I'm A Total Nag, And I Blame My Teenage Son

by Allyson Acker
Kentaroo Tryman/Getty

I’m such a nag, but it’s not my fault. Really! You see, I’m the mom of a boy in his late teens so it’s actually on him. Hear me out, it’s like … scientific and stuff.

He’s the one with the still-developing frontal lobe and raging hormones who needs me, yet doesn’t need me. Who relies on me, but blames me for everything. Who I’m certain hears everything I’m saying but chooses to ignore it.

Let’s be clear. I am his biggest fan. But he is also the reason I consume way too much wine. I would take a bullet for him. But he also drives me bonkers… and vice versa.

Moms (and dads!) in my position know there are a four universal yet brutal realities that describe most teenage boys:

1. They know everything (just ask them).

2. They think they should have the freedom to pretty much do whatever they want, whenever they want, no questions asked.

3. They think the world revolves around them and the fulfillment of their immediate needs.

4. If something happens to go wrong, it is absolutely never their fault.

Oh, and who do you think they primarily rely on to fulfill their whack expectations? You guessed it – their moms. I mean, since day one, we’ve literally always been the ones unconditionally there for them. Right out of the box (so to speak), feeding, clothing and comforting them. Call it innate maternal instinct, but I not only loved taking care of my baby boy; I craved it. His needs were always more intense than my uber-independent girls. He just needed me more … and let’s face it, he still does.

It’s just that now instead of wrapping his little chubby arms around one of my legs to signal his need for attention or comfort, his signals are much more mixed and intense. Those little arms are now big and hairy and they are usually wrapped defensively around his chest. Especially when he is anxious about something, or hurt or scared. Or hungry (which is pretty much a constant). Let’s face it. These boys know that we moms are always at-the-ready to (try to) provide the fix or fulfill the need or dissolve the hurt. It’s our role – and they rely on us for it.

But guess what, moms? Our little boys are teenagers now and soon they will leave the nest we so lovingly and painstakingly built and maintained for them all these years. You really won’t be at their beck-and-call 24/7 for much longer. This reality sets in – and it pretty much scares both of you to death! We know that before too long, they will have to figure shit out on their own. Without us to manage it for them. And that is precisely why we become raging nags. As our boys enter their late teens, the realization hits us moms that the clock is ticking and we suddenly enter that fun phase of motherhood where nagging becomes the new norm. And it ain’t pretty – for you, your teen, or anyone else living under the same roof (or next door to you).

Why does nagging become our go-to? Well, as we grasp that our time is limited to help mold our boys into responsible humans – good partners, courteous roommates, reliable workers – we internally panic a little (okay, a lot). We become super tuned into all of their actions and behaviors. Meanwhile, their teen-boy brains are hardwired to tune us out. A moment that for us was once a “boys will be boys” eye-roll suddenly evolves into a bright red flag. For us, it suddenly becomes imperative that the empty glass is immediately placed in the dishwasher instead of remaining on the counter. That wet towel had better get hung up now and those stinky socks best be tossed into the hamper stat! Our boys, meanwhile, are baffled as to why we suddenly expect them to snap into action rather than continuing to have us remind them to do these basic things or (guilty as charged) end up doing whatever it is for them. Or, they say they will “just do it later” or that “we never asked” in the first place. Add to the mix their raging teen hormones and the joys of our perimenopause and you’ve got yourself the perfect freaking storm. (Right, husbands? You poor guys have a front row seat to this daily shit show)!

But, hey… we keep telling ourselves that this too shall pass. Just like the terrible twos and their obsession with Transformers. During these sleepless, snarky, worry-filled teenage years, we moms just have to dig deep and remind each other that we’ve done a good (enough) job and our teen boys will (hopefully) figure “it” out on their own — especially if we’re not there to do “it” for them. It’s also essential for us naggy-yet-adoring moms to remember that our teen boys may not appreciate us now but deep down (underneath all the sweat and musk?) they do truly love us and may even hold a nugget of appreciation for all that we do. After all, behind every nagging mom is a heart of gold filled with unconditional love. And someday, after they presumably turn into functional humans, our teen boys may even acknowledge and thank us – not for the nagging — but for helping them grow to be the best version of themselves and for sticking by them each stubborn step of the way.