Is every step of the way the hardest stage when parenting? Lately, I ask myself a lot of questions related to parenting teenagers. Like how is this stage even harder than when they were infants? How am I losing more sleep than ever over my kids? Why did I think parenting would be a good idea?
How is it possible this is the hardest stage yet?
Are you a parent of teenagers? Do you know what I mean? Do you ever ask yourself why did I have kids? Be honest.
Of course we love our kids, who are now teenagers. I am not calling that in to question. Many of you, like me, can easily find your inner mama bear when they are targeted or treated unfairly. My inner mama bear is still here, without a shred of doubt. However lately it’s not the world treating them unfairly it’s them venturing out into it making mis-steps, mistakes, while growing up as digital and social media natives, in completely new territory.
These days there are a trillion apps, kids live streaming everything and Snapchat is stupid fast, not to mention that it’s how they do everything. Every day is a streak or a filter, or a live stream about nonsense sometimes, if I am being honest. Forget Facebook, it doesn’t provide quick enough validation. And you, as a parent, can preach that everything is permanent on the Internet and socials. Your child’s future college admissions panels and job recruiters will scan every social channel out there, but teens are often too trapped in that Whatever stage to care.
It’s slightly ironic to me sometimes that I make a living managing social media for brands and businesses, who listen to my advice and follow it. Yet, my own kids think they know better than me. My warnings to them fall on ears that fail to hear it.
Far too often this year I’ve said: – “Don’t post that on Instagram or Snapchat. It’s totally inappropriate. Think before you share!”
Here’s the thing. I write about parenting, health, technology, travel and lifestyle issues all the time. But you ought to know I don’t have all the answers. Some days I wish I did. November was one of those months when I questioned all of the parenting knowledge I had and honest to GOD asked myself why did I sign up for this? It was that bad. So bad, one child was grounded until January and lost all electronics privileges. This was November.
You should know I never ground because it is punishment for parents. Grounding is the worst possible punishment and it is lame. I do not do grounding. My Mom did grounding. It is a ridiculous outdated punishment.
Levelling Up Their Teen Game
Two weeks ago I lost about three work days due to teens breaking rules and getting into more trouble here at home than ever before at any stage. Worse than the days when my youngest had zero impulse control and I used to joke that I couldn’t sleep for fear she’d wake up at 4 years old in the middle of the night and I’d find her frying bacon or tap dancing on the stove.
Teens possess independent will and they are hormonal and also striving to drive you a bit bonkers on occasion because that is part of their job. Oh, I know they need to create space and distance and all of that. Some days I can easily remind myself they are doing their job right now. Their job is to be abrasive. Prickly. Sort of…but my job is not yet done and their brains are not yet fully developed.
I can tolerate teenage rebelliousness. But I can’t handle the thought of raising someone who lies to people, or stomps on their feelings. Right now all of it comes down to: will they grow into good people? Or people who lack empathy and feelings? So much is at stake right now at the parenting teens stage. At least it feels that way as a parent.
Surely, I think this teen stage is the hardest stage because mistakes are bigger and have such serious potential to impact futures. It is so very hard to see someone who has been given all of the tools – consistently told to value themselves and respect themselves, from childhood, then turn around and do something dramatically opposite of what you are instilling.
Right now, at this stage, more than ever before in my life, I find that I am being tested as a parent. In fact, I have also found myself angrier than ever before at any stage of this parenting journey. More tired, and irritated too. Lately, I open my mouth and my Mother spills out.
Me opening my mouth and blurting My Mom:
“But, as long as you are living in this house, under this roof you will follow my rules!!”
“I am the parent and you are grounded.”
“I cannot wait until you have children of your own.” (truly not at all what I am thinking so why did it come out of my mouth.)
“If you continue to behave like this I am not paying anything towards your tuition.”
Remember These Days…
I think I am like most parents out there. Doing my best on any given day and trying not to have a coronary in the process.
In my 20s, before I had my kids I thought I had all the answers. And then we adopted our two girls. And life got busier and happier and crazier all at once. Hard as it was when they were little and money was extremely tight, we made it. Mostly I was able to sleep at night because they were happy and healthy except for the earaches and the usual childhood illnesses. A broken elbow here, bronchitis there…a broken wrist…head lice.
Oh don’t get me wrong at all. I was awake many nights several times checking their breathing when they were infants and I rarely slept when the youngest had croup, or that time she barely slept for 18 months solid when we were hunting for diagnosis. YEAH, that sucked. To this day I recall that bone wearying exhaustion of her never sleeping.
Still sometimes, the promise of life getting easier was enough to get through disrupted sleep, ear infections and money worries.
Parenting Teens Comes with a Lot of UGH Moments
And it was sometimes easier, occasionally for a time. Then they sprouted into teenagers. Both. Sometimes, we had the best conversations. Me, the Mom, and them as almost adults with developing brains growing into opinionated young adults. Those were enjoyable times and conversations and trips too.
We skied and travelled and went to movies together. They made good choices. People said: “Oh what a great kid” and “she has a good heart” and positive things. And Pride won the day and carried me through to the next week or month or year. Maybe you had a similar experience and chuffed or patted yourself on the back for raising great kids. You must be doing something right.
Then Snapchat and Instagram and secretive apps ate someone’s brain.
Both my girls were excellent at sharing and I used to often hear “OH, MY GOD, MOM do you believe this? Josie (classmate) posted this on her Snapchat!!” Picture Josie vaping, or making out with someone and sharing it on Snapchat. Getting drunk underage, hooking up, posting provocative pictures or hostile captions directed at teachers they did not like. Those moments provided catalysts for conversations on appropriate on line and off line behaviour. We talked about respect and the fact that things on line are never ever private.
They seemed to listen and they said all the right things.
And then they went and posted something almost as bad as fictional friend Josie did and I found it and blew my top. Red in the face steam coming out my ears. Why? Mostly because I believe both of my kids when they tell me they are following the rules and I do keep tabs on their on line activity. But I let my guard down for a second and that’s how fast it happens. Plus they disregarded the trust I placed in them.
Scrolling through her history and messages one day when I discovered her phone left at home, I found a series of lies to different people and some whoppers told to *friends* on line.
Hence lost phone and electronics privileges.
Yes parenting teens is one of the final stages of the parenting a dependent journey. Obviously young adults still need support too in their twenties often. But the frontal context of the brain is not fully formed until the age of 25, so kids as teens are prone to shortsighted decisions and rash choices at times. Oh I remember well being that age and I was a complete arse until I turned 22 or so. I get it.
This past month has been largely about me watching my teenagers even closer than ever and not believing much of what they tell me because trust is earned and easily tested with lies and half truths. Of all the characteristics and qualities I hold dear as a human, one of the biggest is honesty. From the time my kids were small I went out of my way to be honest. I apologize when I am wrong to let them know I am human and nobody is perfect. Honesty matters.
Parenting teens is no picnic. It’s completely awful at times. Lately though I just keep thinking: isn’t it absurd how we tell ourselves at every stage – this is the hardest age ever. This is the hardest stage – infancy, toddlerhood, preschool years, elementary school, tween years and then teenage years. When we are in it we think oh that will be so much easier over there on the other side of one, or three, or seven, or eleven. What a weird parenting coping mechanism.
What if every step of the way is the hardest stage? As parents you tell yourself all along the way this is surely the hardest stage of parenting. But then come the teenage years and this is the hardest stage too. So what if it’s all the hardest stage of parenting? What if there is nothing easy ever about the job?
If I get them to college or university I’ll be able to breathe again and sleep again, right?
What stage are your kids at? Are they grown and flown? Does it get better?