On Having Teenage Children

Many parents of young children dread the thought of having teenagers. I never did. Now that I’m here, I find that I continue to like it. I enjoy having adult conversations with my kids and they are just cool people to be around. That said, I’ve definitely noticed some developmental quirks. Sometimes these quirks catch me unawares and I realize that though they are adult sized and often speak like adults, they still have growing up to do.

Link is 13, so are most of his friends. This has given me the chance to observe groups of boys en masse. They all clomp. They clomp into my house, they flop on the sofa. Everywhere they go they are noisy without ever meaning to be. I suspect this is part of adapting to their rapidly changing body size. Some of it may simply be physiological loosening of joints to adjust for growth. They aren’t clumsy, they just sound like they are.

The other big thing I’ve noticed about 13 year old boys is that they have no tact whatsoever. It is as if the tact circuit has been disconnected. They say the most appallingly mean things to each other without ever intending to be mean. Link grumps at his younger siblings and then is surprised when he is scolded. One time Link hurt his younger brother’s feelings while trying not to. I explained three times why Link should have used different words, he still didn’t get it. The thing is, I know that Link and his friends are good people. They used to be much more socially adept than this. It is a stage and they’ll grow out of it. In the meantime I just pull Link aside for frequent whispered instructions.

Kiki is almost 16. In the past year she has quite frequently dissolved into overwhelmed tears. I remember 15 as an awful year for me, so it makes sense. Unfortunately weathering these storms of emotion is quite draining for me. I have to sort through her wild statements to figure out which ones are of actual concern and which are hyperbole. I have to figure out when to trust that good sense will rule the emotion and when I need to reign her in because she lost touch with rationality. I have to try to stand back because helping too much only ensures we get to have this same meltdown again a few weeks later after I’ve stopped helping.

So I weather the chaos and mutter to myself about teenage girls. Then I go to Howard…and half the things which come out of my mouth sound exactly like my daughter. I knew someday I would be concerned about sounding like my mother. I did not expect to be embarrassed to discover myself parroting a 15 year old girl. In the end I have to admit that the emotionalism may be a human thing rather than a teenage thing. We all have our turn to say “This is too much. I can’t do it.” I just hope my daughter can find the strength to stand up and try again the next day even when I’m not there to haul her to her feet. When I’m feeling calm, I know that she will. When I’m feeling stressed, I can’t see how she’ll ever learn it.

Even as I ponder the implications of developmental stages upon my teenage children, I have to acknowledge that I am also in a developmental stage. I’m not sure which one, they’re hard to identify from the middle. At 38 I suppose I could be due for a mid-life crisis. That would make sense with the emotional arcs I’ve been identifying lately. Whatever the stages and how they affect who we are, my kids and I will continue onward helping each other and muddling through.

6 thoughts on “On Having Teenage Children”

  1. An odd thing that I noticed was that adults who deal with children a lot tend to end up mimicking their behaviour to some extent unconsciously. Mostly they switch out of it when talking to adults, but there can be the occasional ‘leak’ of behaviour between contexts. I suspect it’s more an empathy thing and is more a simple case of how you adapt to your environment.

    I don’t think I’ve ever read of the phenomenon anywhere else, or heard anyone talk about it, at least with this specific sort of result. Ironically I first thought about it after something said in the film Ferris Beuller’s day off. He said something along the lines of High School being childish.

    It’s funny how much our own behaviour is influenced by those we interact with.

  2. I have a 16.5 year old daughter & an almost 14 yr old son. Take comfort that you are not alone. The quote ” Mothers of teenagers understand why some animals eat their young” has surfaced among the parents of my sons friends several time over the last year. It has been “interesting*” to realize my teen son and my 80+ yr old father are both currently suffering from versions of ‘frontal lobe syndrome’; a lack of impulse control due to missing connections in the social niceties portions of their brains. My son should grow out of it (hopefully sooner than later). My dad won’t, but dealing with my son has strengthened my patience.

    *dismaying, annoying, exasperating . . .

  3. I am looking forward to having teenagers. My oldest will be 13 this winter. I think I mostly long for the time when they are less physically dependent on me, but also when we can be closer developmentally. Right now the stages of my children are so far apart whole family activities are difficult, as they grow older, they also grow closer. I have seen this with my older children and I can only pray that the pattern continues.

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