Back when I was a teacher or a youth director and parents moaned in my presence about how challenging it was to parent teens, I kind of assumed they were referring to the defiance, the rebellion, the life-alteringly bad decisions, and the snarky attitudes. Since my (mostly future) children were not going to be defiant, rebellious, bad-decision makers with a snarky attitude, I was in the clear. (see me smiling here with that, “I know, I know. I was such a naïve, sheltered pastor’s wife.) 😊
However… there were some things they were bemoaning that I hadn’t yet encountered and of which I couldn’t conceive. I’m here to tell you about them so that you can savor your sweet precious moments while your child believes you know everything and just might have hung the moon in the sky. I encourage you to build up your self-confidence now in whatever healthy ways you can, while you still can- storing up for the teen years ahead- which could deplete it ALL!
I had encountered eye rolling. I’d heard about the “please drop me off a block before school” business my husband used to pull with his parents. But I hadn’t grasped the level of UN-coolness that was possible only by the bottom-dwelling creatures that are parents of teens. Maybe this is just a teenage daughter thing. Our third teenager is new to the role and is our first of the male teen variety. Of course he’s been schooled in the ways of teens by two older sisters for the last half decade. I’m not holding out hope that we’ll be an ounce cooler in his eyes. I suspect that it is precisely this UN-coolness that has driven parents of every generation to relish in embarrassing their teens at every possible turn. It’s just so easy and creates such a dramatic reaction. We parents, like toddlers, will take attention and respond to behavior reinforcement, be it positive or negative. C’mon, even eyerolling, sighing, and shrieking is a form of attention. And they must at least be physically present to do these things. (I actually have sensed them doing these things from a distance… Say I’m leading a choir rehearsal and use some phrase they think is ridiculous… I feel the long-distance rolling of the eyes. I wonder if this will continue when we’re further than a town apart? Will I feel the eye rolling across state lines?!?!)
Don’t even. I can’t. You didn’t. Yup, I did. I committed the most mortal of parental sins when I … “dabbed”… while… substitute teaching… at her high school. (If you don’t know what this means, where you been hiding out?!?! Google “Cam Newton, dab”.) You must be very young- and probably male- to make this move look remotely cool, or so I’m told. I don’t remember what prompted my dab, but I could laugh until I cry thinking about my daughter asking me covertly at lunch if it was true. From behind a hushing hand, “Did you… dab… in 3rd hour?” Um. Well. Yes, I might have. Maybe it accentuated a point I was making? Maybe I was trying to connect with a group of 10th grade boys. They were sophomoric. And, at the time… they thought it was AWESOME in that, “No way! Our sub just dabbed!” kind of way. Well, this move was not as well received by my daughter as it was by the boys. Didn’t see that coming. Actually, I just never thought about it! You’ll be happy to know I learned my lesson. I’m a pretty quick study. Dabbing bad. Tame substitute, good.
Anyway, what does this have to do with surviving parenting teens? If you’re not a substitute teacher at your teen’s high school, possibly nothing. Sorry. If you are, don’t dab.
Back to building up your self-esteem. For awhile, you think they are ridiculous with their phrases, names, exclamations. Slowly though after hearing them in exaggerated, dramatic renditions, you find yourself using these same phrases, names, and exclamations. Shudder. You were already NOT cool when you performed dance moves that would’ve made your peers swoon, but when you started throwing around their lingo and attempting their moves… well, it’s the beginning of the end. You naively thought they would respond with a, “Yeah!” — but it was more like, “Mom. Ugh. Don’t.” There it went. A piece of pride. Floating away… I don’t yet know if it will come back. (Mental note to talk to parents with kids in their twenties. I’ve heard they realize after college that you DID know close to everything, but pretty sure cool will not return.) Mom and Dad high five after “correctly” applying teen terminology. Teen responds, “I’m leaving. I can’t even…” Goodbye self-image. You’re getting dressed in the morning and think, “Wait. Do teens wear boots like that? Are they just going to think I’m trying to hard? Where are those clogs anyway… I should retreat to the safety of the clog and leave fashion to the young. (sigh)”
And that’s how it happens. One word, one phrase, one move at a time. A bit of dignity here, a slice of pride there. Away it goes.
So, just how do you survive parenting teens? Disclaimer: since I have 3 teens, I probably actually don’t yet know. So I’ll rephrase to things I’ve learned so far:
- Don’t try to be cool. Just don’t try.
- Be yourself. You ARE cool, just the way you are!!!
- Seek solace with other parents of teens. (safety in numbers)
- If you aren’t navigating the teen years quite yet, enjoy the snuggles and relatively unchallenged authority.
- Take the confidence boosts where you can get them in other places.
- Shore up the foundation of your own identity and confidence in Christ before they go into the season of exploring and experimenting with theirs!
Let’s hang in there and pray in there… together 😊,