Since my youngest, E, will be 6 in June, I feel like the days of sleepless nights and diapers are a mere reflection in the rear view mirror. I remember feeling like those years would never end and that it couldn’t possibly get harder than that. Physically, it is utterly exhausting to have babies and toddlers – I don’t think there is a soul alive who would argue that fact.
But something happens while you blink one day… one minute you’re showing your son how to empty the dishwasher for the first time, and in the next moment you realize you’re asking him to put the muffin pan away in the cabinet above the fridge, because you can’t reach and suddenly he somehow can. And then that first time you hear a deep male voice downstairs and realize it’s not in fact your husband, but your son, who you swear just yesterday babbled his first word. But apart from the obvious physical transformations, teenagers change a LOT, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. My oldest is 14 so I’m not even going to pretend I’m an expert… but from my experiences so far I wouldn’t say teenagers are as terrible as many people make them out to be. They’re not terrible, but they are HARD. Yes, some days I look back at the diapers and sleepless nights and realize just how simple and physical it was, nothing like the emotional roller coaster I experience now with one teenager and one almost-teenager in the house.
Here’s what I’ve learned from parenting a teenage boy:
- They are smart. After we got over the initial “puberty brain” (pregnancy brain has NOTHING on this, folks!), I realized how incredibly intelligent this man-child of mine is! He researches issues and can hold his own in a conversation with intellectual adults (aka his dad. ha!) and I no longer win arguments on academically challenging topics. Sometimes I have to humbly say, “You’re right.” And that’s super important too.
- They are strong. This may sound like a weird one to mention, but one of the first things I noticed when B hit puberty is his intense strength. He’d walk into the kitchen and “pat” me on the back in appreciation or as a joke, and it would almost take my breath away and leave bruises. We had to have many talks about how his body was changing and he had to “lighten his touch”. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
- They are funny. B has this crazy sense of humour that is full of cheesy puns… sometimes we find ourselves collapsing into gales of laughter over something on TV or when one of us comes up with a particularly creative pun. This is the BEST. Laughing with a teenager needs to be prescribed as an anti-depressant. No lie.
- They are insecure. My son is strong and smart and funny, but what I love so much right now is his surreptitious check-ins or “bids” throughout the day. It’s often so subtle that I miss it, but I’ve noticed several times a day he likes to just make a comment that requires me to answer and just “notice” him. This is important. Notice them.
- They love to share their dreams. I hear all about his career ideas and goals… from a dreamy idealistic perspective. And I know it won’t all turn out just exactly like he describes but I love that he shares it with me! And he always inspires me to keep dreaming my wildly unrealistic dreams.
- They love their moms. They really do! They sometimes act tough and impenetrable, but they truly appreciate the little things we do for them. My son will thank me for bringing him a glass of water, or making a nice meal, or buying him socks. He feels secure and loved, just knowing I’ve got his physical needs taken care of. And sometimes I can sneak in a little back rub or a quick hug, a foot rub while watching a movie together. And he doesn’t resist.
What would you add to this list? How have you found parenting a teen, or what are your fears about parenting them in the future? I’d love to hear!
Photo by family friend Loni Bourne.