Recently, I found myself thumbing through my son’s baby pictures in an effort to remind myself that, at one point in his life, he wasn’t a grumpy teenager. There used to be a time where he promised he’d marry me and build us a home right next to our actual house so I could visit his father whenever I wanted. There was a time when I was the moon to his stars, the Luke to his Leia, the peanut butter to his jelly. And, there was a time when his gym clothes didn’t make me gag into the garbage can.
But nowadays, my son, in all his teenage glory, can be a bit of an asshole. An eye-rolling, opinionated, “Mom is the village idiot” teenage asshole, to be specific. Almost overnight, he’s become an authority on everything, announces loudly in public that I’m embarrassing him, and hogs the entire couch when playing his video games. He has exactly zero patience with his little sister, and there are days when I can barely remember his squishy baby cheeks and toothless grin. And, for the record, if his toddler tantrums were any indication of how his teen years will go, I’m in for a bumpy ride.
Don’t get me wrong; he’s a great kid. Really. But, in those moments when he sets his acned jaw, crosses his arms, and rolls his eyes, his teenaged assholery makes me want to lose my mind. And, if I have any hope of surviving his attitude, his epic eye-rolling and his “know it all” mindset, I had to come up with some coping strategies.
1. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Admittedly, this strategy is the least effective, but it’s definitely the most satisfying. When my teens are copping major ‘tudes, I mimic their behavior right back to them. Eye rolls? Mom can do that, too. Foot stomping? Oh, fun! I’ll play along! Storming out of the room with a door slam flourish? Yes, please, I’ll have another! When I’m employing this strategy, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t flip the bird to their backs as they storm up the stairs. Acting like a teenager is fun, dammit.
2. The Rocky Balboa Treatment
I save this method for the real asshole behavior — the situations in which my teen crosses so far over the line that I can envision her standing before a judge some day. In those moments, the gloves come off and I come out swinging (not actual swinging, relax everyone). I match them wit for wit, tone for tone, and I unleash the fires of mom hell from all angles. I hand out punishments and consequences faster than Rocky knocked out Apollo Creed and, by the time I’m done, even the referee is quaking in his boots.
3. The “Most Embarrassing Mom Ever” Routine
In the last year, I’ve apparently become the most embarrassing mother on the entire planet, and it’s a role I wear with pride. If I’m friendly to my son’s buddies (and by “friendly” I mean “say hi”), I get an eyeroll and a “Stop it! You’re embarrassing me!” face. Whether I am volunteering at his school or just simply breathing, I cause him daily mortification. And unfortunately for him, I use it to my advantage. I turn the music up loudly in the car, sing ’80s songs when his friends are in the car, and I yell “I love you, sweetie” in a sing-song voice as he’s getting out of the car at drop off. And the time I broke it down to “Baby Got Back” at a neighborhood party in front of his friends as he died a thousand deaths from humiliation? Well, suffice it to say he knows I mean business when I tell him to shape up or I’ll break out my dance moves.
4. Drink Wine Until Your Teen Doesn’t Seem So Assholish
This method is self-explanatory. Because wine. Duh.
5. The Kenny Rogers Approach
Sometimes, you gotta know when to fold ’em and just walk away. Yes, your teen may have been disrespectful, and yes, you may want to wring his neck, but you aren’t letting them win by walking away to regroup. Rather, you are giving yourself some much-needed time to restrain yourself from saying something you’ll regret like, “No electronics for a month!” or “You are grounded for a week!” Because a teen without his phone and social media is the assholiest of the assholes, amiright?
6. Grin-and-Bear-It Method
When all else fails, sometimes you have to force a smile and put on your best “Grin and Bear It” face. There are days when my teen’s asshole behavior threatens to get the best of me but I force myself to remember that the asshole years won’t last forever. My son won’t always be annoyed by my presence and my daughter won’t always look at me and spit out “Whatever” when I ask her to fold her laundry. And, though I may be gritting my teeth as I force my smile, I find that it’s actually quite effective in scaring my teens just the tiniest bit. I call it my “Mom Might Lose Her Shit At Any Minute” smile. It keeps them on their toes.
7. The Silence Is Deafening Theory
When all else fails, when you don’t have the patience to grin and bear it, or when you can’t find the strength to go Rocky Balboa on your teen, just be quiet. Stop what you are doing and listen to what your teen is saying. Really hear their angst and take yourself back to the time when you were convinced that your parents were the dumbest bricks on the planet. Let yourself be reminded that what your teen is feeling is not only valid but also honest and real. And try not to take what they are spewing at you too personally, either. Teens lash out at the ones who will love them through their assholery, and there will come a time when they look at you and realize that you might not be so dumb after all. It might be when they are 40, but it’ll happen.
Those baby cheeks may be long gone and the days when they smelled like a baby wash commercial may be a distant memory, but it’s okay to reach out and stroke those teenaged chiseled cheeks now and again. Our teens need the same soft touch we gave them when they toddled through their toddler years, and some days, you just have to pull them close and whisper, “I love you. Even if you are being a giant asshole.”