I think my oldest went months without saying a complete sentence to me when he turned fourteen. He’d walk in the house from school just plain piss and vinegar. I could see the halo of anger around his entire body at the mere sight of me, and anything I did or said seemed to be offensive to him.
He went from loving family get-togethers to not speaking to anyone. Family outings were torture for him, so he tried with all of his 14-year-old testosterone-induced moodiness to make it horrible for everyone.
To say he was a walking cloud of gloom was an understatement. He wasn’t just down in the dumps: he was the dumps, and he tried to bring the whole family down to Dump Town with him.
I tried everything I could from taking him to therapy to dancing on my head to buying all his favorite foods and serving them on a silver platter. The thing is, he wanted to be moody and sad and grumpy. He wanted to stay in his room with his hooded sweatshirt in warm temperatures. He wanted to pout.
Looking back now, I think he needed to be this way. And he needed to be free to feel all the things puberty was making him feel without his mother pretending to be one of the Spartan cheerleaders from a damn “Saturday Night Live” skit.
I know this now because I have a few other kiddos who followed his ways.
As soon as he started to lift out of his funk, my second child turned into a temperamental version of her usual sweet self. She went from wanting to dress like me every day (I can still hear her voice asking if I wanted to “twin” with her the next day when I’d tuck her in at night) to wanting to disown me.
I knew what was coming since I had just gone through it with her older brother, and my jaw was permanently clenched.
However, I did something a little different with her: I let her be. I didn’t try to get her to snap out of it or tell her she needed to be happy. I didn’t remind her every day how much she had changed and how much I wish she’d talk to me more and spend less time in her room.
For one, I was mentally exhausted from trying to pull her brother out of the doldrums. But more importantly, I’d just seen firsthand that pestering and cajoling didn’t work. The more I had tried to coax my son out of who he was at this stage in his life, the more he wanted to be that dark, moody kid.
Now my youngest is smack dab in the middle of the 14-year-old mouthy, moody funk and guess what? He can have it, because this mother knows how to play now.
I’m not saying I stand for disrespect, or treat them as though they are entitled to walk around the house and do whatever they want. But I’m telling you, parent to parent, if you have a moody teenager who is bringing your world upside down, I know how hard and frustrating it is. In fact, the number of times I’ve wanted to run away from my kids has spiked the older they have gotten. Sleepless nights and temper tantrums have nothing on a teenager who can’t get out of their own way.
A friend of mine has been venting about her teenage daughter who has been in a perpetual bad mood since last Easter and asked, “Why is she like this? How long is it going to last?”
I’m not an expert, but first, it’s important as a parent to determine if it’s a normal, hormonal phase or if your child is depressed and may need therapy — two of mine did.
However, that didn’t automatically throw them back into their old selves or make them any happier. A lot of teens need to go through this stage. Let them. Don’t try to morph them into something that will make you happier. The more I pushed my kids; the more I stood outside their door trying to talk to them through a damn block of wood; the more I tried to make them bubbly and happy, the more I failed.
Let them go to their room and have space. Let them know you are there for them without doing a circus performance to try and cheer them up.
Give them space without ignoring them. Love them without making them feel like you want them to be different.
Vent to your friends or partner about it (because you will need to do that) without them hearing you.
And most of all, please know they will come out of it. They will. You just have to let them do it in their own time and in their own way.
Believe me, my oldest child now wants to hang out with me again and is such a huge help around the house I can barely remember his moody stage three and a half years ago. My daughter is my buddy these days too, and although she doesn’t want to dress the same anymore, we spend a lot of time watching TikTok videos and shows together, so I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m cool again.
As far as my youngest, well, he’s 14 and thinks everything I do and say is wrong and I literally see him a few hours a week because he retreats to his bedroom most of the time.
But I know it will all turn out okay, so I have no problem giving him the space he needs. He’ll come back to me in a year or two. And since I’ve done this before, I know it will be worth the wait.