“Just wait until they’re teenagers.”
This is the phrase older parents throw out to younger ones when our kids are little.
As if it’s not enough trying to figure out how to sleep through the night, let alone do the dishes or laundry, now you have this forecast of impending doom. Fabulous.
It’s like when you start a new exercise program and people say, “Oh, just wait until you get to week 5. Week 5 will kill you!” Now I don’t want to get to week 5.
I used to imagine that our sweet, enjoyable children would turn into zombies when they became teenagers. All we had invested in them would be wiped clean. Despite our best efforts, they would slide into the inevitable. I kept waiting for it to happen.
I waited. And I waited.
Friends, I would like to report that, contrary to these dire predictions, I really, really, really love being a parent of teenagers. Let me tell you why:
Why I love being a parent of teenagers
They are independent
The day we realized we could leave our kids at home alone felt like the clouds parted and the angels sang. Sure, there are phone calls like, “Hey-you told me to go to the dentist, but you didn’t leave me a car,” and “help! I left the cardboard under the pizza and now the top’s done but not the bottom!” (seriously, these things happened), but it’s all good. Not having to meet all their day to day needs means we have more energy to simply enjoy being with them. They’re learning to figure out life on their own, and we get a little bit of life outside of parenting back. Win-win.
We have adultish conversations
Gone are the days when I’m desperate for an adult conversation because I get to have them on a regular basis with these kids who suddenly have minds of their own. More and more, we get to engage in deeper topics with them-faith, politics, relationships. Bonus? While they can talk on this level, they’re still willing to listen to our viewpoints and generally believe them. One of my greatest joys? Our kids are versed in Enneagram, which is one of my favorite things in the whole world. It’s like they just showed up to my party.
They challenge me
While I love seeing them, our daughter, in particular, keep up with my snarkiness, that’s not the only reflection of my character I observe in them. Nothing like seeing your own faults in a mirror, right? Yet it’s a good check in my spirit to reflect on myself and what I’m modeling for them. But more than that, our kids are gaining wisdom of their own. One day, my husband walked into the kitchen and commented on the challenges of leadership. Our then 16-year-old replied, “If you’re leading, and everyone still likes you, you’re probably doing it wrong. ” Indeed. They drop these wisdom bombs on us from time to time.
They still need their mama
Despite all the independence and adulting that’s happening around here, they still come to us for advice, encouragement, and help, and I love it. Most mornings, our son’s first stop is on the couch next to me, content to just be. I’m still the go-to for problems our daughter encounters (cause she still thinks I’m smart. That may change. Fingers crossed it doesn’t). They’re walking that line between child and adult, and it’s such a blessing that they still want us to walk it with them.
They are becoming their own people
One day after we checked out at Walmart, our daughter immediately opened our newly purchased box of Quaker Oat Squares and started eating them, which is exactly what I had been thinking to do. “We’re literally the same person,” she commented. Yes, but no, in so many ways. She can’t understand my love for the spotlight. I am baffled by our son’s engineering mind. She has far surpassed my athletic ability (didn’t take much, but still). They struggle with different Achilles heels (after all, they are different types than me on the Enneagram!). More and more they know who they are and who they are not. I love seeing their uniqueness unfold in this season.
I won’t pretend that parenting teenagers isn’t hard. Some days it’s, “I’m not cut out for this, where’s the counseling degree I need? Calgon take me away!” kind of hard. I’m fully aware that for many people, this is a turbulent, heart-wrenching season. Trust me, we’ve had some rough patches too.
But my desire in writing this is to call us to hope. Dire predictions can slide into self-fulfilling prophesies if we do not hope for better. My point is that it’s possible to enjoy this season, especially if we’re on the hunt for the good in it.
So chin up, future parents of teens. It might just be better than you think.