This week, my first baby turned 15. This sparks in me a domino run of cliche-but-true observations – those 15 years have flown by, parenting doesn’t necessarily get easier it just changes, and teenage boys really do sleep/smell/grunt a lot. But how do I mark this occasion here on my blog? I could write a post to him, but he’d never read it. I could write a post about him, but I think he’d find that pretty cringe-worthy. So I figured I’d reflect on what being a mum to a teenager has been like so far – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Raising a teen – the good
- Seeing all our efforts pay off. Of course we’re all proud of our kids and they make us proud in different ways at different times – the first time they write their name, or the first time they swim without arm bands. But the teen years is where you see your efforts in encouraging, supporting and building your kids up really start to come to something. All kids break away from the pack in one area or another, to achieve something that not everyone else can, to show a real talent for something. For us, it’s his academic achievements and his competitive swimming success, both of which he makes look easy but which are far beyond anything I could have managed at his age.
- Sharing music and book recommendations, and (if you’re lucky and your kid has taste) actually finding common ground to bond over.
- Watching our child grow out of being, well…a child. Of course it is heart wrenching to say goodbye to those days, but leaving behind childhood also means learning more about the person he will grow up to be. And that is beyond exciting. Seeing “when I grow up” fantasies turn into real interests and subject choices, sharing (slightly) adult humour and watching him get the joke, hearing his opinions on topics bigger than Minecraft…it’s pretty mindblowing.
- The hugs. They may be rare, but they mean that little bit more because I know there’s real emotion behind them.
Raising a teen – the bad
- Seeing your child suffer and not being able to save them like you could when they were little. I’m talking about bullying. This has been a reality for my son for a large portion of high school so far, and I have felt pretty powerless to help him. He doesn’t want me to get involved, and so I’ve done only what I could do from behind the scenes. Ideally I’d like to set fire to the little shits who are doing this to him, but having been bullied myself I know that adult intervention is like a red rag to a bull. It hurts me every time the issue flares up, to see how it has impacted on his confidence and willingness to be sociable. But I have to just guide him, reassure him, and make the school aware of things they can do to help him.
- Worrying about how he’s going to cope with big issues – sex, smoking, alcohol, drugs. We’re lucky just now as our teenager isn’t in with a crowd that hangs about, parties and tries to act older than they are. But I know it’s only a matter of time before he is exposed, and although he’s fairly sensible I also know that on the surface that’s probably how I appeared at that age…and my decisions were anything but!
- Think it hurts when your toddler tells you mid-tantrum that they don’t love you? Try hearing something like that when your kid is old enough to understand the gravity of their words. I’ve been lucky so far – I don’t think I’ve hit the milestone of being told I’m a bitch, but teenagers don’t always have a filter in the heat of the moment.
Raising a teen – the ugly
- Still having to listen as he relays the fascinating intricate details of his latest Xbox game obsession.
- Hearing the sound of my own voice, saying the same things on repeat. You think it’s bad with a toddler? Try chanting the following at least three times a day for the past five years – have you brushed your teeth, can you please sort your hair out, put your dirty laundry in the basket, for god sake can you please shut the door without slamming it, have you done your chores, have you done your homework, untie your shoes before you put them on. I remain in constant hope that one day he will leave the house with all his responsibilities dealt with, looking presentable, without wrecking yet another pair of shoes and without slamming the door…all without me saying a word.
- The bathroom after the three hour shower or midnight toilet trip…
- Being demoted from fountain of knowledge to she-who-knows-nothing. I realise that sometimes, when I talk a glaze comes over not just his eyes but his whole face. Our son has perfected the brick-wall look, where I know every word we say is just bouncing off without even being heard. Apparently he knows it all already.
- Sometimes, the only sign he’s returned home is the dog sitting at the bottom of the stairs with an expectant wag of her tail. Because apparently we don’t say “hi” anymore.
It’s not easy, parenting a teenager. It’s a mindfuck, a stress and yet another one of those oh-so-wonderful learning curves of parenting. But it’s rewarding and hilarious and fascinating all at the same time. No one gets it right, we all just stumble through, but the good points usually outweigh the bad and you can usually (eventually) laugh at the ugly points. I’m excited what this second half of his teen years holds in store for my son, and for the rest of us!