featured, parenting

Parenting A Teenager and What I Have Learned So Far: Year 1

In the three years leading up to my daughter’s thirteenth birthday everyone gave the same hazardous warnings:

  • “You have no idea what you’re in for!”
  • “Get ready for the crazy!”
  • “Lord have mercy on you.”
  • “Just wait. You will be welcoming the mother’s curse.”
  • “You will need be beat the boys away with a stick”

The warnings were clear, the terror had been set, and the calendar finally marked the day of her thirteenth birthday. When I opened her door would she be sitting up with her head spinning in circles and green puke projectiled onto her wall?

Nope. Just a tired kid who was ready to get her birthday treats and watch movies.Thirteen had been reaches and teenage year one began.

1. It’s Really Not That Terrifying

Outside of the occasional meltdown, which may or may not be period related, there has been little to no emotional drama. Don’t get me wrong, she definitely has some sass, and a little attitude, which is to be expected because she is my daughter after all. I am kept to up to date on many aspects of the teen drama amongst her friends and the other kids in school. I just remind myself that she is human, too. Only during those occasional meltdowns.

2. Oh The Things They Will Say. Be Sure You Are Listening

One of our most fundamental house rules is communication. From the time our daughter was little, we have always asked her to, “use her words.” Now that we have hit teenage status there are times that my brain CANNOT process all that she is saying, which comes faster than the speed of light. For those of you that may remember a small 90’s sitcom called, Blossom; think of Blossom’s best friend, Six. My active listening skills are always put to the test, but I actively listen. When I listen I ask her questions about the immediate topic of conversation and LISTEN to her answers. The other oh so awesome thing about a teenager is that the their brains are racing with thoughts and emotions. So much so, that they tend to give small clues into the area of their lives they may be hiding. You learn so much when you listen.

3. It’s Okay To Be Their Friend

Many people will advise to be their parent, not their friend. I say be both. Yes, we need to parent, instruct, guide, and discipline, but we can also be their friends. Each and every one of us have a had an outside relationship or friendship go awry. Each and every one of us knows how badly it can hurt. To build a relationship of respect, trust, and friendship allows you to be their safe space when the outside world breaks their heart. Having a friendship with your teenager allows more room for fun for the both of you, to strengthen your parental bond, and allows them room to learn from their mistakes.

4. Have Fun and Teach Them Classic Rock

So, I never thought I would say this. I never thought in a million years I would say this. The music that is played today is too much. So much of it is vulgar and demeaning to woman, and promotes a lifestyle that is not conducive to success. So, instead on a nice summer day, take a drive on the backroads, roll the windows down, and put in the good classic rock. I’m not talking about the stuff that is NOW considered classic rock, like Green Day, Nirvana, and Offspring (those are good too). I am talking the 60’s and 70’s. Bands like Fleetwood Mac, Doobie Brothers, Mama’s & Papa’s, Jefferson Airplane, Queen, Kiss, Aerosmith; you know, the good stuff. One of my favorite moments over this past year was, teaching my daughter about Queen. How did I do it? Just like any other awesome person would! With Bohemian Rhapsody blaring on the radio, the car windows rolled all the way down, a big blue sky above us, the rays of the sun on our skin, and the warm summer air swirling around us. To see my daughter sing the words at the top of her lungs, and head bang along with me was a sight to behold.

One other note, we also jammed out to the 90’s stuff this summer, too.

5. There You Are. There He Is. Oh, and There They Are.

Let’s first establish a few facts about me. First, I am one very sassy woman. In growing a bit older I have found more patience, however, don’t let that fool you. When I need to drop some sass it’s always good and well earned. Second, I appreciate rules and why they are in place, but a vast majority of the time I think they are flexible. Very flexible. Third, I like things my way and have no apologies for it (note: there is a very big and kind person in here, too).

Now that we have established my sass, there are many, many, many, many, MANY times that all these fantabulous features about myself are shared by my daughter. Sometimes it is directed towards me, sometimes classmates that are being assholes. When I see that kind of sass first-hand, I think, “yup, there I am.” In those particular times, I let her have the feelings she has, and to let her know it’s okay to feel that way, but guide her in how she directs it. That is the important part. I find it rather amusing and with a little bit of pride that I gave the world another strong willed person.

Then there are times, that my daughter drops some real goofy and funny shit. Like the best sarcastic come backs and statements I have ever heard! For example, I come home to from a party to find my kitchen a disaster, and was pissed about the mess. Just as I was about to do the mom thing and give the lecture about cleaning up after herself. I saw my Kodiak Cakes pancake mix on the counter with a note, “This is what sadness tastes like.” I instantly went from being angry to laughing out loud. Just like that.

Then I realize, there he is. I hear quips just like this from her dad. Just when I think that little piece of me is too dominating and a tad too much, she lets her fun and quirkiness out. So many times, I watch my daughter and husband laugh at the same dumb joke as I roll my eyes and call them both stupid, because it is the dumbest thing ever. Then without missing beat I get to watch them lock eyes, and laugh together even more. While I am not in on the humor, and really actually think is is ridiculous, I love watching those moments. They may not realize it, but it is really one of my favorite things to see.

And then there they are. Just when you think that this perfect human being is just some crazy, tangled up mess of your personalities, they shine through. It might be a moment when they explain their viewpoint about a world topic, explain something they learned in school, or just talking about life views in general (yes, life views), it hits you. There is a person in there that is neither you nor him, but them. In that moment you realize, that with these crazy combinations of personality traits they’re going to be okay.

6. Be Vulnerable. Tears Are Okay

Without giving more information than needed and making sure it is age appropriate, it’s okay to be vulnerable with out kids. To tell them when we are sad, upset, or when there is something that is really bothering us. Our kids will eventually find out that we are not superhuman. They will eventually learn that we cannot shield them from all the hurt in the world. Our children will learn that we are not impervious to it either. No matter how much they would like to think of us as walking robots that just don’t understand how they feel, the truth is we are not and we do. When we experience loss and sadness we want to shield them from it, however they know that it’s there. Emotions are part of the human experience and when they see us competently manage them, they will learn the tools to manage them as well. Just be cautious to not use your teen as a sounding board for your adult problems.

7. Apologize and Apologize Often

Since we just talked about vulnerability this is one of the most important lessons to teach yourself. In establishing that I am one tough cookie, it should go without saying that apologizing is not my strong suit. However, one of the most important things, I believe, that has been done in our home is apologizing as adults. As parents. In looking back I really can’t remember a time that my mom apologized to me. Not saying that she didn’t, but I recall our home being a, “because I said so,” kind of house. That seemed to mean no leeway to openly admit your mistakes and apologize for them. So when I am short tempered, impatient, not actively listen or paying attention, or if I just see that I may have hurt her feelings in general, I apologize.

This habit didn’t just happen by accident. This a foundational value in our home. Just as we expect her to take responsibility for her actions and words, we to take responsibility for our actions and words also. I loved being the biggest brightest sun in her universe and being a super hero when she was so very little. However, as her mother, I need to acknowledge that I am just a person who has shortcomings as well. This will help her grow and to have emotional intelligence about herself and others.

8. Remember, They Are Their Own Person. Respect It.

After covering vulnerability and apologizing it really comes down to this, they are their own person. Respect it. I once recall Dr. Phil say that one of the biggest problems with parenting is, that many times, we as parents fail to remember that we are not raising children, we are raising adults. When we honor our children as their own individuals, and respect that they have their own thought processes and viewpoints, we allow them a space in the world. When we give them the safe space to figure out who they are, and how they want to be in the world; they will enter it as better people. It is our job to build the foundation of their being and allow them to create the rest of their temple with guidance. In respecting this I find myself in awe of her more and more everyday.

9. Trust In Your Parenting

When it comes down to it, this is really about trusting our own parenting. When we give them the tools they need to navigate the world we must have confidence that they will make the right choices. Will they screw up? Hell yes, but didn’t you? Our mistakes, big and small, help us to learn, to shape and mold us into who we are. Don’t short change them of that experience, and don’t short change yourself. You will ultimately see that they really were listening. We will never parent perfectly, no one does, and that’s okay.

10. Don’t Forget, They Still Need To Hear “I Love You”

Even when they roll their eyes, mumble under their breath, and pretend they didn’t hear it; they still need to hear “I love you.” Don’t forget that you can always hug them, even if you have to make them hug you back. FYI, apparently somewhere between eleven and twelve years old, we as parents grow some weird funky disease that repels teenagers from having any bodily contact, which includes hugs.

11. Early Discipline Makes It All Possible

What is the one key to all of this parental knowledge is? Early childhood discipline. From the time she could understand, we made consistent discipline a priority in our home. Crazy enough, we didn’t need to do any spanking to get there. Now, as a kid born in the 80’s I am no stranger to an ass woopin’ or two. However, as a first gen Millennial or Xennial, I have a more liberal viewpoint about things. In truth, we dug in our heals and used a lot of repetition to hammer home the point. From, letting her cry at the top of her lungs in the grocery store as I continued shopping, because she couldn’t get what she wanted, too sticking to groundings even when I wanted to give in to her good behavior. Again, foundation is key. Without, setting a good strong foundation of discipline I truly believe that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the teenage years as we have so far.

Thanks for Spilling It With T.

Tonya

Her first concert, Twenty One Pilots.

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