Surviving the teenage years – how do we do that without turning to banned substances? How do you stay present, compassionate, and mindful when to be quite frank all you feel like doing is punching a wall in frustration? I have three teenagers, somehow I managed to have all three within four years. I genuinely only remember conceiving the first one. I think I was in a sleep deprived haze during the next two conceptions. I thought the terrible 2’s were bad until they hit 14 and now that they range from 15-18 I consider myself an expert in all kinds teenage dramas.
Do I have the secret to happy teenage parenting? Sorry, nope! But I do have a few very helpful suggestions on how to survive with your sanity intact. Lesson one – Have a sense of humour. My kids say the most ridiculous things, which I believe is nature’s way of ensuring we continue to nurture them. In the same way that, when they are born with their big ole heads lolling around on top of those tiny adorable bodies we feel the urge to keep them safe, the paternal instinct kicks in and nothing from a grizzly bear to runaway bus would stop you from protecting them. Thank God it does, if it was survival of the fittest they would be left under a bush somewhere!
What with all the yelling, crying, pooing, vomiting, and when they are teething biting off your nipples, you need something special to keep that bond intact. Now that they are teenagers, I find that rather than wanting to nurture, cuddle and soothe them, I want to put them out on the pavement with a sign across their necks, “Free to a good home, or indeed any home” on a weekly basis as World War three has kicked off because, we a) won’t let them sleep round their boyfriends, b) don’t want a gathering of 2 dozen of their closest friends whilst we are out on date night or c) because we dared to suggest they might clear their rooms, do their homework and wash up the 6 dirty tea cups which are nestled amongst the dirty underwear, old tights and KFC wrappers growing fungus under their beds.
Indeed, the teenage years are proving a challenge. My plan to be a mindful, compassionate, liberal parent who has kids that debate reasonably and intelligently with me has somewhat gone by the by. When I hear myself yell “Because I said so!” I shudder, good God I sound like my mother. Fortunately, they show glimpses of the intelligent wonderful human beings that they have the potential to be on at least a weekly basis. And they say the funniest things which provides a little light relief. For example, daughter number one had us all rolling about in laughter when she informed us that she thought we all lived inside the earth’s crust in the “actual centre of the earth”, and that aeroplanes and rockets had to burst through the crust to get into outer space. She was 15. Don’t judge us, we are intelligent people, I had just assumed that the school had made that much clear to her in geography. Another one of my daughters told me the other day when I commented that she looked so tired, she said that she had “Set a few alarms in the night to wake me up.” When I asked her why, she informed with some bemusement, “I don’t want the night to go to fast.” I was speechless. “Are you completely nuts?” I asked. She looked offended and stalked off to school looking pale, knackered and offended.
Kids are truly a challenge, a joy and a puzzle. There is nothing more likely to challenge your ability to keep you calm, let stuff go, and develop a sense of gratitude than a teenager. I have therefore learnt the following: 1 – Stay calm by walking away when you are about to throw something at the wall, or say something you can’t take back. Come back after a walk in the woods or a scream into the wind. 2 – Let stuff go by remembering that they are young, their brains are not fully developed and you can’t reason fully with brains which are still developing a sense of responsibility, compassion and logic. But it will come, and one day you will all look back and laugh. Hysterically! 3 – Have gratitude, this is an easy one, remember all the good stuff, remember they are testing you because you are safe and they know you will love them anyway, remind yourself this is transitory and just as the sun goes down and comes up the next day, the day will come when they will have kids of their own and you can look back and smile. 4 – Parenting really is the hardest job in the world and needs these three things, ok it needs a million things but three really important things, patience, kindness and a sense of humour.
Let it go, love them anyway and laugh often.