I’ve often said how thankful I am that, as a parent, we (collectively) get to grow into the phase of parenting teenagers… that if I had to learn how to parent teens first, I’d have suffered a nervous breakdown within the first month.
Parenting babies and toddlers, by comparison, now seems easy to me, if only for the fact that if you screw up, lose your shit, or forget something, (as in, forget to pick someone up or give them a ride home, which recently happened) they don’t point it out, or remind you of it or bring it up at inconvenient times.
Seriously, teenagers live for that.
And so you grow as a parent. You live, you learn, you grow a hard candy shell that is supposed to be impenetrable to the back-talk, the attitude. And you learn to use sarcasm as both a defense mechanism and an ice-breaker.
I used to be scared of teenagers before I had my own. But, we’ve grown up together, figuratively speaking. Over the years, I’ve found myself adopting and repeating a few different three word phrases…
What the heck…
Where the heck…
Usually uttered as I’m clearing or cleaning: Sticky stuff on the counter, splashes of spilled things on the floor, ballet shoes left on the table, inside out socks left in random places, missing iphone charging cords, milk and juice containers put back in the fridge with literally a thimble-full of liquid in them….
Get it done.
Yes, you will.
No, you won’t.
Me, asserting my parental dominance, as my brain silently ticks off a list of consequences, either natural or imposed, that will ensue if I cannot bend my teens to my rules or my will…
Are. You. Kidding.
Used when someone does something dumb, or ridiculously forgetful or careless. Like spilling an entire water bottle over a brand new Mac book. Or leaving a red lollipop in the ballet bag with the brand new expensive pointe shoes.
Told you so.
How about that.
Closely related phrases usually used to highlight the natural consequences of having a red lollipop next to pointe shoes, or a drink next to a computer.
Not my problem.
Figure it out.
Two of my favorite and most often used phrases, used as the teens are grappling with solutions due to those natural consequences of having sticky or liquid substances in close proximity to expensive things. (As in a response to, “What do I do while my computer is being fixed?”)
Suck it up.
Deal with it.
(See previous paragraph.) I never would have used these phrases with the kids when they were younger. The word “suck” was completely off-limits, as was “stupid,” both only one step above a swear word. Now those phrases have become necessary vehicles of sarcasm I need to convey, while avoiding swear words. And it doesn’t always work. (The not-swearing part, I mean.)
That is enough.
Forget about it.
Don’t go there. (used literally and figuratively)
Typical mom responses to outrageous teenager requests. I don’t need to spell this out- you moms of teens out there know exactly what I’m talking about.
As parents of this particular generation of teens, we face significant challenges compared to what our parents faced. Thanks to an intricately and somewhat intrusively connected world, we’re fighting for our kids’ attention in the real world and the virtual one. We are all connected to so much, but how much of it is actual connections? 578 followers on Instagram, but how many of those people would you have a meaningful conversation with? Is it really enriching your life to watch those sensory YouTube videos, endlessly, of someone shaving a bar of soap?
Out of this, more three word phrases were born.
Too much YouTube.
Finish up now.
No more screens.
Turn it off.
Put it away.
You are done.
And sometimes, because parents of teens need to reach out to them on their level, the following phrases are more often texted than spoken.
Time for bed.
Lights still on?
Phone in hallway.
(That last one is our non-negotiable rule of no cell phones in the bedrooms at night.)
Sometimes the phrases that were the easiest to say to them when they were little, are the most difficult to say to them when they are teenagers.
I love you.
No matter what.
I’m always here.
But they’re the most important. And I have to force myself to take deep breaths, when I’m pushed to my limits, when I’m feeling completely inadequate, when I question everything about my parenting– what I’ve done, what I didn’t do, what I’m doing now, what I might do, what I might say or not say.
And my inner monologue quietly sounds like this. I have to train myself to listen to it.
Learn to trust.
Let it go.
Let them go.
And I’m finding that’s the hardest part of all.