As you get older, it seems like life gets more complicated and difficult than when you were a teen.
There are more forms to fill out, employment, banks, tax, government agencies, loans and credit cards. You pay bills, buy food, run your home, wash your clothes, service your car or make sure you have train fare. There are responsibilities everywhere you look. When a religious cult person knocks on the front door, it’s YOU who has to fend them off or decide to convert. You can’t look around for the responsible adult to deal with them, because that, my friend, is YOU. That can be a rude shock when you are tired, busy or otherwise engaged.
I mean, I can no longer plan a trip to Australia’s Wonderland, funded by washing half the cars in the neighbourhood anymore because Australia’s Wonderland is no longer a thing and neither is approaching strangers to offer them a $5 car wash. More’s the pity. I’d love neighbour kids knocking on my door to offer cheap services because I’d much rather pay them peanuts to do the jobs I hate. Even if they do a half-arsed job. It’s how I learned about the economy!
I look back on my life as a kid and marvel at the simplicity of it all. Like, I wonder how I even got from there to here. I just went to school, faffed around with my mates, ducked off to the shops after that and ate whatever I wanted. I drank full sugar Coke, hot chips were my main source of vegetables and my primary exercise was cycling through crushes.
At the time, however, I know it didn’t feel that simple.
This friend said this about some other friend so we must stop talking to them. Can’t listen to that band because everyone will think I am uncool. Must study or will fail but hate study and FAR OUT my life is so hard! Mum said I must pass exams, what a bitch, she clearly does not understand me. Parents are the worst, they said I have to clean my whole entire room. They have no idea about the pressures I face! A girl I know reckons she snogged my friend’s boyfriend and he says he never did but who should I believe? Should I tell? How can I pick up all my clothes at a time like this? I must put on some more black eyeliner and have deep and meaningful 5 hour phone calls with my best friend if I am to get through this trying time.
Now, I’m the bemused adult who asks for clean bedrooms and half-decent report cards. I’m the one trying to do the adulting and the parenting and wondering if and when someone will notice that I’m not even close to mature or smart enough to deal with such things. I remember when we got a car loan from the bank and when it was all approved, I walked out of there with the oddest feeling. It was a mixture of guilt and exhilaration. I mean, I didn’t falsify my documents or tell lies about my income or anything like that. I just had this nagging feeling of being a kid, getting away with something I probably shouldn’t. As if I had held back from the nice bank lady that even though I look 30 something, I’m really just 14 inside and can’t possibly deal with grown-up stuff like loan repayments. I felt like I should run before they realised and converged on me.
It turns out that I can, in fact, manage a car loan. Who knew? I can manage all kinds of grown up stuff, like having a job and paying bills. I haven’t quite mastered the immaculate house thing, but I can live with that. The other thing I’m doing okay at is this parenting gig. All children are fed, clothed and housed which is an excellent start. In our family there are two girls in their early teens and a boy who isn’t far off. For reasons unknown, my memories of how it felt to be their age are pretty clear. It was stressful, being a young person. Peer groups were always shifting and even the most level-headed kid could be overcome by feelings of not being understood.
Remembering being that age is something I talk about a lot. I think it makes the kids more comfortable when it comes to their own issues. So far, they’ve been pretty good about discussing any problems that arise. I hear about the school dramas, the sports stuff, the books they read, the movies they’re DYING to see, the celeb crushes and the fashion dilemmas like “Is this outfit gothic enough?” and so on.
More interestingly, I get to hear the ins and outs of their friendship group dynamics. I know who isn’t talking to who and why.
I’m not gonna lie, there are more intrigues than The Bold and The Beautiful (though they are of a very different nature, thank goodness) and it’s hard to keep track of who is fighting with who and why. So I try not to offer daggy parent advice like “You should tell the teacher!” because there is a place for that but when you are 13 or 14, you can’t be rushing to the teacher every time someone insults your favourite band/book/movie/tv show. I’m also loathe to interfere unless it’s really necessary because I want them to learn how to cope with disagreements. Like doing chores, dealing with people we don’t get along with when we’re young helps prepare us for adulthood.
Instead, I just try to listen a lot because I’ve come to the conclusion that young teens don’t necessarily talk about these problems because they expect me to provide a solution. They often know the solution themselves but talking it out helps them see it, like realising that someone saying something horribly cruel to another person often says more about them than the person they are trying to hurt. I was actually pretty proud when my 13 year old came to that conclusion with minimal prompting from me.
So, if you have teens, I feel you. They’re hard work! Needy little buggers, in their way. I know I was. However, if they’re open to talking about this stuff with you, encourage it, I say. They feel better for it. You know what’s going on in their world (if you can get your head around it) and can gently help them along. What has worked (so far) for me is trying to tap into what I remember feeling as a teen- using the magic of empathy to get them talking. Aside from all the emotional turmoil and dramatic arguments over (what seems to have been) rather minor things, teens can be pretty awesome. Their minds quite literally work differently to adult minds as they are still developing, meaning their viewpoints can be eye-opening, their ideas can be quirky and interesting and their humour can surprise you. If you have teens at home, try to keep the conversations going, keep your mind open and your connection strong. That way, you get to keep a foot in the door to their world. You get to enjoy their spin on things but you are also there to guide them when they need it. The thing with teens is, while their brains are still developing, they tend to make decisions impulsively and based on emotion rather than thinking things through rationally. It’s beyond their control as they develop. I think that as a parent, it’s pretty handy to be present for that!
One thing to remember if this is new territory for you: The language can be different. For example, two people being in a ship together? Nothing to do with being on a boat! (Oh god, I’m SO old!) Look at it as a learning opportunity! The kids might laugh at you and roll their eyes, but they’ll still translate for you
#FYBF @ With Some Grace.