifying me that my 13 year old son Keenan had updated his status.
“Keenan is horny.”
“I’ll call you back,” I said.
Some mornings my 16-year-old daughter emerges from my not-so-tidy closet with one of my shirts or sweaters. She holds up a navy fitted tee or a heathered beige hoodie in front of the oval-shaped bathroom mirror, where she sizes up whether it passes muster as a potential frontrunner for that day’s school outfit.
I try to stand at a distance, but can’t help but watch her assess her options, as she tilts her head from one side to the other—her hair still up in the messy ponytail she had slept in the night before—as if she’s carefully thinking through her decision.
I have two almost 15-year-olds. When they were little I remember hearing people say, “Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.” I thought they were crazy. I imagined a time when I could run to the store without a car seat in each hand. When they could cut their own food and would actually eat it so I could eat my dinner.
I imagined sitcom-like exchanges amongst them and their friends in my spotless kitchen after school. In my head they would be perfectly self-sufficient young people, capable of making the right choice at the right time.
I could hardly wait. It seemed so easy.
My oldest son is sixteen and has a girlfriend. How this happened, I have no idea. Didn’t I just bring that swaddled lump home from the hospital? Wasn’t it just yesterday that he was mooning over Blue’s Clues (and I was mooning over Steve Burns)? Wasn’t it just recently that the most stressful speck on the horizon of his childhood was signing him up for t-ball?
I blinked, though, and here he is – more man than boy, navigating his first teen romance.
I was sixteen when I had my first serious (okay, my first) boyfriend. My mother took me to the doctor to get a prescription for the Pill. Looking back, I now understand how difficult that must have been for her…
Coming home to your child is so much fun, isn’t it? If your child is under 10, they are usually so happy to have you show up at the door, they often come to you! “Hi! Where were you? What are we going to do? Can you feed me? Wanna play? Come see the bone I dug up!” Having an elementary schooler or preschooler is like coming home to a healthy golden retriever puppy. They nearly knock you down in their exuberance to be with you.
Coming home to a tween or teenager is another experience entirely! An hour or so later they may wander into the kitchen and say, “When did you get home? Is there anything to eat?” Or, they may not have noticed that you weren’t home in the first place. If they do notice, they’re most likely to express their impatience “Where have you been?!” and follow it up with a complaint or demand. Having a tween or teen can very much mimic owning an opinionated, cranky (but hungry) Siamese cat.
We all know babies can be pretty frigging gross. Every single one of them is obligated to have at least one diaper blow-out that leaves them covered head to toe in shit. They really have no social discretion, either and will freely grunt their way through taking that shit in the midst of a big family dinner. Babies make up for it by being cute, though. Teens, however, not cute. They’re just disgusting…
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…
Sometimes I think I’ve learned more from my teenager than he’s learned from me.
I know that genetically he’s mine (well, and to be completely honest, his father, my then-husband played a role in that too – after all I didn’t spawn the kid), but he couldn’t be more different from me.
And while I’ve taught him things like how to do his laundry without making his clothes into Smurf outfits, how to properly microwave a pepperoni Hot Pocket so that it cooks but doesn’t explode like a nuclear bomb, and how to merge onto a busy highway (Omigod, Omigod, Omigod! Don’t hit that car! Stay on the freakin’ road! Merge! Merge! Merge!), he’s taught me greater, significantly more profound lessons.
By simply living his life, he’s taught me how to be authentically myself.