I’ve gotta admit, I’ve been simultaneously dreading and eagerly awaiting the teen years since before I was even pregnant. I thought I had a general idea what raising teens would be like – I mean, after all I had been a teen myself at one point. I was prepared for the eye rolls and the slammed doors and the sheer terror at the thought of my teens driving. But there’s so much that has come as a complete surprise to me.
Hooooooboy! I had no idea.
Here are just a few of the things that have surprised me most about raising teens:
1. The teen years can be lonely at times.
Sure, it can get a little lonely when our teens are out with their friends or consumed in a video game or hibernating in their rooms. But that’s not the kind of loneliness that surprised me. I was surprised at how lonely the teen years made me feel in other relationships, especially my friendships. Our kids no longer need us to be gatekeepers of their social calendar –they make their own plans. Gone are the conversations that happen and friendships made at playdates and sports practices.
But even more than that, we can no longer vent about the gory details of motherhood because those stories aren’t really ours to tell anymore. We have our kids’ privacy to protect. There is something about your kids’ struggles with school and first heartbreaks that is far more vulnerable and personal than sharing stories of tantrums and diaper blowouts. It doesn’t feel right to share these things outside of our homes, so we shoulder these challenges alone. Even if we can share these things with our partner, it can feel lonely sometimes because without that “me too” commiseration that comes with sharing our struggles with others, it can feel like you’re the only one. But you aren’t.
2. You laugh. A lot.
I have never laughed so much than in the past few years. My kids did some funny shit as toddlers and preschoolers, but my teen’s witty and sarcastic humor is absolutely hilarious. And it’s more fun because we’re laughing at something together.
3. All of the stupid shit you did as a teen comes flooding back with crystal clarity.
I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent lying awake at 2 a.m. replaying past mistakes, embarrassments, and regrets. What really surprises me is that it isn’t just the really serious and downright scary stuff that I remember, but all the times I did something that was embarrassing or hurt someone’s feelings or made me look like an ass. These are more of those “par for the course” experiences of life. We are human and we make mistakes. But these things hurt. BAD. They stick with you for the rest of your life. In fact, I have forgotten most of the truly dangerous mistakes I’ve made but those other ones? The times when I said something hurtful or I made the wrong choice or I was rude or whatever…I will regret them forever. These are the mistakes that keep me up at night, because I know how painful they are and I don’t want that pain for my teens.
4. Raising teens is terrifying.
This one isn’t necessarily a surprise. I did expect raising teens to be scary. But what surprises me is just how terrifying it is. And not just because teens have an undeveloped prefrontal cortex and make colossally bad choices, but terrifying because you realize just how fast time is going.
5. You learn a lot from your teens.
I sometimes thought I would forever be teaching my kids how to do things, but a shift has definitely happened in the past couple years. My teen teaches me about TikTok and new music and World War II history. Teens also teach us how to be better humans. In the past year, they’ve taught us how to be flexible and resilient and navigate a world of uncertainties with an open mind. They took on the challenges of the past year – social distancing, virtual school, missed graduations – like freaking rockstars. We could all learn from them.
6. Parenting teens is actually a ton of fun.
I truly had no idea just how fun raising teens would be. People have been muttering things about “kids these days” since the beginning of time, but you know what? Teens are really amazing. Sure, they drive us mad when they leave cups all over the house, spend way too much time scrolling through TikTok, and need to be reminded approximately eight thousand times to clean the bathroom. But they are also funny and caring and awesome little humans.