This Is Encouraging

Real Moms Share 5 Surprising Reasons To Look Forward To, Not Dread, The Teen Years

Yes, this season has its silver linings, too.

Written by Alexandra Frost

"Just wait til they are teenagers." It's one of the most common refrains I hear from grandmas in the grocery store as they watch me load gallons of milk into my cart. It's the same head-shaking, all-knowing, under-the-breath muttering I get from parents who are far beyond changing diapers, running preschool carpools, and carrying math flashcards in their purses.

It's not like I haven't thought about my little "cherubs" turning into gangly, awkward, pre-pubescent back-talkers; it's that I try to block out the idea that it might be even harder than what I'm doing now. Pew Research reports that parents whose kids are younger than 5 (that's me) are likelier to feel that parenting is always tiring than those with kids 5 or older.

Yet, friends with teens say it's a different kind of exhausting — more emotionally, less physically. Sounds pretty terrible. But as a former teacher to teens who I found idealistic in the best possible sense, excited about the possibilities of the future, and more caring and creative than many adults I know, I figured there had to be another side to the story. Maybe there's a secret epic side of teen parenting out there I can hope for?

As a therapist who works with kids, teens, and families, Daniel Rinaldi, MA, therapist, life coach, and founder of MNTL Town, shares that there are many positive aspects to look forward to during this stage of parenting.

"For one, the teen years can be a time of incredible growth and development for both teens and their parents! It's an opportunity to witness your child's emerging independence, self-discovery, and blossoming personality. During the teen years, parents may find that their relationship with their child evolves into a more mature and reciprocal dynamic, characterized by deeper conversations, shared interests, and mutual respect," he says.

"Additionally, parenting teens offers opportunities for parents to guide and support their child through important milestones such as academic achievements, extracurricular pursuits, and navigating relationships — both romantic and friendships."

The parents I spoke with for this story agree. Here's what they shared about the perks and profoundly moving moments of having teens.

The Conversations

Jessica Etting, mother of three in Los Angeles, California, lures her 14-year-old son out of what they call his "mini man cave" and feeds him — then they have the best conversations.

"You often hear about teenage boys just grunting 'yup' and 'nope,' but I actually find that my 14-year-old son and I have the best conversations now that he is older," she says. "We're able to talk deeply about so many things, whether it's something going on in the world that he has questions about or something going on at school that he has a firm opinion on. He's naturally curious about the world unfolding around him, so we're able to dive deeper than we could when he was younger — plus, his sense of humor is so quick and astute now that he also always makes us laugh."

Teens are also highly skilled at pointing out what adults don't notice or aren't as willing to comment on. "My husband and I will inevitably end up cracking up over his spot-on observations and the little truths he points out. These chats are often the best part of my day—they're real, engaging, and bring us so much closer together in our ever-evolving relationship as mother and son," Etting says.

Some conversations might go deeper than expected. For example, Aileen Weintraub, New York mom of a 17-year-old boy, says, "We have read all sorts of books and shared our thoughts. One of the most recent ones is All The Light You Cannot See, which opened up a conversation about history and the horrors of war."

The Relaxation

When I picture being a mom to teens, I worry I'll be up at midnight just waiting for them to come home safely. It sounds stressful and nerve-wracking. Yet, multiple parents I talked to conveyed they are more relaxed now than when they had younger kids.

"Enjoying just being in their company, from the mundane like mealtimes or carpools to outings and family vacations, with deepened conversations and maturing personality plus a sense of humor. More relaxation," says Jennifer Seitz, mom of two teens in Atlanta, Georgia. She jokes that sleeping in is also a perk of parenting teens, along with not having to find babysitters for evenings out. Moms of littles everywhere could seriously get behind that.

The… Respect?

The last thing I expected to hear when I asked parents what they love about teens is respect.

Noelle Guerin, mom of a 13-, 11-, and 7-year-old in Boston, Massachusetts, says, "Parenting a teenager, especially a boy, does not come without challenges, but I have found it to be one of the most fun phases. He is so much fun to hang out with, he is incredibly helpful with his siblings (he can babysit now), and he respects and is interested in both mine and his dad's careers — it's just a special phase."

As a former teacher, I found teens' respect harder to earn than a younger child's, but it ran much deeper once it was well-established.

The Perspective

If you've ever asked a teen to share their political views, they typically have something to say, as they aren't yet exhausted from the decades of difficulties and unchanged issues adults deal with.

"Getting the opportunity to spend time with his friend group as they grow into adults with political views and opinions and unique life perspectives has been one of the most amazing things to see," Guerin says.

Samantha Slaven-Bick, a California mom with a teenage son, says, "What was mostly a caretaker/child relationship has evolved into more of an intellectual one, as we share our thoughts and passions around issues that impact our lives, the planet, school, politics, history, science, gender, etc. We have much more meaningful conversations, and I absolutely love learning about his perspective. I'm Gen X, and he's Gen Z — and while he loves to call me a 'boomer,' we've both expanded and informed each other's take on the world."

The Unexpected

Most moms expressed their awe at watching their children grow into adults and defining what that means for each of them — even when it's not what they expected.

"I love seeing hints of who my 13-year-old will be as an adult. He is intentionally figuring out how to be more independent and expressive of who he is. I appreciate seeing him uncover and go after things he cares about in school and life," says Suzanne Brown, a mom of two sons in Austin, Texas.

Stacey Feintuch, a mom from Washington Township, New Jersey, with a 10- and almost 14-year-old, shares an unexpected moment when her son asked her to take him cologne shopping at Macy's.

"I was so touched. When we got to the parking lot, he even asked me to come in. I figured he just wanted my credit card! He had me smell all the different fragrances and valued my opinion. It was such a special afternoon," she says. "Now my house stinks of cologne, and he chose the priciest one. But I am happy we had that bonding experience [and] so happy we had that time together."

Trae Bodge, mom of a teen daughter in Montclair, New Jersey, says after tumultuous years with her own mother, she was prepared for parenting a teen to be difficult and full of conflict. "Happily, nothing has turned out the way I expected. Sadie is very different than I was as a teen… much more emotionally evolved. And I guess I'm more evolved now than my mom was when I was a kid. That's the goal, right? To be better. And that we are."