On a recent trip to the movies, I pulled out my phone to take a selfie with my family. In his characteristic fashion, my teenage son gave a thumbs-up and smiled widely for our family photo. Later that evening, I captured another picture of him and his sister as we enjoyed ice cream after the movie. He had his arm loosely around her shoulder, and he smiled sincerely as he held an enormous ice cream cone. I posted both pictures on Facebook and didn’t give the pictures another thought.
When my friend commented, “Is your kid the happiest teenager on earth or what?” on my post, I laughed out loud because I realized in the moment that my son did, in fact, look like a very happy teenager.
Because he is, actually.
And I’m here to tell you that not every teenager is a sulky, brooding mess of emotions. Not every teenager slams their door during arguments or acts the way producers of television shows lead you to believe they do.
In short, not all teenagers are assholes.
And don’t just take my word for it. Most of my friends who are raising teens would agree that not only are teenagers actually a lot of fun to hang out with, but raising them isn’t always a shitshow either. I would even venture to say that raising teens is a hell of a lot easier than dealing with potty training, temper tantrums, and meltdowns.
And for all the warnings and horror stories my friends told me about teens, I didn’t expect to actually like living with teenagers as much as I do — despite the hefty amount of eye-rolling going on. (Teens really do have throwing shade perfected to a science.)
When my kids were small, my friends with older children would warn me about the teenage years. They would tell me to expect arguments over curfews and dating. They talked about the panic they felt when their kids started driving, and they told me how teenagers can bring the art of eye-rolling to a whole new level. But even with the eye-rolling (my friends were right about that), on the whole, I’ve been pleased to discover that parenting teens is so much more enjoyable than I ever expected.
The teenage years are certainly fraught with drama, there’s no doubt. Teenagers are trying to assert their independence little by little, and they are always testing the waters. Obviously, when I say I enjoy my teens, I don’t mean 100% of the time. Trust me, my teens have their moments, and I’m learning to embrace the exasperated sighs, but teens today just don’t get the credit they deserve for being the incredible humans that they are.
It is unfair to characterize teens as lazy or assholish when, in reality, they are dynamic and witty. They are informed about and genuinely interested the world. They aren’t just stereotypical teen angst and high school drama. They are hardworking, conscientious, and responsible. For the most part.
Like adults, teens can definitely have their asshole moments, but overall, I have to say they are a pretty awesome bunch.
Teens aren’t just about video games and texting either. They have lively conversations with their friends, and on the nights when I drive my kids and their friends home from football games or school activities, I marvel at their varied interests and different points of view. If you listen to a group of teens long enough, I guarantee that their senses of humor will make you laugh out loud. More than once.
Teens are open and honest, forthright and stubborn. And it’s awesome.
As I’ve gotten deeper into my journey of raising teens, perhaps my biggest realization is just how civic-minded teens are in their daily lives. During the election, I watched as my son and his friends debated political candidates and topics, and explained their well-developed arguments to each other. They participated in mock elections and defended their beliefs with a passion that reminded me of myself and my friends at that age.
And it was amazing.
Before I had teens, I assumed that my life would be one constant battle the minute my kids turned 13. In fact, as my son approached his 13th birthday, I braced myself for the inevitable. But 13 came and went with nary a door slam. As I’ve watched him grow both physically and emotionally in the last few years, I’ve slowly let go of the fear that my kid is going to be a stereotypical asshole teenager.
And you know, the hardest part about having a teen isn’t that they are assholes. No, the hardest part is realizing that your time with them is short. That, in years that will seemingly fly by, your teen will be headed off to college and you’ll be left behind.
And then you feel like an asshole for wanting to keep them from leaving.