I must start this post with a confession – my parenting thoughts were consumed with dread for the teenage years. I’m not sure if the dread came from society’s idea of teenagers, from my parent’s idea of teenagers, or from my own rebellion as a teenager, but wherever the idea came from, I was certain life with a teenager was destined to be disastrous. I feared the ugliness that I thought would come with a teenager.
Confession #2: When my husband and I got together a few years ago, and I thought of the future, I feared whether or not I would survive life with a teenage stepson. Sure, at 12/13, his boy seemed sweet enough, but teenage stepson’s spend every waking moment plotting how to wreck their stepmom’s life, don’t they?!
Let me tell you that my preconceived notions of what this 15-16-soon to be 17 journey would be were completely wrong. My stepson is an incredible young man. He his helpful, thoughtful, and respectful. Don’t think I’m trying to paint too rosy of a picture here – he has his moments where he questions what we say, and he has definitely been given the gift of sarcasm – in fact, if sarcasm qualified as a second language, he would be certifiably bilingual.
The biggest thing I have learned from our boy is to not take everything like a personal challenge. He questions a lot of things, and he has something to say nearly every time I open my mouth. If I let my feathers ruffle, and act like it’s a personal attack on who I am, how smart I am, or how adult I am, then our communication deteriorates and I get that look – you know the one, the one that makes me think he thinks I’m stupid. Truthfully, I think he’s thinking, “You’re not listening, AGAIN.” See, he’s on the cusp of adulthood, but the adults still feel like he’s a kid. Every mistake is scrutinized as a lack of maturity, but every mature act doesn’t quite measure up yet either – he could have done more, done better, tried harder.
I hated being that age and in that interim. The messages were conflicting, and the adults didn’t listen.
I try to listen. I fail daily. But when I say something and he has a thought, suggestion, idea, or comment, I try to remember a few things: he has a brain in his head, he has thoughts too, and he wants to be heard. I’ve also learned that if I let him share his thoughts, and offer responsive feedback, he is willing to listen when I put my foot down about something being “my way.”
He has incredible ideas – from things that make the mornings run smoother, to correcting his younger siblings, and even parenting through our blended situations. He doesn’t have all the experience in life that the adults have – and sometimes that shows through as a fresh pair of eyes with a brilliant idea, and sometimes he learns why an idea doesn’t/won’t work.
I am incredibly thankful for this journey and for learning how to do life with a teenager – and honestly, I look forward to the teen years with the younger kids more now than I ever did before.
I would love to know about your experiences raising a teenager (or teens). Share your story in the comments.