Have you ever noticed how people always tell you that you need to enjoy the time you have with your young children because it passes so quickly? It seems that the younger your children are—right down to infancy—the more often you are told this sentiment. And I get it, I really do; my daughter is six and it seems like I blinked and she went from a toothless little bald bundle of joy to a—well, a tooth-losing, short-haired bouncing ball of endless energy and joy. I do miss her baby days—so very much!—but I also enjoy who she is, as well as who she is becoming. I think we should appreciate our children at every age.
Yet you never hear someone telling you to appreciate your teenager because it won’t last. I wonder why that is? Is it because it’s difficult parenting a young adult, or that you’ll feel it will last forever? The same things could be said about any age. Is it because the cuteness is sometimes replaced with acne, and acting out shifts from crayons on the walls to “backtalk” (a term that I don’t like) and possibly even alcohol and sex? Does engaging in these activities make your child deserve your love—or your enjoyment—any less?
In fact, we are warned about these years. “Just wait until she’s fourteen!” I am warned by so many people—people who must have forgotten, by the way, that I took care of two teens growing up, that I’ve babysat and taught teens, managed teens at work and at school, tutored them, and otherwise purposely engaged with them because I happen to love this age. It’s looked at so negatively, yet it’s teens who are often changing our world when fully supported—whether via volunteer projects, entire organizations, or simply movements of thought, like embracing LGBT people.
You might say that if that were the case, why is there still teen bullying—and I would argue that it’s because of our political climate and the many parents who continue to be bigots and lead by example, not teens themselves. On the contrary, I have seen many teens start embracing people’s differences before their parents can—but, as they say, it only takes a few to ruin it for the rest.
Perhaps teenagers do not enjoy these years with you, the parent, either. Perhaps if you took the time to understand them, talk with them, LISTEN to them—or even read a book about adolescent development, lack of impulse control, need for more sleep, and the latest news about the pressures to be perfect and how much is demanded in the average high school, which far surpasses the demands from ten or twenty years ago—instead of, say, shooting their laptops and calling them lazy, they wouldn’t be so “difficult” to deal with—and they wouldn’t consider you as such, either.