parenting teens without breaking down

Once upon a time, I gave birth to four humans within five years, one at a time. It was a ton of fun and I completely immersed myself  in my mothering role. I loved that no day was ever the same, as I am easily bored in this life. Parenting four, young children day-in and day-out rarely bored me and I spent the time doing a lot of healing from my own childhood.

I remember standing in my kitchen when the youngest of the four was around age one and thinking to myself I cannot wait until they are teenagers! I will have four teens at the same time! I can’t wait to see what they try to get away with and what they think they know! To say that parenting was my jam would be a gross understatement.

But, then, I actually had teenagers.

Those of you who have raised teens or lived with them are probably laughing right now. Teens are waaaaaay more muchness than I expected as a young mother. I thought I could handle anything after dealing with all that toddler intensity. I didn’t yet realize that the teen years aren’t really about handling things.

My 17-year-old and I got into a little skerfuffle today. He wanted me to stop talking and… I refused. He slammed his door, hit the hallway wall outside his room, stomped his feet, yelled at me. It was a highly amusing show of temper. All because I kept talking after he yelled at me to stop.

Now, I could have just stopped talking to him. I’m sure there are parenting coaches out there who would advocate for that choice. But, I know my kid and giving in to his shouted demands only feeds that narcissistic monster living inside his still-forming brain. I did not want to reinforce the brain connections that tell him that he can yell at me to do something and I do it. They’re there, already. No need to help them become stronger.

Eventually, he calmed down. I suppose he’s making up for all those tantrums he never threw in infancy, because tantrums happen pretty regularly with him. He has an “explosive temper” and he’s still learning to control it.

The teen years are hard. For the teen, I mean.

I find the teen years to be confusing, from the perspective of a mother. The things my teens say, their expectations… I don’t follow them. I wasn’t the kind of teen they are or have been. I was an obedient child who never talked back and never really expected anything of my parents, even through the teen years. And, since my younger sister was the exact opposite and her childhood was also traumatic, I don’t think being different would have changed my teen experience very much.

Having teens who feel they have the right to be mean to you sometimes has been eye-opening. Here are a few things I’ve managed to figure out during this season of motherhood and may help to keep in mind so your head doesn’t explode:

  1. Teens are like toddlers and senile elders combined. They can be grumpy for no apparent reason, they throw tantrums, they remember nothing important, and they like snacks. Caveat parentor.
  2. Feeding teens can be dangerous, so be mindful. I like to provide junk food on a 1:4 ratio (healthy to junkie). I keep my kids guessing on when their coveted processed foods will be offered. I make homemade beans and soups in alarming amounts. “I’m tired of eating soup!” is like music to my ears.
  3. Teens are snuggly. Like dogs. If you don’t like dogs, don’t have teenagers. They curl up on your bed when you want to be alone. They take up the entire bed when you feel like going to sleep. They stink up your pillows. They like to touch you while stinking up your pillows.
  4. Teens are entitled. They feel entitled to anything with your smell on it. They feel entitled to anything they like that belongs to you. And, honestly, it makes you happy to know they feel this way about you and your stuff, so you allow it.
  5. Teens are not “almost adults”. They’re still very much kids. Tall, overgrown younguns with just as bad senses of humor. They’re better at playing hide-and-seek, though. They’re sensitive and tenderhearted and kind. On their better days. You might wish more adults were like them. On your worse days.

I don’t know about you, but I still get excited about teens. Sure, they’re harder to push around (they no longer fit in strollers), but they’re so. darn. LOVEABLE! Especially if you’re lucky enough to have a teen who is taller than you. For some reason, that just makes their cuteness even cuter. You look up at them and see all the remnants of your darling toddler and you just want to pinch their cheeks or hug them until they scream You’re hurting me!!!

It’s possible only my 17-year-old is guilty of that last bit. Like an elder, his back always hurts. I enjoy sharing all that back labor I endured while birthing him.

One thought on “parenting teens without breaking down

  1. So so very true! I, too, looked forward to knowing Muffin as a teenager. Sadly so have my jewelry and shoes! 👀😂
    I do enjoy finally watching more adult movies with her, having enlightening conversations and even getting advice, be that about fashion (cuz she’s all for ensuring I don’t look like Abuela!) or about life. The only downside I see is that one day I’ll have to let her go spread her wings… in the meantime I’ll keep enjoying her!

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