Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Becoming A Parent Of A Teenager

I remember the days when I first wanted a cute little baby to hold - the smiles, the coos, the laughs, etc.  I didn't really think much about what would happen when that baby turned into a toddler, grade schooler, pre-teen, and then a teenager.  I'm just figuring this stuff out as I go, but I find myself thinking, "Wait!  This isn't the part I wanted!" 

I have a teenage son now.  It didn't quite feel like that when he was thirteen, but now that he's fourteen, there are a lot more challenges.  I'm not sure how many of them are his individual issues or just from the effects of puberty.  He told me the other day, "I can't remember the last time I was happy for an entire day.  Something always ruins it."  He said his brothers were being bratty, so the day was ruined.

I want to validate his feelings, but then it seems like a rather pessimistic view.  So your whole day is ruined because one bad thing happened?  Can I blame this on puberty?  I told him it is frustrating when you're having a great day and something annoying happens, but I can't remember the last time either that my day was nothing but awesome.  That's just a part of life.  I did have some pretty carefree days as a child, so maybe he's mourning the loss of that.  Next year he'll be in high school and there will be a lot more responsibilities coming his way.  I did resist the urge to say, "You think you have it bad?  Try being my friend who had a stillborn baby this week or another friend's baby who was just diagnosed with brain cancer."  No, I'm sure that wouldn't be helpful.  I think it would be better to teach optimism by example. 

My husband and I both talked to him about the teenage awkwardness we suffered years ago.  I told him quite candidly, "I obsessed every day for years about how big my butt looked because I was sure that's what people were thinking when I walked by.  Every day I examined my outfit and whether it somehow accentuated my rear end or not.  Just when I got the courage to tuck in a shirt, a boy told me I have very motherly hips."  I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music and I quickly ruled out choir director because that meant there would be entire audiences looking at my backside for extended periods of tim.  Then there was the acne, which prompted rude comments from multiple classmates.  "Have you tried using soap?"  My husband chimed in that he used to think no one liked him and that they were only nice to him because they felt sorry for him.  He was pretty depressed as a teenager.

We got a few big laughs out of him and I hope it helps in some way to know that he's "normal" and that this time in life is very difficult for everyone.  I encouraged him to reach out more and make new friends, connect with the ones he already has, get more physical activity, and develop his talents.  As awkward as he feels, he is growing into a fine young man and a talented one.  I want him to feel more accomplished and proud of where his life is going. 

I don't really know what I'm doing, but from what I gather, listening is the most important thing.  We're also spending more time with him and are allowing him a later bed time to talk about whatever he needs to get off his chest. 

How do you deal with your teenagers?  What are some of your challenges?
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