I was the first of a lot of my friends and sisters to have kids. Now, they are all creeping into their kids’ teen years and I’ve been knee-deep in them for a while. Honestly, there are days when it feels like it will never end … but I know the end is coming and I’ll forget about many of the things they’ve done to me. (Like thinking if you can fill a paper towel tube filled with fabric softener sheets, blow your pot smoke in it, and your parents won’t be able to smell it. Ahem.)
So, they’ve started coming to me for advice. And by advice, I mean I’m getting messages like, “My kids are trying to kill me,” “Teenagers suck, how are you doing this?” and “There’s no way I’m going to be able to handle my teenagers for another second, please help me.”
I’ve had many of these moments myself. I still do — every other day, in fact. And since my friends’ cries of telling me they are going to run away if things don’t change seem to resemble asking for advice, I do have a few tips which have helped keep me from checking into the nearest hotel without a checkout date.
First and foremost, you have to pick your battles. I know people say this all the time and it’s fucking annoying, but it’s true. So to save my sanity (or at least preserve part of it) when it comes to my teens, I’ve given up on things like:
1. Making them keep their room clean.
I used to lose my mind about this all the time. Teenagers are gross. They have Q-tips and other unmentionable collections. They don’t care about clean sheets or if there’s trash swirling around their room. They masturbate and leave evidence. They don’t like their clothes to be folded or put away, but would rather see fallen-over piles of sweatshirts and boxers around their room. They don’t make beds. They eat in their room even if you ask them not to.
I cannot keep up with this. If my kids want their rooms to be a sty, I don’t care. I make them keep the door closed, I go about my day, and I absolutely refuse to do any cleaning for them. Eventually, they will clean their rooms themselves so you can wash your hands of it and keep dreaming about what you are going to turn that space into when they leave.
2. Long showers.
It doesn’t matter who they are, or how much they care about their appearance; teens like to take long showers. Listen, I don’t want to know what they are doing in there either, but I’d rather have them trim and explore their bodies in a place where it can all be washed down the drain.
I’ve tried setting timers. I’ve told them to “hurry it up” as I yell and bang on the door. I’ve flashed the light when I think their time is up. They just started taking showers when I wasn’t home, or when I was (trying) to sleep.
No one wants to be bothered when they are taking a shower. Let them have this time to themselves when they can think and be free without anyone telling them to get their ass out of the shower. As long as they aren’t hogging the bathroom making someone else late for something, this is really a small gift you can give them.
3. Policing their nutritional intake.
My son is 17 and 6’1.” He eats all the food, all the time, and there’s nothing I can do about it. If he wants leftover Chinese food for breakfast with a side of Swedish Fish, I don’t care. If he snacks all day, then is too full for dinner, I don’t care. If he complains there’s no food because he ate it all, I don’t care. If he is mad I didn’t get something we are out of that only he eats because he didn’t write it on the grocery list, I don’t care.
Teens always have a problem when it comes to food, and to me, ignoring them works like a charm. It’s their body; I don’t want to manage them. I did that for a lot of years when they were little and I’m not going to continue it now that they’re damn well old enough to take responsibility for their own health.
The other day, my youngest came downstairs and made himself a bowl of chips and put two Pop Tarts on top of it — and that was his breakfast. Great. I forced so many vegetables down that kid’s throat for years; my job is done.
If you want to wrestle with a child who is bigger than you and make them down a spinach smoothie for breakfast, you are better than me. Nor am I going to keep explaining when they eat all the protein bars, that means they are gone until I go shopping … so if they don’t make them last, it’s their fault.
My point is, when you have teenagers, these things they do are annoying. They can be messy, eat a shit ton, and want to wear dirty clothes five days in a row. Let them.
Because in the grand scheme of things, you are going to have bigger problems to deal with. The need to raise a kind, aware young adult will win every time, and I’m here to tell you, you aren’t going to have energy for all of it. So leave their showering and eating habits alone.
You will be a happier person for it, I promise. And so will they.
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