They warned me. The well-meaning but slightly jaded “older moms” I would meet at the park, they tried to tell me. I would be groaning about how my little one was trying to give up his afternoon nap, and how surely it signaled the end of the world and would be a daily struggle I would never, ever be able to manage. “You think you have it tough now? Just wait until they are teenagers.” Yada yada yada was all that I would hear. I mean lady, seriously, I have tiny whiny people with sticky hands, runny noses, and crap-filled bottoms pulling on my pant legs all day. I will happily take a potty-trained and self-sufficient young adult any day over this nightmare.
I’d like to take that statement back, please. Pretty please?
That day my toddler gave up his nap? That is a day I want back, because now I know the lady at the park was right. There are days you have with teens that leave you frozen in disbelief, mouth gaping open, looking at your 15-year-old and thinking, Life was much simpler when my biggest dilemma was your nap schedule. Here are the top 10 days—good and bad—with your teenager that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief:
1. The Day They Wreck the Car
My teen has backed into the neighbor’s car twice now, and I always wondered why convenient stores needed those cement pillars lining the front of the store. I mean, who is driving right into the candy bar aisle? Teens are. Kids with IQs over 130 who forget they need to put the car in park after they stop are. And stop signs are for stopping all the time, not just when you feel like it. The smart thing to do? Go ahead and give them a scratch and dent clunker from day one.
2. The Day the School Principal Calls
The child who never once saw the inside of a front office may now be a visitor, and it won’t be because he has a stomachache. I’ve learned a phrase the parent of an adolescent should never, ever, ever utter: “Not my kid.” Yes mom, your kid. Don’t sweat it. Your upstanding, church-going, brilliant, respectful little snowflake can’t biologically help it. They lose all sense of consequence and risk. Do not blame yourself. Blame the lack of frontal lobe development. Don’t worry. It passes, they learn their lesson, and you can happily check that off your parenting worst-day-ever list.
3. The ‘I’m Moving Out as Soon as I Turn 18!’ Day
I said it to my mother, she said it to her mother, and her mother said it to her mother. Has yours said it yet? If so, congratulations on the tradition continuing. He’s normal, and he’s flexing his adult muscle, so yeah, good luck with that. We know they don’t mean it, they know they don’t mean it, and luckily, it will only take two months away at college for them to call you out of the blue one day saying they can’t wait to come home for Christmas. Refrain from saying, “I told you so.”
4. They Day They Disappoint You
And they will, in ways you never thought possible. It may be something huge or something small, but it will bring you to your knees nonetheless. It’s growing pains, both for them and you. Remember when you brought home a newborn and didn’t know what to do? You had to learn the only way there is, the hard way. It’s the same with the teen years. You have to learn how to parent them. With the first one, you will make all the mistakes, and that’s OK. You thought you were making all the mistakes with a 3-week-old, and now you know you really weren’t. Stand tough. They will be real people soon enough.
5. The Day They Lose Everything
The car keys, their driver’s license, their laptop, their retainer, their wallets, their minds. All in the same day. You will have a knockdown, drag-out fight about responsibility. It will be epic. But they won’t hear a word of it. See No. 6.
6. They Day They Lose Everything Again
The car keys, their driver’s license, their laptop, their retainer, their minds, again and again and again. It’s like a tortuous version of “I lost it” déjà vu. Do yourself a favor, and let them find everything they lose on their own. Oh, and make them walk to the DMV on a Monday morning for a replacement license—with their own money.
7. The Day They Lie Straight to Your Face
Yes, they will. And it will be a big, bold-faced one, but not for the reasons you think. Teens lie because they think they are protecting us, the parents, from disappointment. They want to keep a positive relationship with us, not ruffle our feathers, so to speak. They think they are keeping the parent/child relationship on the up and up—if we don’t know what’s really going on, it’s better for us. Sadly, they may not learn that the lie, and the inevitable cover-up of the lie, brings a great deal more disappointment than the truth, as bad as it may be.
8. The Day Their Independence Scares You
On that first long day of high school when they drive away at 6:45 a.m. and don’t return home until 11 p.m., and it hits you that you haven’t seen your kid in 18 hours, your mind goes to places it shouldn’t. It imagines worries it should never entertain, and it plays out scary scenarios that will eat your soul alive if you let them. Don’t let them. This is a proud day.
9. The Day Their Independence Amazes You
This is a proud day. Remember that kid rolling on the kitchen floor shoving goldfish up his noise and pulling your pant leg? He is living his own life now, for 18 hours at a time, without you navigating or narrating it. Relax, jump for joy, then go take a nap.
10. The Day They Become Really, Really Cool
This, this is the day you have waited years for. It has finally happened! This is the day the Teen Gods hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in our kid’s awesomeness, and the fact that the awkward, cranky, zombie-like figure who has been roaming the halls of your home shoving pizza in his mouth forever now wants to sit down and have an intellectual conversation with you about politics and that story he heard on NPR yesterday. Holy overnight maturity!
Yes, I’ll take all those bad days, because they end with that day. And I will take that day, over a crap-filled diaper day, any day of the damn week.