This is the most dreaded time for a mom:
The Bluebeard’s Chamber of all Parentdom.
An era of pitfalls that seem like landmines;
Of struggling desperately to draw some lines.
Of the feeling of being in a constant fight
With yourself, of not getting anything right;
Agonizing over raising your divas, jocks, or nerds:
Gearing up to tell them
of the bees and the birds.
And dreading that they might, somehow, already know:
Trying to keep them safe, and yet, letting them go.
Of the reign of madness, not knowing how to engage:
That’s just Being a Parent of a kid in Teenage!
Just some lines I wrote (actually, they flowed out spontaneously) the year my kid hit teenage (yes, 'hit’ is right!). I’d heard all the horror stories, and now I was living them! You know the drill—rooms that resemble disaster areas, worn clothes stashed away jealously, lest mom clean them (shudder!) and deprive them of the exotic ‘dead rat’ aroma! Screen addiction—phone, tablet, television at the cost of schoolwork. Listening issues, behavior issues, attitude to bash your head upon, and a chip on the shoulder the size of Texas (as the Americans would say—I tried finding an Indian counterpart, but ‘Maharashtra’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it)!
So basically, they are tweens with a ten thousand upgrade, and the additional feature that they ‘won’t stand for being treated like kids, because they are grown up now’—only the ‘brain’ part of the growing up is a little slow to upload, and till it does, best of luck!
My own mom’s exasperated voice echoes regularly in my head: “Just wait till you’re a mom and your kids become teenagers. Maybe then you’ll understand what you’re putting me through!” In other words, it’s not a generation thing. The Terror of the Teenager is universal to all human parents, across time!
The good news is, humans have an amazing capacity to adapt to the toughest of situations. The bad news: the moment you feel you finally have it figured out you’re ‘promoted’ to the next level of hell—dodging more and more laser beams, facing more and more monsters, to get your teenager safely ‘home’!
But not to worry—I mean, there’s nothing you can do to ‘prevent’ teenage: no shortcut from twelve to twenty (although these days it’s more like nine), so you might as well grin and bear it. So here I am, sharing some insights that I, and other parents of teens have found helpful, mixed with advice from psychologists and counselors.
1. Hormone Havoc!
Teenage is the time when they typically hit puberty. Dealing with changes, both in the body and in the mind and emotions—wanting to project themselves as grown up, yet secretly longing to be pampered like children and ashamed of it; trying to express their opinions forcefully and resenting being told what to do; trying to figure out their identity and growing insecure because of their confusions—who wouldn’t go bonkers? Just think back—didn’t you freak out yourself at their age? So try to bear with their irrational and irritating behavior patiently.
2. You’ve Already Been There; They Haven’t
One of my own kid’s pet peeves as a toddler used to be: “Momma, how do you always know what I’m going to say, or do, or even think?” I face the same question from my students. I tell them: “You’ve never been where I am, but I’ve already been where you are, so, I know”.
My own line came to haunt me when, as a new teen-mom, I was feeling trapped in a nightmare. It forced me to remember my own teenage (and that’s when my mom’s voice started haunting me). Yes, the details of their teenage and ours are a little different, but the basics aren’t.
So now, when she breaks something out of absent-mindedness, I remember my own demolition of mom’s prized Corning bowl (almost irreplaceable in those times since it wasn’t available in India). When her room smells like a rat’s nest, I remember my own room as a teen. When she’s glued to her phone, I recall crouching in the phone alcove and talking to friends at all hours—in whispers, to avoid detection (ah! those days when phone calls were not billed by the second!) When she talks back at me I remember my own epic battles with mom, utterly convinced that I was right and she was wrong!
Try doing it yourself, and you’ll find the nightmare feeling vanishing.
3. You’re The Adult Here: Give Them Some Understanding And Reassurance
Once you realize that your teen’s impossible behavior and all its related problems spring from insecurity about their identity and a wish to explore life, you’ll find it much easier to handle the everyday explosions. Once you manage to let them know that you understand what they are going through and accept and support them in every way, you’ll find them much more willing to listen and understand when you try to guide their steps.
The operative word here is ‘guide’, not ‘order’ or ‘impose’. Be their friend, and it won’t be long before they make you their confidante! That’ll make it so much easier to handle issues of puberty and their newly emerging sexuality.
And finally, dear mom of a teen, since you’re headed for a compulsory roller coaster ride, tighten your seat belt, take your motion sickness medication, say your prayers … and ... ROCK ON!