originally in Abilene Families
Coming home to a trash-filled living room strewn with beer bottles, midnight calls for bail money, and ongoing dialog with school officials about juvenile shenanigans is what I expected.
As a child of the 80’s being fed a steady diet of John Hughes films such as “The Breakfast Club,” “Sixteen Candles,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” I braced for parenting teens as one might prepare for combat, thinking that these years would make Normandy look like a Sunday afternoon at Wal-Mart.
Last fall brought a landmark to our home: the youngest became a teen. In the midst of the celebration I realized having teens in the house is much more fun than I imagined that it would be.
Teens have arrived at an age where it’s easy to catch a glimpse of the person they are becoming. Their strengths and skills continue to grow, and it is more apparent that each person in your home is a distinct and unique individual.
My children have their own athletic and musical abilities, but we also have a money spender vs. a money saver at my house. There is an observer and a “huh?” person here.
We have someone who likes order and someone whose creative nature creates a unique version of order in that living space. There is an entertainer and an audience, a scene stealer and one content to stand in the wings. It is a joy to see how each of these things will add up to the path each will take.
While I never dreamed I would be more sleep deprived as a parent of a teen than I was as a parent of a toddler, I think I’m having more fun as a parent of a teen.
One of the most surprising aspects of parenting teens is the sheer joy I get from how embarrassing I am to them. I was able to confide in my new teen, “People tell you that children bring you joy. They just don’t tell you that it’s embarrassing the child that brings you such joy.”
Teen was not amused.
The reality is that I don’t have to try to embarrass my children. Oh, I’ll threaten: “Can I sing this song when I pick you up?” “What if I jumped up and down like this?” “Can I show your friends this kind of wave or handshake?”
I don’t have to follow through with it. They know that I am just crazy enough to give it a go. The mere thought of my actions gives me traction for all manner of chores to be done or information that I need pried out of a child. This is beneficial since everyone in the house looks down to talk to me.
At certain ages, of course, the simple fact that I exist is embarrassing. Which brings me even greater joy. Yes, I realize this makes me a sick, sick person. It is amazing power as a parent. If just existing is embarrassing, just think how little you can do to be over-the-top embarrassing to your child. Simply mention waving to them across the room and you could get the whole house cleaned for a month.
The list of “What Not to Wear” to my child’s school would make Stacy and Clinton proud, as well: no pajamas, no revealing exercise wear, undergarments worn but not visible... the list goes on. It doesn’t mention go-go boots only because no one has thought of them. I had better wear some soon before they make it onto the list.
I remember the days of Playskool toys and nap time fondly as well. I just never dreamed it would be this much fun on this side of parenting too.
It helps my joy in parenting teens that by amazing grace, my kids are generally good kids.
I’m sure I’m asking for trouble by saying that. Between writing this article and publication, my teens may have created all kinds of hooliganism, the least of which is being suspected of being the instigator in thinking the rival team’s mascot belonged on top of the school building. At which point, I will show up at school in go-go boots with my nightgown to let my children know that is only the beginning of their worries.