I have a teenage daughter.
It is both fun and frightening.
Why is she smiling? How long will she be happy? Half an hour? 20 minutes? The length of time it takes to get across the room?
Should I tell her NOW that we are having her least favorite meal for dinner? In What will the repercussions be for that? A passive aggressive making of a smoothie? ..with an extra hard pushing on the blender button to let me know that if I can’t cook the right food, she will be forced to drink her dinner?
Or hey – maybe it’s been a good day and all will be well, because she is thinking rationally and realizes that there are 4 other people in this family who DO like spaghetti and she is not in charge.
Having a teenager is like having a new best friend.
Well, unless maybe your friends alternate between acting like they love you and blaming you for everything bad in the world. (In which case – I’m sorry. And you should get new friends.)
What is incredibly difficult about being the parent of a teenager, is not taking anything personally or blaming yourself for their periods of awful-ness.
Why do we do that? It’s not like we would accept the blame for things we have nothing to do with in other situations, right? Imagine you are standing in a grocery store line and the person in front of you suddenly turns around and tells you that it’s all your fault that the line is too long.
She also blames you for eggs being too expensive and for the fact that she forgot her list.
And you – feel guilty.
In your head you begin to list the things you may have done wrong that could have in fact caused these issues.
And then you feel hurt.
Why are they yelling at you? You didn’t mean to ruin their day. You are sorry and maybe you should tell them that. But wait – they should NOT be yelling at you and this is not your fault and you are getting very angry! Annnnnd – you have now experienced all the daily “feels” of parenting a teen.
You are exhausted and need chocolate. And a nap.
From what I understand this is normal and won’t actually kill you.
However, from what I know – it will make you cry.
And feel like a failure.
And other fun stuff.
But then there are the other parts of parenting a teen. The real conversations you can now have. The fact that they can watch your favorite movies with you and maybe even develop a love for them as well. They will feel badly when you are sick and make you soup or bring you ginger ale. You can talk to them about YOUR feelings, and they will try to make you feel better. They will give you a pep talk that is full of words you recognize – because these are the same talks you have given them.
And you will cry about this too. Because come on, this is YOUR kid and they are becoming a real live person that you really enjoy.
And so, here you are. Teetering on the edge right along with your kid/soon to be adult. And they are wonderful and infuriating and scary.
But you love them.
And at least half of the time you really like them.
And unfortunately that is about as good as it will get – for now.
It’s not your fault.
And really, it’s not even their fault. Hormones, stress (you could not PAY me to go to high school again, y’all) and growing pains, both inside and out, make for the perfect storm.
And yet, you must teach them to control their emotions. They can’t be allowed to become “ugly”, as we say in the South, simply because a new stressor has arrived. Four hours of homework, does indeed “suck” and most certainly is “not fair” – but sorry kid, you are still going to be kind to your siblings and respectful to your parents. The. End.
I will say that two years in, I have found that the big rule you must follow is – do NOT sink to their level. You need to be an example. The adult you are trying to teach them to be does NOT scream and yell and allow their whole day to be ruined simply because someone else is unhappy.
Can you help them be happy?
If so, go for it. Brighten your teen’s day. In fact, I encourage this.
Will a surprise coffee drink right after school make them smile?
Maybe a lunch out just the two of you where you talk about nothing serious at all and they get every ounce of your attention? Do these things as often as you can! BE there for your teen.
They are struggling, bless their adolescent hearts.
But if you can’t – if they are bound and determined to be sad, mad or miserable – then just let it ride. Send them off to be alone and work through it and MOVE ON WITH YOUR LIFE.
I can’t stress this enough.
It does not make you a bad parent.
It ensures that you won’t live in teen angst for however long you have them in your home. This would mean the teen years times 3 for me. I just can’t. And you shouldn’t either.
If your good mood is dependent on your teenager’s good mood – heaven help you.
That is no way to live.
No way to parent.
No way to be a good, positive partner to your spouse.
And it’s no good for your teen.
We have to be the stable ones, while the rest of their lives spin around in chaos. Give them support. Give them boundaries. And give them space.
Having said all of this – it’s NOT easy. And here is where the ultimate parental defense comes in – prayer.
I mean, down on your knees-hands clasped-possible ripping of clothes- beating of the chest, prayer.
And when you are done with that, find your kid and pray out loud.
Let them know that you love then despite the icky-ness that sometimes oozes out of them.
Show them that you don’t have all of the answers, so you ask for help.
It will help pretty much immediately.
It’s hard to be really angry at someone while praying for them or being prayed for by them.
We can do this, my friends.
The going will get tough and emotional and kind of crappy. But if we keep our wits about us, our love strong, God nearby, and chocolate in the house, we AND our teens will come out of this just fine. I’m sure of it.