Other than the fact that most people think we’re crazy for having eight kids the past 18 years (and it has nothing to do with our Catholic upbringing, I promise!), the fact that five of them are now teenagers makes most clutch at their chest and ask if we rely on whiskey and such to help maintain our scruples.
(Whiskey, no — Pinot Grigio, yes!)
I must be honest, up until the last year or so, I never gave it much thought. I was the parent of a handful of teens, so what?
Physically, they were going through changes (I won’t go into detail here for fear one of them might actually read something I write). Emotionally, they certainly were not afraid to express how lousy we were for making them attend CCD classes or for cheering too loudly at a sporting event. Attitude-wise, there were certainly a few bigger heads in the household — you parents know the drill, “You can’t possibly understand what my life is like, you were born when horse carriages were around!”
The usual teen stuff that many of us face was now a part of my life and for the most part it wasn’t too bad, so I just accepted it and thanked God for other parents of teens as well as my newly installed rubber padded time-out room. (For me, not for them!)
So what happened to make me realize that perhaps the teen years were going to be a bigger challenge than what I once thought?
First, let me tell you what it wasn’t. It wasn’t their sometime smug, cocky backtalk about what I wasn’t doing right. It wasn’t their sometime defiance about keeping up their end of the bargain with the rules we had established together. It wasn’t the fact that I wasn’t supposed to acknowledge them while out in public, especially in front of their cool friends. It wasn’t even that sometimes they absolutely hated me and thought everyone else had much more understanding and awesome parents.
No — what struck me was when I overheard them talking amongst themselves one morning that they hoped they never grew up and had to have “grown up” lives like ours because from what they had been observing, there was absolutely no fun or relaxation. The schedules my husband and I had were too rigid, we didn’t seem to have time for friends, and did I mention they thought we had no fun and relaxation?
I couldn’t have disagreed more, until I stopped and took it all in. While I didn’t see it that way at all, they sure did, and though we had to factor in their “teen drama” quotient, it still hurt to think they had already given this a lot of thought and would do their best not to do much of the same that we were doing while raising them.
Parents commiserate, joke and share this type of scenario more times than one can count. We get ideas from one another, nod and pat one another on the back in show of support, and take a lot of deep breaths together.
What we don’t always do together, however, is embrace these teen years and accept them for what they are, instead of focusing on what they aren’t.
This past weekend some friends and I had an amazing experience listening to clinical psychologist, parent educator and bestselling author, Dr. Wendy Mogel speak at Temple Beth El in Providence. Her latest book, The Blessing of a B Minus, is all about parenting teenagers in this day and age.
She was warm, witty, insightful and had such practical parenting advice for just about any situation a teen might be faced with.
The entire audience of about 300 was engaged for the 90 minutes she spoke and when we left that afternoon, we were all inspired and re-energized for what lay ahead with all our kids, regardless of whether they were teens or two years old.
Here are a few chapter titles from the book.
The Blessing of Strange Fruit: Accepting the Unique Glory of Your Teen.
The Blessing of a Bad Attitude: Living Graciously With the Chronically Rude.
The Blessing of a Lost Sweater: Managing Your Teen’s Materialism, Entitlement, and Carelessness.
The Blessing of a B Minus: The Real Lessons of Homework, Chores and Jobs.
Dr. Mogel’s website shares a lot of important information as well as links to her two books. As the mother of eight, this is by far one of the best, best, best books I’ve ever read on parenting.
Not only did I learn a much easier and stress-free way to raise teens, I learned how important it is for our kids to see us lighten up a bit so that parenting doesn’t get the bad rap that teens have carried around for so long.