Raising Teens Is Letting Go


Raising Teens

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.

I am ready to admit that I was wrong. It is not easy. Being a parent to a teenager makes you question everything you thought you knew about raising children. It makes you wonder where you went wrong when they were little and why on earth you decided to have them in the first place.

You will also spend lots of time wondering how a boy who was once so sweet and cute can smell so bad. Or how a girl who once loved only you can look at you with the kind of disdain you reserve only for skinny women with perfect shoes.

There are no clear guidelines on raising teenagers. They are individuals, struggling to figure out the world and their place in it. As a parent, your job is to be there when they want you to be there.

Be there, when THEY want you to be there.

My Aunt Jan, who raised six daughters, told me that you have to be around all the time for teenagers. That way, when they are ready to talk, they’ll talk to you, if not they’ll talk to someone else. I would amend that to say they’ll talk to their friends and all their friends are stupid.

Seriously, every one of them. My children have friends who I love. Friends who are welcome in my home every day, any time. But they’re teenagers and they’re stupid.

My teenagers are stupid too.

When you have teenagers, the hardest but most important thing you will do is let go. When they want to go to the movies with their friends, at some point you have to let them. If they want to walk up to the soccer field by themselves, or worse in a car with another teen at the wheel, you have to let them.

They might act like fools in the movie theater. They might use language that you find appalling. They might drive faster than necessary, without wearing a seat belt.

Then again, they might not.

All you can do is hope. Hope you’ve loved them enough and taught enough to be brave in the face of peer pressure. Smart. Kind.

You will not always be confident that you have succeeded. If you’re anything like me you will spend hours worrying, crying, reading parenting blogs and books. Hoping for some sign that you did it right.

Then one morning your son will go to church with you and you’ll realize he is wearing clothes you would have picked out. But you didn’t. You’ll overlook the fact that his pants are hanging a little bit low. He’ll ask if he can light a candle for your sick dog. You’ll notice that the adults at your church smile when they see him and your daughter. That they want to talk to them.

You’ll realize that your kids have great manners. That even though they give you the stink eye 23 hours a day, they do actually know how to act out in the real world.

Try not to cry. It will just embarrass them.


  1. 1

    Jessica says

    LOVE this post. Love love love it. Im forwarding it to my mom who is having a hard time with my younger brother right now. Hes 15 and a pain in the ass. Literally. I think this might help her understand him more. Thanks!

  2. 3

    Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) says

    I couldn’t agree more. It takes a LOT OF LUCK to make it through the teenage years. They are stupid and they don’t realize their mortality.

    Someone once told me that your kids will eventually be the person they put out in public. My kids are 18, 20 and 21. I’m waiting!!!

    No really…they’re becoming terrific. Most of the time. Well, some of the time. Well, occasionally. GREAT POST

  3. 7

    Life with Kaishon says

    I am so scared about this day coming soon : (
    I let my baby go to the beach with his friends this summer and I thought I was going to die. I missed him so.
    Disdain you hold for skinny women in heels. LOVE that!

    • 10

      Bridget says

      My teenage boy was a wild child too. Sports. Lots and lots of sports! It gives him something to think about other than girls!

      • 13

        Melissa says

        I have a 14 year old boy and he gets moody and irritable, just like a girl! He just reacts differently…no screaming or crying, just silence and occasional foot stomping/door slamming! Plus the stink of course…

        • 14

          Bridget says

          The silent treatment is used around here on a regular basis. Sometimes even by me! I don’t stink as much though ;)

  4. 15

    Sharon says

    Thank you for saying everything I was feeling but couldn’t put into words. I took my 15 year old to get his drivers permit last Saturday, and he looked at me like I had sprouted 10 heads when I started crying. To him it’s something he has waited 15 years for, and I should be happy. To me, it’s just one more sign that he is growing up and will walk out into the world on his own (far too soon for my taste) in a few short years ;(

    • 16

      Bridget says

      I know what you mean, I got all weepy about the kids starting school earlier this week. They had no idea why it was so hard for me!

  5. 17

    JoAnn says

    “That which doesn’t kill us, will make us stronger!” I’m stll alive and so are the kids! They surprise me everyday- I guess they might actually be listening, I know I have!

  6. 19

    laura says

    That is so beautifully written. As a Mom of a pre-teen and a “little one” heading to kingergarten I valued this perspective of what lies ahead. I love the advice to be there so they will talk to you instead or at least as well as their friends…

    • 20

      Bridget says

      Thanks, it was great advice when it was given to me too. She also said, “just clean one room a day.” Most days I don’t even get that done!

  7. 21

    Cassie G says

    Letting go is important. That 23-hour “stink eye” is all too familiar, though, and it often makes talking about the tough stuff difficult. What happens when you want to talk to your teen about something like drugs, and he walks away with rolling eyes? I’ve found that information on http://www.timetotalk.org has been useful in helping me think of some conversation starters and “teachable moments.” Thanks for this beautiful article!

  8. 23

    Jennifer says

    I’ve learned this past year that the look teenage girls have perfected is something they start developing at age six. That is why it is so dead on by the time they hit their teenage years. Sometimes my daughter tries her look out on me and I’m so shocked. How did she learn how to do that?

    • 24

      Bridget says

      I know! When my daughter was 5 I remember her trying to get my attention by saying “HELLO!!” She earned the name Sassybean way back then & it stuck!

  9. 25

    amaliem says

    too funny! Love the line about all teenagers being stupid because simply put, they are!! I include myself in that category when I was a teenager.

    • 26

      Bridget says

      We were all stupid as teens. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. I don’t even like to think of some of the stupid-borderline-dangerous stuff I did!

    • 28

      Meredith says

      Me too – love it when stuff like this just falls into your lap at the perfect time. Now, as long as my boss doesn’t catch me crying at my desk….

    • 30

      Bridget says

      Haha! I think about sending them to the other side of the world often, but right about the time I’ve had they do something human ;)

  10. 31

    Krista says

    My kids are still basically babies, but my husband coaches HS football. Today, I took the kids up to the school to eat lunch with their father and the team. As I watched the boys (you know, the 6’3 275lb “boys”) I noticed that one of them was completely out of place. He was trying to mop something else, making a complete mess out of it and no one helped him for a few moments. It crushed me and froze me. Eventually another player did get up and help him but that moment where he stood there alone and left out, made me realize how much harder parenting is going to get once the kids are out of diapers and bottles.

  11. 33

    Brook @ To Be Dancing says

    I took a psychology class a couple years ago. Apparently, the brain isn’t completely developed until about age 25. Which, of course, explains A LOT. Including why that is the age when most car insurance rates start going down some.
    We are 8. Not really looking forward to the teen years. Glad I still have a minute or two before that happens.

    • 34

      Bridget says

      I read an article about that too. It said the decision-making pathways aren’t fully formed so they actually aren’t capable of understanding cause and affect-at least not in the same way as adults. It makes me feel better to know my kids aren’t just nuts!

  12. 35

    KMayer says

    I love teenagers. Plain and simple. I usually love other people’s teens more than my own, but my own are pretty awesome as well. They’re just kids trapped in grown up bodies, with boobs, brawn and a growing brain and conscience. What’s not to love?

    • 36

      Bridget says

      I was just saying something like that this morning. Despite all the drama and stress of having teens, you also get these people who are funny and smart and can actually interact with you on a semi-adult level. Then they leave us…it makes me sad.

  13. 37

    Paula says

    OMG! That look! Ugh! Disdain doesn’t even COvER the look my daughter could give. And letting go, sadly, so true. And scarey! Then one morning you wake up, and they are mommy’s themselves. If you thought you had grey hairs while they were teenagers, wait until you get a grandbaby! Might wanna buy stock in your fav hair color manufacturer now as you’ll be spending your retirement on it!!

  14. 39

    Rebecca says

    I LOVED this! My 13 year old daughter and I are going through the “push-me, pull-you” dance – I love you, Mommy, I hate you, Mommy- while I am enjoying the waning days of utter devotion from my 10 year old son, as he gets stinkier by the day…
    Some days I can’t wait for it to be over, and then I think that I only have 8 years left of full time parenting, and tears come to my eyes. Thanks so much, you made my afternoon!

    • 40

      Bridget says

      Oh! You’re welcome. It’s a tough line to pull. You are trying to parent, getting annoyed with them, but still trying to hold on to the last strings of their childhood. Mine started high school this week and the thought of only having 4 years left with them made me cry. A lot.

      I even blogged some advice to them-since they never listen to me! http://twinisms.com/2011/08/15/9th-grade-jitters/

  15. 41

    Tasha says

    As a mom of a 17 yo daughter and a 13yo daughter, I can so relate. Even though I haven’t had too many issues with them, I realize I have 5 more that are going to be teens and would be a fool to expect that “I’ve got this”. I actually just wrote a post on letting go of my 17yo. So, so hard. http://thewholemom.org/parenting/letting/

  16. 43

    Mariann says

    Well said! I have a 14 y.o son and a daughter, who will be 13 in less than a month! I’m going through every single thing that you mentioned, particularly in regards to my boy child!
    A friend of mines recently told me, that you have to let go and trust that what you instilled in them will outshine all of the temptation that they’ll encounter on their journey through this life! GREAT BLOG!

    • 44

      Bridget says

      You’re friends advice is spot on. All you can do is hope you taught them well. It sounds a bit cliche, but it is completely true.

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