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The Teen Age ~ Not As Wretchedly Awful as Led To Believe

What I’m about to say might sound as naive as the mother of a freshly minted 1-year-old. At a playgroup, she declares toddlers are nothing but wide-eyed sweetness with knee dimples and a bendable will. She says it because her toddler has never flushed her watch down the toilet or had a meltdown of solar-flare proportions over a hat.

Here I go:

So far, the teen years have been wonderful. Pop culture would have me believe teens are sassy rebellious thugs who delight in challenging authority. They are walking hormones with earbuds spewing trashy music into sex-obsessed brains. They are jerks who sleep all day, argue about everything, and aspire to star in a reality series on MTV with the word ‘WILD’ somewhere in the title.

My teens are young. Aidan is 14.5 and in high school. Ryley is such a young teen, he still has leftover 13th-birthday cake.

Ryley, January 22, 2012, age 13

His birthday was yesterday. Not only did I mark the birth of my oldest son, I marked another milestone in my mothering history. I have 2 teenagers.

Because they are still young, moms of older teens might be smiling at my naivete. Just wait until one of them dents a fender. Wait until one of them declares forever and undying love for a creeper. Wait until your son drinks a gallon of milk a day. Wait until your daughter sneaks out at midnight to go to Boulder to hang out on the CU campus.

Then, I’ll realize! The teens are years to slog through, dreaming of age 18 and college. The emptier nest.

I resist. I deny. I enjoy. Don’t rain on my parade and my pride, please.

These years, these days—in the case of my son, heh—have been a revelation of respect and wonder. Engaging my kids in conversations about music, history, politics, books, society, personalities, dreams, the future, the past, memories. I’m telling you: A revelation. I genuinely like the people they are becoming and my hope is that by engaging them on a level that shows I do respect their opinions, they won’t feel the need to date a creeper. Or worse. They are the creeper.

It’s not a matter of if they fail or make terrible decisions. They screw up all the time. They are not perfect. But I’ll be here, loving them just like I loved them through hat meltdowns and attempts at flushing the unflushable. For the next 18 years, I will have at least one teenager in our house. That’s a lot of launching. Why wouldn’t I hope for the best and delight in the beautiful moments I am so privileged to discover?

A crowd of 13 candles

Hail to the teen.

(because this is also his birthday post, I’m sharing Ryley’s birth story here)

15 comments to The Teen Age ~ Not As Wretchedly Awful as Led To Believe

  • Jill

    Happy birthday to your second teen! Wishing you a joyful day Ryley… Hope it was filled with love.

  • What a great post, Gretchen!

  • Awesome post – Happy Birthday to a sweet young man!

  • I have no idea why teens aren’t celebrated more… really!!! We are just behind you in teens – a 14.5yr old and a almost 13. And I think they are fabulous!!! Not perfect… and noone is perfect to live with all of the time, least of all me!!! Yes they need me more then ever – so do all my kids, but they are far more loving and kind and generous than the media portrays them. My teens ask how my day went and want to know… they no longer say:”Read tome…”, but they do want to tell me about a great book they read and they ask what I have been reading, they want to know, they care!!!

    My teens are able to help in completely different ways to the younger kids – I can not ask an eight yr old to trim the hedge, my 14 year old can think of nothing better!!! They are so helpful with the little kids – will watch them ride bikes for hours – I find their help and contribution invaluable to the team we call family.

    I think Teens are the ultimate threat… when you have a baby: just wait till they are teething, toddlers, in school… and finally TEENAGERS!!! Honestly I can’t wait!!! There will be a time when we have eight teens in our home… it will be a squash and a squeeze – they GROW so much!!! And our food bill will require a second mortgage… but they are delightful and I value them and their opinions and just love seeing little people blossom into big people – the hard work of toddler parenting really does pay off.,,

    I absolutely CELEBRATE teens and I am so glad that I have been blessed with plenty of potential teens!!!

  • A Dr Who fan? Fantastic! Happy Birthday Ryley. My mother tells me I was much more pleasant to be around as a teen than I was as a toddler!

    • Gretchen von Lifenut

      Yes! He loves everything Doctor Who. He requested a Tardis cake. At first, I was scared to make one, but it turned out great.

      And now my son who will be 12 in July wants a Dalek (?) cake. THAT is complicated.

  • Love this, it’s so true! I have a lovely 15 and 12 year old – of course nobody wants to hear that. We talk, we shop and when hormones are high and things get emotional, I always get a hug and a “Sorry mom” not too much later. Great perspective and Happy Birthday – to both of you!

  • edj

    I have a 16 year old and TWO 14.5 year olds, and so far so good. Sure they’re more emotional, and we have some drama, and I know perfectly well that we could still hit a bad patch. But I love them and I love spending time with them and, best of all, they like spending at least a little time with me. Not too much time, but that’s okay. 🙂

  • Amy

    What a refreshing perspective. It’s unfortunate that more people don’t share your enthusiasm and optimism about the teenage years. Now I know who to call if I need a pep talk when my boy turns 13.

    I hope Ryley had a great birthday!

  • Hail to the teen, indeed!!! I have only one teen and a preteen so far… but I LOVE them and being with them more every day. This stage in life is much less physically exhausting than the toddler stage. This whole parenting really just seems to get better and better as time goes by. As kids mature, their level of understanding and capacity think and love grows. They really do become more and more delightful, and our older kids are already becoming some of the most awesome, incredibly interesting people we have ever met. So far it has been nothing like the terror that had been described to us. Maybe I too, am just naive, but I am totally okay with that; because we love our teens and they love us too, er, almost all the time 😉 !!

  • I love this! I hope (pray) that our home is a peaceful, but fun, one as our kids hit the teenage years. I had a great relationship with my parents and family as a teenager. And now I’m doing all I can to create that same relationship with my kids, before they are teenagers. I definitely look forward to more mature discussions and a more mature sense of humor. I’m a fairly sarcastic (working on it) and dry person, something not too appreciated by young kids. I am hopeful a teenager can appreciate it more. 😉 I have always loved working with teens at church and would love to eventually teach high school government. We’ll see. But yes, hail to the teen! I look forward to those days with great excitement.

  • I remember the day that I thought to myself “Wow, I really like the person my stepson is becoming.” We were sitting on the porch – one of us on either side of the door – both of us out there for a break from the chaos of the littles. We had a conversation. I grown up, I like this person as a person, not as a kid, conversation. He was 14 at the time.

    I personally love that revelation. It was rewarding after all the hat tantrums and unflushables to see the light at the end of the tunnel – not looking forward to having them gone, but looking forward to them coming into their own.

    Great post Gretchen!

  • With a 17 year old son and an almost 15 year old daughter, I can tell you that the roller coaster of having teens is never boring. Sure, we have waves of emotions and struggles with degrees of independence. Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way. In spite of me, my teens are growing into people I like to hang around (most days). Oh, yeah…there are dents in my fender, holes in the walls, and major deficits in the food budget, but they are amazing individuals, and my mother’s prayer is that their younger brothers will remember only the good moments of being a teen and be encouraged! 🙂 Kudos to you for celebrating teens — just remember the good when they do put a dent in your car and remind everyone to keep sharp objects out of YOUR reach!

  • I found the teen years to be wonderful! I miss not only my teenagers now that they’ve grown up but the fun, noisy, always hungry group that used to camp out in my family room. Enjoy them and don’t listen to those teen haters! 🙂

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