Smart-mouthed, eye-rolling, selfie-obsessed, living in their own world, back-talking teenagers. If you have one now, your days probably mimic the wildnesses of those endless toddler days — minus the crappy diapers, but with twice the attitude. You love them one minute, then loathe them the next, and wonder when that lovely, polite, happy child you once had will return — because this person is someone you don’t even recognize sometimes.
But there are also many awesome sides to them—the sides that typically show up just when you’ve taken your last breath of patience. That’s exactly when all the positive age-appropriate character traits, responsible semi-adult actions, and a whole bunch of other unexpected personality characteristics make their appearance. And thank goodness they do show up, or these teenagers may not make it to adulthood. So what do they do for redemption? Well, some pretty cool stuff.
1. Around you, they’re an ass, but around other adults? They’re actually perfect.
Teens tend to take their stress out on you at home like it’s open season on the adolescent hunting range. They’ll throw daggers of ruthless comebacks and insensitive jokes at their parents, but then turn around and do the complete opposite at school and around other adults. If your teen does this, relax—it means you’re doing something right, and that you’re their safe space. And though it may feel like you’re their punching bag, be grateful they’re punching at you — someone who has their back and understands, rather than a stranger.
2. Built-in babysitters for younger siblings.
Gone are the days of finding, reserving, and stressing out about booking babysitters weeks ahead. Last-minute date nights and even weekend getaways are no problem at all when you have a capable, built-in, and money-hungry teenager at the ready.
3. Their personal hygiene is THEIRS.
No more asking daily, “Did you shower? Brush your teeth? Put on deodorant?” For the most part, the obsessive monitoring of hygiene habits that you were forced into caring about when they were younger is no longer necessary. No need to keep track of and monitor personal self-care. And if you’re still nagging them about teeth brushing and showers, you’re doing it wrong. They’re not toddlers anymore.
4. They drive.
This is a double-edge sword. Yes, they’re out there on the road with drunk people texting, but they’re also now your second mom taxi, chauffeuring younger siblings to and from school and sports practices, and picking up milk and eggs when needed. And they drive themselves to 7 a.m. orthodontists appointments. #BOOM
5. They get your adult jokes.
Finally, there exists someone in the house other than your spouse to exchange quick-witted dirty jokes with. This has been my favorite part of having teenagers. I’m no longer the only one in the house with my mind in the gutter.
6. They can be wise beyond their years.
Not having endured years of adulting that has left them jaded, your teenager’s clean slate of perspective and frequent smart advice on your problems will surprise and inspire you. Sometimes no life experience is a good thing when it comes to keeping a positive attitude, and they will share that with you. They can also comprehend deep social issues and can gab about politics endlessly. Guess what? They got those brain gems from you.
7. They share the same taste in TV, movies, and music as you.
Well, mostly. There is the occasional blaring of rap music you can’t understand, but when you find your teens laughing their asses off at old episodes of Seinfeld and jamming out to Led Zeppelin, you can’t help but think, I’ve raised these awesome people.
8. They put themselves to bed.
At what time, I have no idea. And honestly? I couldn’t care less. So what if they get their mojo and start doing homework and raiding the kitchen at midnight? Go for it. Not my problem. Anyway, I’ve been peacefully asleep for three hours by then already.
9. They can cook. And they actually eat.
One of my sons can give Bobby Flay a run for his money on the grill. Throw a steak his way, and he’ll have dinner on the table in 20. And no more fretting about how they don’t eat and begging them to just please take one bite, because they’re an empty pit of hunger 24/7. Your grocery bill won’t know what hit it. (And nobody needs their steak cut up.)
10. They give you hope for the future.
Just when you think this country is going to pot and our over-connected youth have the personal social skills of a rock, you overhear a great conversation that your teens are having, and your faith in their future (and your own) is bolstered. The fact your kids are growing into great adults will punch you right in the gut and the heart at the same time. But it’s a great punch.
Maybe, just maybe, behind the rolling eyeballs lies empathy, tolerance, compassion, generosity, and humility. So have some faith. It’s possible—likely, even—that these amazing teens we’re raising won’t actually screw up this planet.