What No One Told Me About Parenting Teens

Gina Butz parenting 7 Comments

What nobody told me about parenting teens

photo by Jonathan Pendleton

Since we have two teenagers in the house, I’ve realized there are pieces of information about what this parenting teens gig entails that no one told me.

I suspect this is because the ones who know are too busy trying to manage it themselves, those who are past it have forgotten, or maybe people have tried to tell me but I just didn’t listen. All viable options. Regardless, here is what I’m learning no one told me:

It’s tiring. Really, really tiring. Suddenly we’re managing a thousand details of who needs to be where and when and what that means about how we’re going to eat and sleep and see each other. They no longer go to bed at 8 pm and in fact choose the hours between 8 and 10 to broach deep, emotional topics. Not my prime time, unfortunately.

It’s emotional. Really, it seems to require a counseling degree which I, unfortunately, do not have. Teens have emotions – lots of them – and it’s a constant balance of affirming those emotions and not letting them take us for a wild ride. Boy, I hope we’re somewhere in the middle.

Suddenly it all matters.When they were little and we wondered whether or not our five year old should play soccer or dance, it wasn’t that tough a decision. Now, it’s, “Should my child try to get into this development program that might lead her to that professional career she wants?” and “Where should our son go to college?” The stakes just got higher, people.

It can be lonely. I don’t think I’ve found it this difficult to connect with friends since our kids were toddlers and I was tied to nap schedules. This might be a side effect of moving to a new place (hence losing the friends I’d made during the “let’s get the kids together so we can hang out” stage) but I find that coordinating time with friends in between work and practice schedules and just life is like finding a four leaf clover. I spend an inordinate amount of time in my car. Audiobooks are my new best friend.

I love seeing who they are becoming. It’s the coolest and scariest thing to see your kids be partly a reflection of you and your husband, and partly their own unique person. I am both proud and a little nervous that our kids have inherited my snarky humor. It’s a dangerous trait! They are us and they are not, and it’s a joy to be part of them learning to own their faith, their ideas, their dreams. They’re like our little padawans.

I don’t want it to end. Oh yes, I heard from everyone that this would go by quickly. I heard, “the days are long but the years are fast.” I heard it, and I believed it, but I always imagined a sense of completion, of anticipation of the time when I would have my time back. I didn’t know how much I would not want this season to be done. I suggested to our son that he attend college nearby and live with us forever. He replied, “I could, but then I might not become a contributing member of society.” Ok, you win, you can go.

It’s been a surprising, exhausting, stretching journey so far, and we’re not done yet (thank goodness, cause I think I’m just hitting my stride). For those heading in to this chapter – hang on, friends, it’s a great ride.


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Comments 7

  1. I’m never too busy to get together with you! All you said is true – even the part about getting together/lonely! It does go fast, so hold on and enjoy the ride. It might get bumpy!

  2. I have 3 teens in my house, and yes, it’s a wild ride with lots of wondering, “Am I saying the right thing?” “Are we doing the right thing?” “Are THEY doing the right thing?” But I love how they come home from school or work or wherever and plop down on my bed and talk to me. Figuring out how to pay for college is my biggest dilemma for my 17-year-old who wants to go out of state. Yikes!

  3. This is so true!!! Lately I have been thinking parenting teenagers feels a lot like parenting toddlers. They require a huge amount of time and emotional investment. It is rewarding and exhausting, and audio books have also become my new friend in the car. Unlike the toddler years which seemed like they would never end, I can see the end of the teenage years coming quickly, and it makes me sad to think about them leaving. Thanks for validating the things I have been feeling this summer!

    1. Trish – thanks for commenting and validating what I’VE been feeling! 🙂 I’ve already told our son that I’m going to be a mess when he leaves.

  4. I’m glad you put this as one of your top posts for 2016 or I would have missed it. Being that my only child just turned 18!!!!! I feel the fleeting days are going faster and faster! I am loving it, but dreading the end of high school coming already. I have lived here for my child’s entire life and I do find it harder to get together with friends. I think this is partly due to many with kids in the same age range begin to work more hours and that makes it harder.

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