Debunking the "Terrible Teen" Myth: I Love Teenagers
Teenagers have big emotions and big compassion. The number one complaint I hear about teens is that they bring excessive drama to everything. This is a fair observation -- hormones and increasingly complex peer and school circumstances do tend to make emotions run high. This can be wearing on those of us with older, cooler heads. But the gem in the midst of the ZOMG ALL THE FEELS emotion-storm is that they're only this way because they truly care about all sorts of things, in a way that society has yet to beat out of them. It may sometimes seem like they only care about themselves, but that's probably not the case. Ever seen a teen run with a cause that mattered to him? Ever seen a teen display startling empathy for a friend in crisis? It happens. It's pretty incredible to observe.
Little kids love you just because. Teenagers love you a whole new way. I'm not going to lie; it's true that teens are more likely to hurl the dreaded, "I hate you!" as a dagger, in the heat of the moment. But they don't really hate you (not for long, anyway), and as they grow and evolve, so does your relationship with them. For the first time, maybe, they start glimpsing their parents as people. The first time you see your teen truly appreciate you is fantastic. And it never gets old, seeing them just a little surprised to realize that you're kind of okay to hang around with, and stuff.
Teenagers are in the process of becoming, and you get to bear witness. There's a reason that we find watching a caterpillar transform into a butterfly captivating. It's biology, sure, but it's also just a little bit magic. You never really know what happens in that cocoon, not really. With teenagers, the cocoon is the skull, and the processes in their brains aren't quite as linear, but nevertheless, I'll take watching a teen find her footing over a baby's first wobbly steps any day of the week. Babies work to grasp objects, to move, to understand object permanence, to form words. Teenagers work to understand their place in the world, who they really are, and what matters to them most. If you get caught up in the Sturm und Drang of rules and curfews and limit-testing you might forget that all of that is merely the window-dressing to the transformation of a dependent child into an independent adult. Don't let the annoyances convince you that they're the process; they're not. Yes, set the limits, hold firm to reasonable boundaries, and don't stop the hard work of parenting... but don't forget to watch them fly. Because they do.
Let's stop talking about teenagers like they're flesh-eating zombies. I adore teens! Who's with me?
BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir Kamin believes that parenting teens is the toughest job she's ever loved. She blogs near-daily about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and all day long about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.