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Normal Teenagers

I was reading a book about parenting autistic teens into a self sufficient adulthood, and in the book there was an entire section which laid out the differences between Neurotypical (normal) teenagers and autistic ones. I read the description of the motivations, drives, and behaviors of normal teenagers. They are the things I’ve seen in movies and society told me to expect. And the descriptions matched none of my four children in their teen years.

A group blog that I read had a post from a woman lamenting that her child had been taken away by a UFO and replaced with an alien teenager. She described the troubles she was having and asked “Am I the only one who feels this way?” She was answered by a dozen comments saying “me too. I’m right there with you.” Not a single thing she wrote sounded familiar to me. My teens don’t ignore me to run off with friends. They don’t assume I’m an idiot. They don’t date. In fact I have pretty much the opposite of every problem the woman listed. I have to work hard and negotiate to get them to leave the house or invite friends over.

In some things I am glad that my teenagers are not typical. They’re amazing people. They think big thoughts, say clever things, and are empathetic. It is just strange to realize that the vast majority of people around me are living an entirely different parenting experience. Or maybe they’re not the majority, because I know a lot of parents with kids more like mine than like thy mythological “typical teen.” All I can do is seek out the parents who understand my challenges and keep space from those who would judge me because they don’t understand the circumstances that drive my choices.

5 comments to Normal Teenagers

  • Martin Bonner

    It been almost a decade since I had a teenager, but the only problems I can remember related to a) How do I get my son to do his homework (when I asked my mother this, there was a long pause, and then a reply “I don’t know. If I knew, I would have done it!”). b) Disagreements about whether it was appropriate to treat him as a child or as an adult.

    He certainly didn’t disappear for a eight years of sullen silence. I’m sure *some* people have huge problems, but “teenagers” aren’t some amorphous homogeneous mass. They are people first and foremost, and as varied as any other group of people.

  • Roger

    Everyone has a different definition of normal. My view will differ from yours and to be honest in my life I’ve never met anyone whom I regard as ‘normal’ because they all differ and thank God for it. At least they aren’t boring!

  • Hannah Bartholomew

    This might fall into in the category of chapters to ignore because the people writing it are specialists in a different topic and don’t actually know what they’re talking about. Just like you wouldn’t expect a geologist to understand weather reporting or a concert pianist to play the trombone, or a Baptist to explain Mormonism. You might get lucky and get an outlier who fits one category and knows a lot about this other random category. But generally if you’re fully sunk into dealing with autism then you probably don’t have nearly as much experience with theoretically normal development. Especially since the normal development you see around you will probably be colored by your experience with autism.

  • Sean M

    One thing I recall from Anthropology 101 is that “teenage rebelliousness” correlates pretty well to marriage customs: its much more common in societies where a new couple is a new household than in societies where a new couple moves in with the parents of the bride or the groom. In other words, its probably at least partially learned (or a response to circumstances). Unless you make a point of reaching out to other cultures, its easy to confuse a way that people in your subculture are trained to behave and a universal law of human nature …

  • Rich Krum

    Not to swipe too much from others, but at one point in my life, I had maybe 6 theories on how to raise children.

    Then we had 4 kids, and all the theories went out the window.

    They are all successful, and three of them are trying out yet mor theories on how to raise a total of 7 grandchildren so far. None of their thories are either congruent, or even similar to the ones we tried to use.

    I guess it is another example of “run what you brung”, and “pray for decent results.”