The Teenage Years: They Happen to the Best of Us
With Mother’s Day this month, I find myself taking a look back through all the years I’ve been a mother. I’ve officially decided that once you have children, time moves at double speed. I can so vividly recall those precious, magical days when my teenage daughter was a toddler – heck, I have SHOES older than her – that I can’t really believe I’m coming up on my 15th year of motherhood.
People always joke about how hard it is to raise teenagers, and I’d like to set the record straight on that: I had NO IDEA. In addition to my oldest, I have two sets of twins who are seventeen months apart in age. I had four kids in diapers for YEARS. I have a child with autism. In other words, I feel like I’ve earned a few Mommy Merit Badges! But among all the parenting challenges I’ve faced, nothing compares to dealing with the drama and angst of a 14-year-old girl. I only hope that when my four little ones all hit their teens around the same time, I will have gained a substantial amount of wisdom in this area.
When my daughter was a little girl, she was the most well-behaved, mellow child. I remember seeing mouthy teenagers and feeling relieved – smug, really – that MY daughter would never be a disrespectful little drama queen. Oh, how wrong I was. Like all teenagers, she speaks fluent sarcasm. She fights with her best friend over petty, ridiculous things, and when they don’t speak because of it, she acts as if somebody died. Then they make up by saying “hey” to each other at school and sharing a bag of Skittles, like nothing ever happened. She has crushes on boys based on how they wear their hair and what they have on their iPod. And if I gave her the choice between spending a weekend at Disneyland with her family or hanging out at the mall with her friends, I guarantee she would choose the mall.
I’ve tried to convince my daughter that I’m cool enough to still hang out with occasionally. I’ve even reminded her that I listened to Green Day before she was even born, but she’s not convinced. My sweet little girl has abandoned me to join a gang of Twilight-obsessed adolescents in skinny jeans – which is exactly what she’s supposed to do at this stage of her life. She has to test boundaries in order to learn life lessons. She has to occasionally fall down and skin her knees. And as hard as it may be for me, I have to let her. I discovered it was much easier to understand and truly enjoy my daughter once I realized that this behavior is age-appropriate and pretty much normal. I believe nature creates teenagers this way on purpose. They HAVE to torture their parents for a few years, so that when the time comes for them to spread their wings and fly, we can boot them right out of the nest without falling apart.
I turn to my own mother pretty often these days, looking for a little guidance and reassurance that I’m not failing miserably at this whole parenting gig. She just laughs, and reminds me that I was once a teenager, too. I was mouthy, sneaky, and manipulative. I made fun of her taste in music. I questioned everything she asked of me and defied her on a regular basis. I made mistakes and I learned from them. Somehow, we both survived it. She forgave a lot of bad behavior, because she knew that the goodness in me would eventually rise to the top. In fact, one of the greatest gifts my mother gave me was allowing me to run away from her, knowing that I’d make my way back. Things turned out just fine for us in the end, and I have complete faith that things will turn out fine for my daughter and me, too. For now, I’m taking lots of pictures, because the purple-hair-skinny-jeans phase of life really does go by too quickly.
Guest Blogger Laura is the mother of a teenager and two young sets of twins. She’s a stay-at-home mom, but finds the title misleading as she seems to spend most of her time in the car. You can find Laura at lalagirl.org, where she shares stories about her life, raising multiples, and parenting a child with autism.