7 Quick Takes, Volume 41: The OMG I HAVE A TEENAGER Edition

It's official.  I have a teenager.  Life has fundamentally shifted.  I am still getting my bearings.  Here are 7 things I've learned so far:


Do.  Not.  Under any circumstances.  Attempt to fight every battle.  There are just too damn many.  You'll tire yourself out and the enemy will win.  Actually, both of you will lose, because no one wins when everyone is yelling.


It's true: teenagers live inside a bubble of self-absorption that is nearly impossible to burst.  It would be impressive to behold if watching it didn't feel like an all over body itch on the inside of my skin.


My teenager really does believe, with all his heart, that I am daft.  Nerdy, daft, pitiable, and so, so clueless.  I do not need to take this personally. I just need to wait a few years, until I suddenly become brilliant again.  (Of course, given that he has four youngsters beneath him charging inevitably towards the Teenage Years themselves, I actually have something like 13 years before none of my offspring think I'm an idiot.)


All those years I spent thinking I had plenty of time to put clearer boundaries in place, to hone my skills at being consistent and holding the line with detachment and calm?  Poof!  Gone!  Time to step up and show everyone (really, just my kids) what I can do.

It's like every day that has passed since now has been practice.  I got up everyday, I sweat a little, I tried new strategies...

Now, it's game time.  Now is my chance to use all those years of training in the Big Game, with everything on the line.  No more practice drills or simulated game situations: this is the real deal.  Here's hoping all those crunches and sprints did the trick!


I have also learned that I am a micro-manager.  And being the micro-manager of a teenager is just a recipe for frustration and insanity.  So I am hopefully also learning the art of letting go, of letting the kid make mistakes and letting the chips fall where they may.  And OK, but this is ridiculously hard.

Case in point: Do I hover over him while he is "washing" the dishes so that I can point out, every so helpfully, that while the top of that dish is basically clean the bottom is covered in grease and therefore cannot actually be placed in the dish drainer just yet?  Do I stop him after every dish that needs to be re-washed?  Or do I just let him know that anything not clean will have to be re-done, and then walk away like a Zen Maiden?  Let him sink or swim on his own?

If I stand there and micromanage, he usually goes from calm to MY MOTHER IS DRIVING ME CRAZY in 0.5 seconds and the whole thing becomes a soul-killing power struggle.  If I do the detached thing, I end up with more work.  It takes time to track him down, disentangle him from his headphones, and cajole him back to the sink. It's hard enough to get him there once, let alone to make him re-do the job hours later.  

Last night at dinner time, I pulled five plates out of my cabinet that were greasy, gritty, and grimy.  I was displeased.  He was not home.  I could not make him re-do them at that moment, and I didn't want them on my counter top.  I washed them.  I suck.  In Big Game parlance, I gave the ball away to the other team.


Teenagers don't like it when you stare wistfully at them.  The day my son turned 13, I realized that this birthday was a huge milestone for both of us.  The previous 13 years had passed in the blink of an eye. From the day he was born, he has been growing up and away from us, but now that movement to somewhere else will be the central theme of his life.  It's what we are charged with helping him to do, now more than ever.  So that day, I wanted to grab him and stuff him back down to toddler size, so I could have him for longer and so I could go back and do everything better.  In lieu of that, I just wanted to look at him.  I found myself fighting the urge to gaze at him in the exact same way I had 13 years ago, when he was an uncommonly alert infant, gazing back at me with calm intensity.  

We stare at our babies, don't we?  We spend hours just looking, wondering who they are, who they will be.  We stare in awe at their beauty, their perfection and their potential.  We are humbled by their presence and the awesome responsibility they confer upon us.  We are filled with a love so powerful and unexpected that we can't express it in words, we can just feel it, let it wash over us, and hope we rise to the level of deserving it.

The day my son turned 13, I felt all those instincts more powerfully than I have in years.  And I just wanted to look at him.  I wanted to stare, the way I would at an awesome mountain range or a powerful waterfall.

But that would have just freaked him out, so I had to content myself with sneaking quick glances and acting all cool and collected.  Freaking out your teenager is a no-no.


And the number one thing I've learned from having a teenager is the same lesson I've been trying to learn since I became a mom:  Be hopeful.  Be curious.  Be detached.  Be strong.  And find your sense of humor because there is nothing you need more than laughter when raising children.

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Please visit Jen at Conversion Diary for the original 7 Quick Takes and please visit the links to other people participating this week.  And comment!  Comments are like candy to us bloggers!  We love them!  :)

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10/15/11 Update: I thought of three more!  And posted them here.

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I'm scared....my oldest is 12 and is actually easier than he used to be...but the 9 year old....oh he scares me terribly..... great post...
Buckle in - it's a long ride.

Oh, and read TeenProofing by John Rosemond. It's funny.
Teacher Mommy said…
Good lord. I KNOW. And they're not even biologically mine!!!

We have tackled some of these issues by giving our kids a (fairly small) allowance each week that is tied to their list of chores. If the chores are done each day WITHOUT requiring nagging and/or redoing, they get the full allowance. If they forget/rush through/mess up on a day, they lose that day's worth.

This also is a solution to the "I Want That!" issue. Now that they have their allowance, we can respond, "Okay! How much is it? So how many weeks will you need to save for that?" and walk away smiling.

My house is clean and I'm teaching them fiscal responsibility. Carrot and a stick all in one package. WIN WIN.

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