Family Friday

This Is No Picnic in the Park 

One thing I’ve learned about parenting is… the teen-years are hard! I miss the sleepless nights of toddlers. Sleepless nights of teens is harder than I expected.

When my children were young I used to discard all the stories that circulated about how the teen years would be the crisis time in my child rearing experiences. After all, I was doing it all by the book. It was easy to believe then that I would be able to draw strength from the fact that I had once been a teen myself, and could use this experience to ensure that my children would journey through teenage years without causing me to so much as raise an eyebrow. I knew all their tricks. I had learned by my experiences and by my observations all there was to know about parenting.

LOL. Boy was I certifiable! Raising teens is the hardest thing I have ever done — it makes pregnancy and childbirth look like a picnic in the park!

I sit here today, drowning in four teenage year’s experiences I am currently “NAGivating” that, at times, seem to be unending, scarred and traumatic. Will I survive? So far, as I get ready to send my first off into the adult world as a marriage lady, I have learned that it takes a lot of guile, cunning and inner strength to survive the many years that span the time from when my first born (20 on Tuesday) turned thirteen to the time my fifth, 12 years her junior, will celebrate her twentieth birthday. AHH! That’s 19 years of teenagers. Heaven help me!

I have to admit that I was not prepared for the child transition from twelve to teen years. It seemed as if, from the morning of their thirteenth year they became almost possessed by the power of teendom. Why? Where did the sweet-mom-pleasing children go? Over night the sweet, funny, communicative child who seemed to adore the very ground that I walked on, changed. In its place there is this alien, one who has a foreign language, composed of grunts most of the time. There is this challenger, who doubtes my knowledge, wisdom and vast experience and cast my opinions into a “recycle Bin.”

One of my survival techniques I learned from my mom is that the one sure way to deal with the sometimes grumpy side of the teenager is to be as wacky, if not more so, than the teenager is. Nothing throws an un-rulely teen off their guard like the crazy lady goofing off next to them in public. LOL. I have found that humor is the best policy and, believe me, it works with teenagers as well. Nearly always, they find it embarrassing and cringe a little, but it does evoke a smile and it is very hard to be grumpy when you are smiling. Thanks mom.

The second survival skill I rely on is tolerance. Teens are emotionally erratic (even the boys!) and this can only be responded to with tolerance and calmness. If I can succeed in none to a little reaction to their antics I can usually refute huge problems. It’s no fun when mom has disconnected the button. Take that son!

Of course, the lack of discipline of teenage years; the mess that seem to follow everywhere they go and the reluctance to raise so much as a finger to return things to normal, is difficult. At least as little kids they liked to clean up to little Barney Songs. Now, nothing works and the whole area looks like a nuclear bomb went off. Somehow I’d like them to understand that I can tolerate their personal space remaining a mess, however, the rest of the house needs to remain relatively teen free and tidy… if only for my sanity.

Then there is lack of interest in anything, even school. What will they be able to do as adults? I don’t think I could have them continue to live here after they should be on their own. I’ll go nuts! My son, for example, doesn’t have any motivation beyond the here and now. I want him to have higher education as a goal, but I can’t get him interested in his current education. It’s not like I expect him to be a genius-entrepreneur-athlete-altruist-artist… or maybe is it a problem? Seriously, I just want him to care about learning and doing his best in his math class and not fighting me over his other school subjects. That’s not asking too much is it?

Note to teens: the issue of respect of the mom. For example, call the mom when you are going to change plans like rides, friends, etc. Don’t leave the mom hanging around waiting for 25 minutes because you decided to go to a friend’s house. Oh! And ASK her not tell her. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. That’s all I ask.

As for rebellion, something that teens are notoriously good at… I am still working on that. It seems to me that this is a time of teen madness and there is nothing I can do but wait for the phase to pass, like it’s some terrible flu bug. Maybe it’s more them sending a message to me. If so, I need a decoder ring. All the same, this experience is teaching me how to remain passionate about the things that are important to me and, when I remember this, it appears they began to respect me more. At least, that is what I’m hoping for.

The small stuff — like rudeness, irresponsibility and utter obliviousness to the effort and money I put into their well-being —test me daily.

It’s crazy! I didn’t allow my kids, now 20, 17, 15, 13, and 7, to go on sleepovers, watch endless hours television or play video/computer games. (Have to admit I’ve gone lax on that lately… tired of the fight I guess). I’ve expected their best in our home school subjects. I’ve even set standards and then back off, to give my kids space to err and stumble, and to allow them get up again — by themselves.

I’ve resisted the instinct to overprotect them, to overindulge them, to over-schedule them and to fight their battles for them. I can see that kind of parenting deprives them of the most critical learning they need to do. I try not to over-coddle my children, demanding little of them but wanting everything for them. I still wonder at my teens’ lack of respect for elders and others.

One thing is for sure. The process of raising offspring as much messier and nuanced requiring a more moderate and compassionate approach then I ever imagined. There is NO neat list of dos and don’ts, nor blanket prescriptions that lead to success. Just trial and error.

Yesterday felt much like trial and FAIL. Oh well. There is always today.

Originally posted 26th February 2011 by Wendy Boyack on Resigning as the General Manager of the Universe powered by Blogger.

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