“I still fit,” he says, in his 18-year-old man voice, as he sits his 180-pound man body on his mother’s lap and draws his knees to compact himself into a ball.
She’s squished, but she smiles anyway…enjoying the last few years she has with her boy before another woman will eventually replace her as Number 1 in his heart. She rubs his back, remembering when it was smaller than the palm of her hand, and wonders how it went so fast.
Later, that 18-year-old young man grabs his phone, his wallet, and his keys. He’s heading out to a movie with some friends. He pauses to give his mother a kiss on the cheek and tell her, “Love you most, Mom.”
She smiles and shakes her head. “Not possible,” she says.
As he’s leaving, he winks and replies, “Oh, but it is.”
Another evening, that 18-year-old and his 15-year-old sister are talking with their mother in the kitchen. He’s got his phone out, perusing for what the kids apparently call “dank memes” these days. (For those uninitiated in teen slang, that apparently means “a meme that is really cool”.) As he finds one that makes him laugh out loud, he shows it to his sister…and then his mother, whose own sense of humor is a little warped as well.
While they’re talking about everything and nothing, the 15-year-old reveals that she has realized the three people she talks the most to are her mother, her big brother, and one particular friend of hers.
The mother smiles, thinking to herself, it’s everything I’ve worked for with these kids every single day of their lives. She stays up late talking with her teenagers, figuring there will be plenty of time for sleep when her kids are grown and the house is too quiet.
She remembers all of the warnings she received from other parents when her teenagers were small. When they were little and they climbed into her lap and clung to her legs. When they were little and they chattered endlessly about everything. When they were little and they wanted her complete attention. When they were little and they thought the sun rose and set around their mother.
Just wait until they’re teenagers, these other people prophesied. They’ll shrink away from your touch. They’ll answer you with grunts and one or two word replies if at all. They’ll never want to spend any time with you because parents are embarrassing.
The future looked bleak. The forecast was grim. These loving relationships this mother had with her two small children were going to crumble. These two sweet little children were going to morph into dreaded teenagers.
Teenagers are rude. Teenagers are sullen and withdrawn. Teenagers are disrespectful. Teenagers don’t like their parents. Teenagers are selfish. Teenagers are irresponsible.
This mother remembers all of these dismal predictions awaiting her once her children turned into teenagers, and she smiles. Inwardly, to borrow some of her teens’ slang, she shouts, In your face, people!
Because not a single one of those dismal predictions came true for this mother.
And I know because I am that mother.
That 18-year-old is my son, and that 15-year-old is my oldest daughter.
I held my breath when Jarrod turned 13, then 14, then 15…I was still waiting for my sweet boy to transform into the rude, sullen, withdrawn, disrespectful, irresponsible spawn of the devil that I’d been warned to expect him to become.
When he turned 16, Erica turned 13. I held my breath again, wondering if Jarrod had just been an anomaly. She turned 14, and then 15.
I’ve stopped waiting; it isn’t going to happen. And I don’t even worry about it with Jillian. She’s going to be every bit as awesome once she hits her teens as her siblings have been.
Now, it isn’t all sunshine and roses around my house. My teenagers aren’t perfect, and I don’t expect them to be. I’m not perfect. My teenagers aren’t perfect, but they are darned good. Far from being rude, sullen, withdrawn, disrespectful, or irresponsible, my teenagers are generally kind, happy, engaged, respectful, and responsible.
I have found the teen years utterly delightful. I get a lot of raised eyebrows from other people when I say that, but it’s true. The teen years have been my favorite stage. And it’s not just my own teenagers I enjoy. Over the last five years, we’ve had a lot of teens in and out of our house. My teens’ friends are all terrific young people, too.
It’s past time to challenge the prevailing narrative on teenagers. Stop vilifying them, and start looking for and acknowledging all of the truly wonderful things teens bring to the table.
I do that by not repeating the dark and dire predictions about the teen years to parents of small children. Teenagers are not predestined to be rude, sullen, withdrawn, angry, disrespectful, selfish, or irresponsible. Instead, I tell them about how terrific all the teenagers in my life are.
I tell these parents to invest heavily in their small children now – and not to stop. I think my teenagers and many of their friends would agree with the assessment that I have poured my heart and soul into them. It’s purposeful on my part.
I can’t promise you that you’ll end up with your man-child still happily sitting in your lap and telling you that he still fits.
I can’t promise you that your teenage daughter will trust your opinions, value your advice, and confide in you like she confides in her best friends.
I can’t promise you that your teenagers will seek to spend time with you.
I can’t promise you that you and your teenagers will argue about who loves whom more.
But what I can promise is that there are things you can do to maximize the odds of having great relationships with them.
I’ll be sharing my top tips for precisely what to do to maximize the odds of having great relationships with your teens in an upcoming post. If you want to make sure you don’t miss that post, please Click Here to Subscribe!
In the meantime, take heart in knowing that the stereotype of teenagers as rude, sullen, withdrawn, and disrespectful is just that: a stereotype….and a bad one, at that.