I remember writing an article for Tesco Magazine once about the similarities (the smells, the lack of patience and volume control…) between toddlers and teenagers, but I know which I prefer: for me, it’s teenagers. Yes, I know that with toddlers at least you know where they are and what they’re doing all the time, but the conversation’s not all that, plus they can’t make their own breakfast. I think the biggest thing is getting over the sheer TERROR of parenting teens: the having to let go, and not always know exactly where they are. It’s the lessening of control.
A tough one for us parents, no?
So what’s it all about, this teenage parenting lark? Well, here’s my view (and for God’s sake don’t think I know what I’m doing, I’m winging it like the rest of you)…
Well, firstly, it’s about TRUST:
My own particular way of keeping sane is confidence and trust. Sometimes feigned, admittedly, but, as with a smile, sometimes just faking it is enough to make it real.
Let me elaborate. The Death Wish Dude, skater boy extraordinaire, requires larger and more complicated skate parks in order to achieve the same level of thrill/skill/injury/bruises as he gets more accomplished. This means travel to London. Initially I went with him on the train, but inevitably, he wanted to go on his own, with his mates. A chat with another skatery friend’s parent elicited the following gem: ‘he went on his own once. He survived. And now he knows the way I figure he’s safe to go again’.
And there’s the rub.
It’s trust. Not just trust in them, but trust in the fact that you’ve taught them well, equipped them for life in general. And it’s instilling that trust you feel in him. So for my part that was taking a deep breath and saying to him: ‘yes, you can go to London. I know you’re sensible and can make good decisions. I know you’ll behave, and am pretty sure that in the unlikely event of a crisis, you’d make the right choices and be able to cope. Go for it’.
The result? Teenager, head held high, who knows his Mum trusts him and is instilled with the knowledge that he is old enough and sensible enough to travel alone into the Big Smoke.
It’s about LEARNING TO LAUGH:
This big and gangly lark is hard for them to deal with too – so when your enormous teenager has kicked your drink over with his foot, and as he’s pulling the sofa out of the way so you can clear it up, knocks his own drink over too… well, you’ve just got to laugh. And grab another cloth. What else can you do?
It’s also about DEALING WITH THE CURVE BALLS:
Don’t get me wrong. Occasionally it all goes a bit hideous. There’s been drinking. And vomiting. But hopefully how we handled it: massive chats, tears on my part (being told that you’ve let your Mum down is hard to hear), promises on theirs, and lessons learned on both sides, have enabled us to move on. And there’s been sensible drinking since then (I think the vomiting and massive hangover helps to get the message across – nothing that I did, particularly). But it’s not been swept under the carpet – it’s been mentioned, and even, now a few months have passed, laughed about. It’s all about life lessons, I guess. And who can say they were the perfect teenager? Certainly not me.
It’s also about the SILLY STUFF:
We have other ways of bonding too – massive hugs, silly laughs, in jokes, mental texts (the Dude’s ‘not going to the skate park today, the fair’s in town and I don’t want to get bummed by a carny’ is a recent favourite), and we have tons of fun. Don’t get me wrong, we insist on respect, but the odd jokey ‘Mum, you’re a knob’ keeps the status quo, I find.
The other day they were teaching me to do press ups. Turns out I can do one, well, I can do a half – the down bit, but not the up bit. It left us all in fits of giggles. My upper arms still aren’t toned, but we had a laugh.
The house is often full of teenagers, which means it’s a bit noisy and I often have to retreat upstairs, but they’re a lovely bunch. And having a laugh with The Marshes (the Prof’s twin best mates) who are ADORABLE fellas, and stumping up for the odd takeaway pizza and a few bottles of cider mean that we all keep a bit of closeness, even though if I even dare LOOK at one of them while they’re texting (‘MUUUUM! Don’t be NOSY!!!’) I get reminded that they need their privacy too.
And then there’s ACCEPTING WHAT YOU CAN’T CHANGE:
Whispered chats about the hot girl in year 11? Ignore. Jokes about porn? Well, they’re teenage boys. However much you try to believe different, you know they’ve seen it. They know my view on it (which is, in case you’re interested, that I don’t particularly mind it, but you have to bear in mind that those girls aren’t all willing, big chested, well-paid, girlfriends of Charlie Sheen, you know… sometimes they don’t even want to be there). If they’re watching the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders doing lip dub to ‘Call Me Maybe’, you know they’re not watching because they love the song. Red blooded males and all that. Deal with it.
It’s about SEEING THE GOOD IN THEM:
During half term, the doorbell rang while I was in the bath. I yelled ‘get that somebody please!’ and my 14 year old son answered the door. Hearing him chat politely to the postie ‘god I bet you’re sick of all this rain’, made my day. They might be smelly, lazy and annoying, but it’s sunk in. They know when to be polite too.
And don’t forget, sometimes the off day is yours. And if you can appreciate when you’ve bitten their head off and, ten minutes later, they appear with a nice big gin and tonic, that they’re doing their bit too, well, I think you’re doing okay.
So that’s us.
Rules to live by? Probably not.
Perfect? Nope, but coping, with sense of humour intact and dignity more or less still in place.
Want to judge me? Go ahead. In fact, pop round. I’ll show you a house full of love, laughter, trust, fun and more hugs than you an shake a stick at. Not perfect, no. But damned well good enough.
Want to read more blogs from parents of teens? Try these: