“Just wait until they’re in high school…” in that ominous, foreboding voice.
Yes. Teenagers test their parents, their boundaries, their dependence/independence. Parents push back in a weird separation anxiety, deep love, high frustration kind of way. I get that. I’ve been the teacher to whom really good kids have poured out their angst about their parents. I’ve been the grown-up they’ve come to as they are separating from their parents. I’ve seen friends struggle with their teenagers, even their really good ones (some who never suggest that this is harder than parenting little ones, who acknowledge that each stage has its challenges).
In my short eight years of teaching high school, I had over a thousand teenagers cross my path. I’m not claiming I’ve yet parented a teenager, but I am claiming I’m not naive when it comes to teenagers.
And here’s the thing: neither Computerguy nor I was a difficult teenager. We ate meals with our parents and conversed pleasantly with them. In my family, we watched TV shows together, and my mom would read the books I was reading. And we’d talk about them. We all did our homework/schoolwork out in the living room. We went to church together. We might have been slightly more private than they would have preferred (especially CG, but me, too), but I think that’s the extent of frustration (feel free to correct me if you saw it differently, Mom and Dad). Was my brother the same? Not really, but even he was an easier teenager than young adult.
Teenagers are figuring out their place in the world, what they think, who they are. What an awesome time to be in their lives, no matter how difficult they make it (and, let me repeat, having difficult teens is not an inevitability, though it’s certainly a possibility).
I know people say things without really thinking about what they are saying and how it sounds to the people to whom they are speaking, but can we give teenagers a break? And, while we’re at it, when I’m struggling with my preschoolers and someone looks at me ominously and says “wait until they’re highschoolers…” it diminishes me as a parent, like I’m not supposed to be struggling now, because at least I don’t have teenagers. I know, that’s not their intention, but it is the message I take away. (I’m egocentric like that.)
And I’m a little sad for them, too, because I know their kids and they’re terrific and I hope that even with the teenage struggles, they realize that, too, and they are taking the time to know them. (And I think they do. Just like I KNOW my kids are terrific, and I still find toddlerhood tough.)