Raising Teens Is Letting Go

Raising Teens

I have two almost 15-year-olds. When they were little I remember hearing people say, “Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.” I thought they were crazy. I imagined a time when I could run to the store without a carseat in each hand. When they could cut their own food and would actually eat it so I could eat my dinner.

I imagined sitcom-like exchanges amongst them and their friends in my spotless kitchen after school. In my head they would be perfectly self-sufficient young people, capable of making the right choice at the right time.

I could hardly wait. It seemed so easy.

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I am ready to admit that I was wrong. It is not easy. Being a parent to a teenager makes you question everything you thought you knew about raising children. It makes you wonder where you went wrong when they were little and why on earth you decided to have them in the first place.

You will also spend lots of time wondering how a boy who was once so sweet and cute can smell so bad. Or how a girl who once loved only you can look at you with the kind of disdain you reserve only for skinny women with perfect shoes.

There are no clear guidelines on raising teenagers. They are individuals, struggling to figure out the world and their place in it. As a parent, your job is to be there when they want you to be there.

Be there, when THEY want you to be there.

My Aunt Jan, who raised six daughters, told me that you have to be around all the time for teenagers. That way, when they are ready to talk, they’ll talk to you, if not they’ll talk to someone else. I would amend that to say they’ll talk to their friends and all their friends are stupid.

Seriously, every one of them. My children have friends who I love. Friends who are welcome in my home every day, any time. But they’re teenagers and they’re stupid.

My teenagers are stupid, too.

When you have teenagers, the hardest but most important thing you will do is let go. When they want to go to the movies with their friends, at some point you have to let them. If they want to walk up to the soccer field by themselves, or worse, in a car with another teen at the wheel, you have to let them.

They might act like fools in the movie theater. They might use language that you find appalling. They might drive faster than necessary, without wearing a seat belt.

Then again, they might not.

All you can do is hope. Hope you’ve loved them enough and taught enough to be brave in the face of peer pressure. Smart. Kind.

You will not always be confident that you have succeeded. If you’re anything like me you will spend hours worrying, crying, reading parenting blogs and books. Hoping for some sign that you did it right.

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Then one morning your son will go to church with you and you’ll realize he is wearing clothes you would have picked out. But you didn’t. You’ll overlook the fact that his pants are hanging a little bit low. He’ll ask if he can light a candle for your sick dog. You’ll notice that the adults at your church smile when they see him and your daughter. That they want to talk to them.

You’ll realize that your kids have great manners. That even though they give you the stink eye 23 hours a day, they do actually know how to act out in the real world.

Try not to cry. It will just embarrass them.

About the writer

Bridget Rainey is mom to two sets of twins, a 14-year-old boy/girl set and 4-year-old fraternal boys. A proud Army wife, she currently lives in Alaska. She spends her time avoiding moose, her children, and any establishment that does not serve wine. Find her at Twinisms.com.

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Mary 1 year ago

17 (girl) and 14 (boy) here… What a wild and crazy ride… But they’re finally settling out… growing, maturing, becoming the people I hope they’ll be one day. It’s been hard. Both struggle with anxiety and depression issues, and my son was expelled in the 5th grade (!!!!) for his temper tantrums.

Fast forward through three years of homeschooling (hardest, and best thing I ever did), the completion of his first year back in public school (another tough one, but he made it!), a divorce, and two years of rebuilding our little family into something new, and here we are. I know we still have a long way to go… 17 just got her first job and first bank account, as well as her driving permit (talk about scary stuff…). And she couldn’t understand, either, why I cried signing papers at the bank for her to have an account.

I told her, MY BABY GIRL IS GROWING UP! And she just rolled her eyes. “Mooom…” lol

College…. I don’t even want to think that far ahead.

Traci 3 years ago

I had a teen son who has miraculously made it to adulthood, safely. He was literally a dream teen-nice, neat, clean, and actually employed.
But even as I write this I’m looking over my shoulder, because I know that I’ll pay like hell with the three girls I call daughters that are headed toward teen time. Each of them already produces the funkiest odors and spends much of their time glaring at me (unless I’m dishing out cash, sugar, expensive anything, or unheard of privileges-preferably all at once).

Leigh Ann 4 years ago

Bridget, how did I miss this lovely post? I agree, different ages, different problems, but I love how you see the fruits of your labor in your kids. They sound like they are growing up to be lovely young adults.

Bridget 4 years ago

Thanks, every once in a while I feel like I got it right.

MommaKiss 4 years ago

While I’m no way in hell wishing to rush to this teen stage (I have a good 7 years to wait)…to know you did “Right” by them, well, that’s quite an accomplishment. good job, momma.

Bridget 4 years ago

Thank you:)

Bridget 4 years ago

Wow! That’s a lot of kids. Good luck to you, enjoy the ride:)

dusty earth mother 4 years ago

This was just wonderful. Really, really wonderful.

Cate 4 years ago

so true. 5 of my 8 babies are teens or older now…. so I know the reward of a nasty mess of a teen turning into a fully functioning adult! So Blessed….
still 5 kids at home 17, 15, 13, 10 and 5….so we have a lot of craziness left
Thank God!!!!

Bridget 4 years ago

Thank you, Grace. You’re interest in my blog and what I have to say means an a lot to me. Seriously.

Grace 4 years ago

Oh, Bridget…congratulations on raising beautiful, sensitive teenagers. I read your blog religiously because you always give me insight into what’s coming up ahead. And for that, I thank you x

Twinisms 4 years ago

I know! Everyone tells me how great my children are too. My mother always says, be glad they behave for others and misbehave for you. If they were always good for you and bad for other people, you would never believe it! Then you’d be one of those mom’s who thinks her kids are perfect.

Cathy 4 years ago

I have a sixteen-year-old. I completely agree on everything you’ve written here. Most especially I have realized that (if you work outside the home) the most important time to be home for your kids is not when they are babies but when they are teens. They need you so much. But only when they want to need you.

I had a lovely experience where my son went away with another family for a full week. All week long I received texts from the mother detailing how wonderful my son is – great manners, understands what people might need and offer to help, etc… I am a very proud mama for that – but he still gives me grief! At least I know I’ve raised a boy with manners that knows how to act in the world – I think the best thing a parent can strive for.

Twinisms 4 years ago

That scarf story is so sad! I’m glad your teens are not so embarrassed of mom:)

Twinisms 4 years ago

You’re so welcome! It’s so hard to raise teens, we need reminders sometimes that it is worth the struggle! Hope you have a great day!!

Maggi Simpson 4 years ago

I don’t think they do turn into men (sorry men). I think they find partners that manage to civilise them a little, and they learn to behave better around other people in order to get jobs etc, but other than the size of their toys I don’t think they change much. Or am I a little jaded, lol ;o)

Maggi Simpson 4 years ago

A really wonderful woman, who is also a Life Coach, said something very similar to me recently. She said that it was life’s way of preparing us to let them go. I am SO ready to let number 1 go, thank you Mother Nature, you did your job impeccably, now WHEN will he go exactly??

readinrobin 4 years ago

When I was a teen, I hated to be seen in public with my family. At the mall, I would walk several feet behind my mother. Once my sister dropped a scarf, and I picked it up, ran to catch up with her and my mom, and said “excuse me, you dropped this”, then fell back again, as if I didn’t actually know them.

This is what I anticipated when my girls became teenagers. The day it hit me that my girls didn’t mind being seen in public with me was the day I thought to myself “I’ve done alright with them.” So what if they didn’t necessarily want to hang out with me. As long as they weren’t emarrased to hang out with me on occasion, all the other teen crap they put me through faded into the background.

Maggi Simpson 4 years ago

You will never be ready Jessica, none of us were. Hopefully we’ll get through them though, without any major catastrophes. Give me 3 year old triplets instead of a 17 year boy old any day! lol ;o)

Maggi Simpson 4 years ago

I really needed this this morning, thank you :o) From a grateful (bemused) Mother of young teens!

Bridget 4 years ago

It seems that we all thought it would get easier. It doesn’t, just a different kind of hard.

Bridget 4 years ago

One step at a time. Kindergarten is hard too. My younger twins start next year. I’m sad just thinking about it.

Bridget 4 years ago

Well, get ready! It will be here before you know it!

Bridget 4 years ago

Ha! That’s true! If they were still little and cute we’d never let them out of our site>

Bridget 4 years ago

When you see them behave it gives you hope that they do it when you are not around too! Good luck, sorry to have scared you:)

Bridget 4 years ago

Coming from a teacher, that really means a lot! You are probably better prepared for the teen years than most of us! I am looking forward to readin your blog too!

Bridget 4 years ago

Ahahaha!! I hope he matures a little bit more. At least enough to bathe on a regular basis.

Bridget 4 years ago

Teenagers are fun! I love my time with them. You’re right they amaze me and drive me insane at the same time!

Bridget 4 years ago

It’s funny, a lot of us think (me included) it’s important to be there when they’re babies, but it is just as important when they are teens. Maybe more.

Romy Wightman 4 years ago

Wow, I read this post and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought you were talking about me and my family! This was spot on and I am glad others feel the way I do.

I also remember a friend telling me “bigger kids, bigger messes” and I somehow thought that when we got past the toy stage, my house would be model perfect. How wrong I was – bigger kids, bigger messes!

Greta Funk 4 years ago

Oh my goodness. My oldest is almost six, and this post made me squirm. I’m terrified! But, I’m forcing myself to relax, because I have to get him (and the other 3) through kindergarten first. Deep breath.

Jessica 4 years ago

I only have about 6 more years until I start going through this with my oldest daughter. I’m not ready for the teenage years. At. All.

Eve 4 years ago

The difficult teenage behaviors are necessary for parents to experience. Because we as parents are so aggrieved from dealing with our teens, we are ready to let them go just to have a little peace and relief. This is the natural order of things. If they weren’t so obnoxious, they would be so adorable that we would always want to keep them and never let them grow up and go out on their own. I have 2 daughters in their twenties. While I am amazed at the young women they have become, I still experience their annoyance towards me. If I don’t talk and don’t breathe, then things will probably be fine ! I might have to wait until they have their own children to see this pass.

Marta 4 years ago

You have frightened the beejesus out of me in terms of when my kids grow up. I was already weary knowing what I was like as a teenager! Its reassuring to see though that sometimes they’ll behave, hopefully!

Erin 4 years ago

this post was PERFECT!! You sound like my kind of momma!!!

I am the mother of 3.5 “little kids” (4th due in a month) and in the thick of the “little problems” that feel so BIG on this end:)

But as a teacher of many “big kids” (HS teacher) – – – you are sooo right that BEING there is more than half the battle!!

Your family sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to venture over to your blog and learn more about you guys:)

OHN 4 years ago

As a mother of three sons, your comment “OMG, teenage boys are the stupidest things EVER” literally made me laugh and shake my head yes. I adore my sons, but I am totally convinced that all human males complete their lifetime maturity level at about 14.

dysfunctional mom 4 years ago

I love this, so much.
I have two teens (15 & 18) and then two tweens. I’m not a fan of the tween age. But I have found that I absolutely love my teenagers. They are really fun kids, and they do drive me insane, but they also absolutely amaze me.
And OMG, teenage boys are the stupidest things EVER. I’m not sure how any of them actually live to turn into men!

Sarah 4 years ago

:-).

I have two teenage daughters, aged 16 and 13. And a son who’s 11. Then a little girl who popped out a bit later – aged 4.

I can totally relate to your hours of worrying and crying – and their friends being stupid (where the hell do they get those ideas). And you’re totally right, you need to be there to talk. It makes ALL the difference.

Bridget 4 years ago

Thank you! Now if only I could get a refreshing drink to go with that outlook…

Christin 4 years ago

Great post! Your outlook on life and kids is refreshing!

Bridget 4 years ago

You’re right, when you get a glimpse of the people they will be-you have hope. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, thanks for reading!

Bridget 4 years ago

Thanks friend! :)

Bridget 4 years ago

Ugh, I don’t know how teachers do it. I think I would go completely mad. I’m halfway there already!

Bridget 4 years ago

Busy is key! Kids need something to think about other than boys/girls. It’s hard to keep them busy enough to stay out of trouble, but no so busy you run yourself ragged.

Bridget 4 years ago

Thank you! It gets a little hectic, but at least they’ll always have each other. I keep telling them that & they just roll their eyes;)

Bridget 4 years ago

Thanks for reminding me! I try to block it out…with wine.

Paula @ Simply Sandwich 4 years ago

Wow – this post really hit home for me as I am sending my first child off to college next week! Parenting teens is a challenge but the times you get a glimpse of the people they are becoming and the values you placed in them is so worth the ride! Thanks so much for the insight! :)

ava 4 years ago

Not your usual *ahem* rant 😉 but very insightful, I was teary-eyed, my throat clogged up holding back tears. Very nice post Bridget!

Lady Estrogen 4 years ago

Loved it – yes, they really are stupid.

I tried teaching them for a couple years and it drove me batty – I think 2 will be all I can handle. I don’t know WHAT I was thinking about handling 30 of them. GAA.

JG 4 years ago

I am entering the teen zone. My daughter just turned 13 in May. I know what is coming and your post only confirmed it. We are already at a point where she is going to the movies without me, walking to the little town market with friends, going to the beach with friends . It is drop off time! No more walking with her and her friends anywhere. Most days are ok as far as mood. But we have those moments where she looks at me as if she has no idea who I am. There are days where she insults me. And there are certainly days when I get the evil eye. I have decided, for her, keeping her busy is best. I also agree that although her friends are nice people from nice friends, they are stupid and will make stupid choices.

Gigi 4 years ago

You NAILED it! This is EXACTLY what it’s like having a teenager! And bless you, you have TWO of them!! I can’t imagine.

Moomser 4 years ago

Bridget, you’re awesome! Although now you got me worrying about when I’ll have to face the teenage years… ten years from now… think how much worrying I get to. Thanks for that!
Although you wanna know what makes me feel better? You have to go through this again in a few years… With two boys… Bwahahahaha! 😉

Bridget 4 years ago

Ha! I say that line, “I wish he/she was like that at home” all the time!! Good to know it’s everyone and not just me!

Bridget 4 years ago

Listening behind all the eye rolling!! Brilliant:)

Bridget 4 years ago

You’re welcome! I love your countdown to bedtime too:) Looking forward to reading your blog!

Bridget 4 years ago

If he is only 12 how will he be able to take care of you when you are wrinkled and in the nursing home?

Bridget 4 years ago

You’re friends advice is spot on. All you can do is hope you taught them well. It sounds a bit cliche, but it is completely true.

Bridget 4 years ago

Oh! You’re welcome. It’s a tough line to pull. You are trying to parent, getting annoyed with them, but still trying to hold on to the last strings of their childhood. Mine started high school this week and the thought of only having 4 years left with them made me cry. A lot.

I even blogged some advice to them-since they never listen to me! http://twinisms.com/2011/08/15/9th-grade-jitters/

Bridget 4 years ago

Oh geez…I can’t even think about them being parents!!

Bridget 4 years ago

I was just saying something like that this morning. Despite all the drama and stress of having teens, you also get these people who are funny and smart and can actually interact with you on a semi-adult level. Then they leave us…it makes me sad.

Bridget 4 years ago

I read an article about that too. It said the decision-making pathways aren’t fully formed so they actually aren’t capable of understanding cause and affect-at least not in the same way as adults. It makes me feel better to know my kids aren’t just nuts!

Bridget 4 years ago

We just went through this earlier this week when the kids started High School It has been very traumatic, maybe more for me than for them. I tried to give them some advice in my blog, I hope they read it! http://twinisms.com/2011/08/15/9th-grade-jitters/

Bridget 4 years ago

I’m so glad it helped! Dealing with teens is hard, harder than I ever expected.

Bridget 4 years ago

Haha! I think about sending them to the other side of the world often, but right about the time I’ve had they do something human 😉

Bridget 4 years ago

We were all stupid as teens. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. I don’t even like to think of some of the stupid-borderline-dangerous stuff I did!

Bridget 4 years ago

I know! When my daughter was 5 I remember her trying to get my attention by saying “HELLO!!” She earned the name Sassybean way back then & it stuck!

Bridget 4 years ago

You’re welcome & thank you for the link. I’ll check it out!

Bridget 4 years ago

The silent treatment is used around here on a regular basis. Sometimes even by me! I don’t stink as much though 😉

TL 4 years ago

I am not a parent, but I work with teens a lot when they volunteer for my programs (or get volunteered by parents or schools). Trust me, most of your kids are way better than you think! A recent conversation with a mom went something like this “thanks for bringing Dylan in, the residents really enjoyed his company – he was so funny and polite”. Mom looks at me like I have seven heads. Mom politely points to child as if I had the wrong one. Mom seems astonished by comment. Finally “really, I wish he was like that at home”. I have conversations like this a lot – they really are different in public. I LOVE the teens I get to work with!

Melinda 4 years ago

That was so great! 2 of my 3 are teens. There are moments I want to run away and then moments that are precious. Having my 6’2″ 16 year old boy staring down at me is intimidating but inside he’s still my baby. You send them out free to make mistakes and occasionally get that pleasant surprise that they really have been listening behind all that eye rolling.

ck 4 years ago

Sometimes days with small children are so overwhelming the idea of them getting older and things getting harder is more than I can handle. But this post made me smile, even though my coffee is gone and there are still 5 hours left in the day before bedtime. Thanks for the mid-afternoon hope.

Kim 4 years ago

I will be having NONE of the problems you describe because my Noah is not ALLOWED to become a teenager and I am in charge, so there. He will remain 12 for the next 8 years, and although I find him slightly annoying NOW, at least I won’t have to worry about sagging pants, stupid friends, Facebook, yucky stuff that happens at night, drinking, driving, drinking and driving and pimples.

And he wil still love me.

So there.

Mariann 4 years ago

Well said! I have a 14 y.o son and a daughter, who will be 13 in less than a month! I’m going through every single thing that you mentioned, particularly in regards to my boy child!
A friend of mines recently told me, that you have to let go and trust that what you instilled in them will outshine all of the temptation that they’ll encounter on their journey through this life! GREAT BLOG!

Tasha 4 years ago

As a mom of a 17 yo daughter and a 13yo daughter, I can so relate. Even though I haven’t had too many issues with them, I realize I have 5 more that are going to be teens and would be a fool to expect that “I’ve got this”. I actually just wrote a post on letting go of my 17yo. So, so hard. http://thewholemom.org/parenting/letting/

Melissa 4 years ago

I have a 14 year old boy and he gets moody and irritable, just like a girl! He just reacts differently…no screaming or crying, just silence and occasional foot stomping/door slamming! Plus the stink of course…

Rebecca 4 years ago

I LOVED this! My 13 year old daughter and I are going through the “push-me, pull-you” dance – I love you, Mommy, I hate you, Mommy- while I am enjoying the waning days of utter devotion from my 10 year old son, as he gets stinkier by the day…
Some days I can’t wait for it to be over, and then I think that I only have 8 years left of full time parenting, and tears come to my eyes. Thanks so much, you made my afternoon!

Paula 4 years ago

OMG! That look! Ugh! Disdain doesn’t even COvER the look my daughter could give. And letting go, sadly, so true. And scarey! Then one morning you wake up, and they are mommy’s themselves. If you thought you had grey hairs while they were teenagers, wait until you get a grandbaby! Might wanna buy stock in your fav hair color manufacturer now as you’ll be spending your retirement on it!!

KMayer 4 years ago

I love teenagers. Plain and simple. I usually love other people’s teens more than my own, but my own are pretty awesome as well. They’re just kids trapped in grown up bodies, with boobs, brawn and a growing brain and conscience. What’s not to love?

Brook @ To Be Dancing 4 years ago

I took a psychology class a couple years ago. Apparently, the brain isn’t completely developed until about age 25. Which, of course, explains A LOT. Including why that is the age when most car insurance rates start going down some.
We are 8. Not really looking forward to the teen years. Glad I still have a minute or two before that happens.

Krista 4 years ago

My kids are still basically babies, but my husband coaches HS football. Today, I took the kids up to the school to eat lunch with their father and the team. As I watched the boys (you know, the 6’3 275lb “boys”) I noticed that one of them was completely out of place. He was trying to mop something else, making a complete mess out of it and no one helped him for a few moments. It crushed me and froze me. Eventually another player did get up and help him but that moment where he stood there alone and left out, made me realize how much harder parenting is going to get once the kids are out of diapers and bottles.

Meredith 4 years ago

Me too – love it when stuff like this just falls into your lap at the perfect time. Now, as long as my boss doesn’t catch me crying at my desk….

Sharon 4 years ago

I sooooo needed this today! Thank you! I will cancel that booking I made for them for Timbuktu!

amaliem 4 years ago

too funny! Love the line about all teenagers being stupid because simply put, they are!! I include myself in that category when I was a teenager.

Jennifer 4 years ago

I’ve learned this past year that the look teenage girls have perfected is something they start developing at age six. That is why it is so dead on by the time they hit their teenage years. Sometimes my daughter tries her look out on me and I’m so shocked. How did she learn how to do that?

Cassie G 4 years ago

Letting go is important. That 23-hour “stink eye” is all too familiar, though, and it often makes talking about the tough stuff difficult. What happens when you want to talk to your teen about something like drugs, and he walks away with rolling eyes? I’ve found that information on http://www.timetotalk.org has been useful in helping me think of some conversation starters and “teachable moments.” Thanks for this beautiful article!

Bridget 4 years ago

Thanks, it was great advice when it was given to me too. She also said, “just clean one room a day.” Most days I don’t even get that done!

laura 4 years ago

That is so beautifully written. As a Mom of a pre-teen and a “little one” heading to kingergarten I valued this perspective of what lies ahead. I love the advice to be there so they will talk to you instead or at least as well as their friends…

Bridget 4 years ago

Thank you! I hope it helps, teenage boys can be rough. It has to get better, eventually.

Bridget 4 years ago

So I only have 5 or 6 more years of waiting? I can handle that:)

Bridget 4 years ago

Good luck! If you do go insane, remember it is only temporary:)

Bridget 4 years ago

I know! They walk out that door and it’s like a door closes on your heart.

Skinny women in heels…pffftt!

Bridget 4 years ago

My teenage boy was a wild child too. Sports. Lots and lots of sports! It gives him something to think about other than girls!

Bridget 4 years ago

I have a boy and a girl so I get stinky boy and PMS. I think there’s a special wine bar in heaven for me.

Bridget 4 years ago

I know what you mean, I got all weepy about the kids starting school earlier this week. They had no idea why it was so hard for me!

Bridget 4 years ago

I thought I would have to wait until they had kids of their own for proof they were listening. Lucky me:)

JoAnn 4 years ago

“That which doesn’t kill us, will make us stronger!” I’m stll alive and so are the kids! They surprise me everyday- I guess they might actually be listening, I know I have!

Sharon 4 years ago

Thank you for saying everything I was feeling but couldn’t put into words. I took my 15 year old to get his drivers permit last Saturday, and he looked at me like I had sprouted 10 heads when I started crying. To him it’s something he has waited 15 years for, and I should be happy. To me, it’s just one more sign that he is growing up and will walk out into the world on his own (far too soon for my taste) in a few short years ;(

Emily 4 years ago

I remember my teenage yrs…*shudder*

At least boys don’t get PMS…

Carri 4 years ago

My son is hell on wheels and he is nowhere near being a teen. Someone hold me.

Life with Kaishon 4 years ago

I am so scared about this day coming soon : (
I let my baby go to the beach with his friends this summer and I thought I was going to die. I missed him so.
Disdain you hold for skinny women in heels. LOVE that!

Megan 4 years ago

I’m crying, cause one day far too soon I will need to remember your words of wisdom and hope to remain sane.

Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) 4 years ago

I couldn’t agree more. It takes a LOT OF LUCK to make it through the teenage years. They are stupid and they don’t realize their mortality.

Someone once told me that your kids will eventually be the person they put out in public. My kids are 18, 20 and 21. I’m waiting!!!

No really…they’re becoming terrific. Most of the time. Well, some of the time. Well, occasionally. GREAT POST

Jessica 4 years ago

LOVE this post. Love love love it. Im forwarding it to my mom who is having a hard time with my younger brother right now. Hes 15 and a pain in the ass. Literally. I think this might help her understand him more. Thanks!