Adolescence is a crazy-ass age, both for teens and their parents. One minute these almost-adults are responsible, independent, rational beings who make you expand with pride and shine with awe, the next they’re throwing a tantrum for no logical reason, grunting one-syllable answers to your innocent questions and piercing you with “back off” signals that could freeze the ass off a penguin. It’s a little like living with multiple personalities—they have so many faces you never quite know which teen (or combination thereof) you’re going to encounter today. It could be:
1. The Scream-ager
Moody doesn’t even begin to describe it. The scream-agers’s life is full of drama. Hormones are stomping on their nerves and emotions run high. A zit, a bad hair day or the fact that their favorite item of clothing is in the laundry can cause a meltdown that would outclass any toddler—and their enhanced verbal skills mean that they can very eloquently assassinate the object of their anger—you!
2. The Preen-ager
You can’t blame your preen-ager for spending hours in front of the mirror. After all, when they went to sleep last night they were 5-foot-2-inches tall with a cute button nose and smooth skin. This morning they woke up 3 inches taller, with a Concorde-shaped honker and a polka dot face—which means they cannot, absolutely no way, go to school today.
3. The Screen-ager
Let’s face it, screens have hijacked our kids and transported them off to another world beyond our reach. You can fight it, but you will lose. Or you can accept that screens are an essential appendage to the teenage hand. They are their social, educational and entertainment lifelines, so the best you can do is get with it and learn the screen-age lingo, or they will TTYN (talk to you never).
4. The Team-ager
Team-agers hang out in packs like wolves on the hunt for action. The pack is both a brother/sisterhood and a vicious, snarling critique of their every move. Inclusion is everything; exclusion is the worst that can happen. You, darling parent, may feed and ferry the pack around, but you will need to fight like hell in order to weigh in on their influence.
5. The Dream-ager
Dream-agers live in their own time zone (late release melatonin o’clock), have selective hearing (add-on optional parent filter) and sleep as though ZZZs are the new calories. This combination means that your chances of seeing them awake and open to having a productive conversation are about as high as them actually putting their dirty clothes in the laundry hamper. If you want their attention, bait them with food—lots of it.
6. The Scheme-ager
Is your teen being extra helpful, polite and attentive today? These guys don’t give it away for free, and chances are they want something. Hide your money, car keys and Jimmy Choos; scheme-agers are darn good at tying your conscience in knots and getting their own way.
7. The Me-me-me-ager
Teenagers invented the saying “It’s all about me” (not really, but they should have). Not only do they think everyone is looking at them the whole time (that’s why that tiny pimple on their forehead causes the equivalent of a national crisis), but they live in a personal fable where they think their experiences are unique—hence the “You don’t understand!” and hiding away in their rooms to avoid scrutiny. Forget trying to empathize with “When I was your age…” stories. They couldn’t give a damn.
Teenagers are risk-takers driven to dicey behavior by their hormonal buzz, yet they lack true understanding of the consequences of their actions. Experimentation with alcohol, sex, drugs and daring escapades are expressions of their zest for fun and adventure, but they can easily come undone. Provide them with firm but fair boundaries and a loving safety net when needed.
A day in the madolescence minefield is enough to have us reaching for the wine too early in the day to calm our nerves and stop us from calling for a teenage intervention squad. But take it from someone crazy enough to adopt a teenager in addition to the two already at home, and I swear it’s worth persevering through the stereotypical behavior for those moments of glory—when you catch a glimpse of the remarkable adult they may soon become.
Or perhaps our encounters with scream-ager and co. are nature’s way of preparing parents to embrace the empty nest!