Now that my “darling daughter” is 13 (I still abhor that phrase, but not as much as “darling husband” lol) I’ve entered a fresh hell of parenting: The Teen Years. It’s not that I haven’t done it before, twice in fact, it’s just that I wasn’t this freaking OLD the last time AND the time before that.
I can’t decide if I’m just older and crankier, don’t give as much of a shit about certain things or am just generally tired of the bullshit that comes with parenting a teen. Certainly not wanting to sound whiny and bitchy; allow me to explain.
When I think back to the days when my children were soooooo happy to help Mommy clean up (No, I won’t bring up that Barney song….oops sorry) I remember thinking what great future skills I was instilling in my children and how neat and tidy they will one day become because I was starting them off early with skills! NOPE. Sorry, doesn’t work. Just like my inability to do anything but blink and stumble until I get to the coffee maker in the morning instead of bouncing out of bed at 6 AM after clubbing all night back in my 20s, children reboot into something…..different when they become teens.
When entering the teen phase (boy or girl, doesn’t matter) new phrases such as “OMG, what is that horrible smell?!” and “Why is there a pair of dirty underwear in the middle of the living room?!!” become staples. I’m not a cleaning fanatic, but I would like to not have biohazard level crap in the house. There is some kind of transition that creates blinders for your child. Items such as trash cans, recycling containers, dresser drawers and hangers all become foreign, unseen concepts to your child as the floor now becomes their canvas on which to paint their horror.
Luckily, there are some events in life that can help with this process, and you need to know when they appear and quickly take advantage. One of these is the omnipresent, “Can [insert friend name] come over today/spend the night/go shopping/have me over?” opportunities. Brief and fleeting, these moments when your teen actually speaks to you and can sometimes even be known to use a tone that borders on kind and respectful (I know, trust me, don’t be fooled; it’s an act) are a chance to get your home into order, even if only briefly.
Calmly informing your teen that permission will not be given until [insert desired chore list] completion of your assigned task will sometimes result in a) cooperation, b) compliance and c) a frantic desire to please you so they can “do the thing”. Once the task is complete and permission is given, things will immediately go back to the way they were, so prepare yourself.
Gone are the days when your child would fling themselves off the bus and exclaim how much they missed you and shower you with hugs and kisses. You are now basically relegated to an ATM and cab driver with a contagious disease and contact will be limited. When dispensing money or depositing your teen at desired places, you will be treated somewhat nicely, but you must never attempt to show affection, love or anything that would identify you as connected with your teen in any way.
This sometimes resolves itself in the FAR later teen stages, or you may have to wait until they are living on their own and need you for something. In very rare cases, your children actually return to you as adult children, but that’s a long way off, so don’t even dream about that shit now.
Punishing your child has its own consequences, some of which you may not be prepared for. Saying a phrase, for example, “That’s it. You are not doing [insert thing] and you’re in for the rest of the day/week/year/century” will HAVE to be met with follow through. If you slip up and realize that you’ve just not only punished your child but also yourself for the duration, your teen will immediately know how to get one over on you and will use it at every opportunity.
Punishment is torture for a teen and being stuck inside, not being able to do [the thing] will be excruciatingly painful for BOTH OF YOU. You will quickly become mentally exhausted by the continuous bombardment of sugar-coated questions like, “I’m SO sorry I did [the thing]. I swear I’ll never do it again! If you let me do [the thing] I promise I’ll clean everything and do any chores you want!” This is a crucial time in the punishment phase. All parents have said to themselves….”if I let them do the thing, then I’ll have peace and quiet…just this time I’ll let them off the hook” and believe me, you will come to regret it.
This is not a dig at my friends with empty nests or those who live a child-free life. It’s just a joke kind of at myself, thinking of what it’s been like raising two children with autism as a single, widowed mom. We’re ALL tired and exhausted, no matter what our situation is. Long hours at work, chores, family obligations all wear us out in our own way, so it’s not meant to ruffle feathers. I just LOL’d when I saw it.
This post was truly just a fun, satirical look at how the teen experience can be. I love my kids with everything I’ve got, but they can really challenge me at times. Finding good parenting strategies is always a challenge, no matter what their age. I’ll probably never get it down pat and I’m okay with that. It’s all a part of this crazy ride I won a ticket to long ago. I wouldn’t change a thing. (Ok maybe a FEW small things LOL)