I am a teen expert. Why? Because I have two teens, I was a teen, sometimes I’m on the local news and they call me a teen expert. But mostly, because I say so.
Drawing on this vast because-I-said-so expertise, I’ve come up with a list of the absolutely CRUCIAL things you need to know to survive your own kids’ teenaged years.
1. They Know Everything, You Know Nothing. The fact that you don’t know and acknowledge this is just proof, as far as your omnipotent teen is concerned, of it’s utter, complete truth.
When you have teens, the soundtrack of your life is snorts, the backdrop, eye-rolls. Get used to it. They’ll come around by the time they’re 25. And like the old joke says, by then, they’ll be amazed at how much you’ve learned in ten years.
2. They Hate/Love you, and you Love/Hate them back. I’ve always said, either my child is suffering from a soap opera worthy dual personality disorder, or it’s puberty…so I’m going with puberty.
Your teenager will alternately want nothing to do with your know-nothing self, or desperately want your attention, approval and love. They will snort and eye-roll their way through dinner, but then want to be tucked in at night, cuddled, coddled, and otherwise revert back to their toddler selves. They will be mortified by your very existence at their big game, but devastated if you miss it.
It’s the hormones.
You, in turn, will alternately feel like you want to knock them unconscious, lock them in a time machine and make them turn back into their un-hairy, clear skinned, non-attitude infested selves, or be made breathless by the wonder of their maturity and intelligence and the feeling that they’re growing up way too fast.
3. Your Teenaged Daughter Will Think she’s too fat/too thin/too ugly/too short/too tall/ too something and it’s not your Fault. There is no such thing as an unattractive teenaged girl. Their skin – even if marred with acne – somehow glows. Their bodies – even if under or over weight – are somehow perfectly suited to them. They are all gorgeous. Yet practically to a girl, they think they are too (fill in the blank.)
It’s magazines, sure. It’s Kardashians, and music videos, and the male hierarchy thrusting an impossible standard of beauty on unassuming girls.
But I think there must be some kind of biological imperative that makes teenaged girls think they’re unattractive, despite physical evidence to the contrary.
Don’t blame yourself. It wasn’t that you didn’t model good body-image behavior. It wasn’t that you didn’t praise her enough, or praised her too little. Or maybe you did. But it really wouldn’t have mattered.
It’s the hormones.
4. They Are Nice to Everyone Who Isn’t You. They say this is a good thing. That teenagers being beyond horrible to you but kind, helpful and respectful to everyone else means that they’re well brought up, yet comfortable enough at home, and confident enough in your love, to let it all hang out when no one else is around.
Which sounds reasonable, except when they’re being horrendous to you. When that happens, you’re just wishing you were everyone else, and they were anyone else. Which they will be, if you wait a few hours– see #2, above.
5. They will Make Some Really Stupid Choices (and that’s OK.) Remember that time you and your three girlfriends met a guy on the beach and he invited you all to a party, and then he showed up at your house in a van filled with 12 other guys and you and your friends just hopped in and let them drive you away?
Oh, wait. That was me.
It was pretty seriously stupid. But nothing happened. Nothing went wrong. They drove us to a party, we had fun, they drove us home.
Were we lucky? Sure. But not every mistake is fatal. Most of the time, the dumb things we did as teenagers just end up being dumb things we did as teenagers, nothing more. They’re the things that lead us to new experiences, new places, new friends. They’re the things that make us realize, even as we climb into the van, that we likely shouldn’t have done it, and know that even though all went well, we won’t do it again.
The teenager who never makes any mistakes will grow into the adult who never takes chances.
And that would be a bummer.
6. No Matter How Much Food you Buy, it will Never be Enough. I have a friend with three teenaged boys. Every day, she makes an entire box of pasta just before they get home from school and leaves it on the stove. It’s what they have for an after school snack.
Another friend’s son drinks a gallon of milk every day.
My son generally goes through a dozen yogurts, a pound of sliced turkey, and a half dozen bagels every two to three days.
My advice? Clip coupons, and live vicariously. Because if you’re old enough to have a teenaged boy, you’re way too old be able to eat like that anymore.
7. There will be Mess. Somewhere in the “how to be a teenager” handbook, there must be a paragraph ordering teenagers to throw their coats on the floor when they walk in the door, leave their pants and underwear wherever it is they happen to take them off, and to never, ever, make the bed.
Their rooms will drive you crazy. You will sometimes have to clear a path to get from the door to the bed. And sometimes, it will smell. Like, really, really bad.
This is NOT the hormones, this is the lazy, I’ll-do-it-later modus operandi of every teenager since time began.
8. You will be Wistful. There will come a time when you walk by a toddler rushing, joy unbounded, into his waiting mother’s arms. And you will tear up. And you will feel sad that all you get is the aforementioned snorting and eye rolling, and you will wonder where the time goes.
Get over it. Because also…
9. You Will Be Grateful. There will come a time, when you will be stuck at a restaurant/at the grocery store/heaven forbid in a plane, and you will see a toddler having a no holds barred, screaming, hysterical, tantrum. And you will see his mother, incapable of stopping it, humiliated, defeated. And you will think smugly to yourself: been there, done that. Better her than me.
10. This too Shall Pass. Remember when you had a newborn, and you thought he’d never sleep through the night?
Remember when your toddler was in a whining phase you thought would never end?
This too, shall pass. The teenaged years, like every other phase, come to an end.
And then they’ll go off to college, and you’ll cry, and you’ll miss them, and you’ll wonder how you ever wished they would just grow up and go off to college already. Because even though your teenager love-hates you, knows everything, does stupid things, eats you out of house and home, and quite frankly, smells…you love him or her.
And in the end, that’s the only crucial fact about your teenager either one of you needs to know.
Related post: 5 Ways Toddlers Are Easier Than Teens