gratitude-a-thon day 576: parenting a teenager, and you thought labor was hard

Labor and delivery are hard, but they’re really nothing compared to the labor of parenting a teenager.

The job description for this gig includes being able to tolerate attitude, BIG, BIG attitude, loud noise, persistent nagging, near constant sounds from a television or computer, i-pad, or i-phone, eye rolling, trails of dirty clothes, plates, shoes, and friends. You will be treated like an Uber driver, but not nearly as nicely. You will be told you don’t do the laundry enough, don’t ever grocery shop, never make anything good for dinner. They will shame you for your texting mistakes, your driving, your blog.

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But you will also bear witness to a flower blooming in your midst. Like time lapse photography, you will see your child navigate the nearly impossible terrain of teenage-ness (and can I tell you, they have added more mazes, more mountains, more deep Grand Canyon like valleys than we had when we were the same age). Your guidance, which seems to be consistently ignored, rears its head frequently when said teen is faced with a challenge, and actually makes a good decision. But of course, no teen life would be worth it’s mettle without The Mistakes. Those are the moments, when your child is faced with that path that diverges in the wood, and doesn’t take either one, but heads, instead, to the little discussed path in the middle, called DISASTER. You can only watch, and love them during these various moments of WHAT-WERE-YOU-THINKINGNESS. Because, although we want to desperately share our epic mistakes with our offspring, in hopes that they might benefit from our own faulty thinking, we cannot. As it turns out, everybody is on their own, here. Every generation must make their own stupid mistakes, just like the generations before them. This is one of the hardest things to understand as a teen parent, that you cannot help your kids avoid pitfalls. They have to fall into the pits all by themselves. That’s the way we learn. What a system.

And learn, we do. This is the money shot of teenage parenting, to see your child make a poor decision, but learn the lesson that it reveals. While we may not be able to influence our teenagers by sharing our experience, what we can do is make sure the lessons are illuminated like the Vegas strip, that our teenagers eyes are open wide, that they are not sleeping on the job. What we can do is tell them that mistakes do not define us, our reactions to them do. What we can do is make sure that their earbuds aren’t in, and they can hear us loud and clear when we say, “It’s ok to make a mistake. It’s how we learn.”

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As a parent of a 13-19 year old, you will suffer. A lot, in fact. Because your child is filled with the hormones that bring on adulthood. And adulthood is hard. We as adults all know that. But you will also glory in the magnificent evolution of a person, your person, your child, as they learn the lessons that teach them who they really are. I wouldn’t give up this experience for the content of Barney’s, dinner with Clooney, or world peace (well, maybe world peace). I love my teenagers. Mistakes and all.

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