Being a parent of teenagers can seem daunting at times. Oh sure, the physical demands of parenting small children are gone and midnight feedings are a thing of the past. But the concerns that you carry for your children? Those become very heavy with teenagers. With young children you worry about properly socialization, meeting growth milestones, and just generally keeping them alive from day to day. With teenagers, worries suddenly involve alcohol, drugs, pregnancy and a million other decisions that can have life-altering consequences. It’s no wonder that parents of teenagers are often left feeling lonely, overwhelmed, and depressed.
However, as I have walked through the last few years of teenage parenthood, I have realized that there are some really fantastic bright spots that come with this particular phase of life. At times I want to pull my hair out when my teens are being especially difficult, but most of the time I just think they are these incredibly funny, kind, wonderful humans that I am lucky enough to get to share my life with. So, in honor of Thanksgiving, I have created a list of 5 reasons for parents of teenagers to be thankful. Enjoy!
My daughter is wicked funny. She is quick-witted, sarcastic and never misses a punch line. Teenagers have a way of finding the funny in any situation and exploiting it to make everyone around them laugh. At times, I am the butt of the joke and I laugh in spite of myself. Gone are the days of butt and barf jokes and now my kids and I can share a good laugh over Jim Gaffigan comedy while we are riding in the car together. Countless times I have been feeling cranky and irritable and one comment from my teenagers can have me cracking up and forgetting what I was upset about in the first place. Laughter truly is the best medicine and I find myself feeling grateful on a daily basis that I live with people who keep me laughing.
Parenting a teenager brings true perspective about what really matters in life. When your children are little you fret over organic ingredients, sleep schedules, flashcard math and a bunch of other things that don’t really matter in the long run. Most of those tend to sort themselves out as childhood fades into the background and every child masters the basic fundamentals in life. However, as your child gets older the stakes get higher and you learn the importance of picking your battles and standing your ground when it really matters. It is a revelation to watch as your teenager becomes a semi-independent person with their own thoughts and beliefs and you realize that kindness, integrity and compassion are the most important qualities that you hope for your children to develop. I find myself caring less and less about whether or not my children win awards or receive accolades and caring more about whether or not they are becoming people of character who will contribute to society and their communities in a positive way.
From the moment your child is born, you realize that your life is no longer your own and you are now the slave to a very demanding master. You spend years wiping butts, making food, chauffeuring all over town, and cleaning up all the messes. And the years fly by in a whirlwind of activity until one day you wake up and realize that you have attained a rare and elusive gem: Freedom! If you are too busy to make dinner one night, your children can fend for themselves without risk of starvation. Feeling the itch to stroll the aisles of Target while sipping your Starbuck’s latte without having anyone nag you to buy one more Lego set? Great! Your teenagers can stay at home alone while you peruse Target at your leisure. And the greatest moment of all?!? The day when your child can DRIVE themselves all about town and the taxi service closes up shop. This is the final and most satisfying dimension of freedom that feels like it was a lifetime in the making. (This is not to say that letting your teenager operate a motor vehicle is not completely terrifying. It is. But this is part of the give and take of parenting. You get something completely exhilarating while simultaneously being overcome with complete horror.)
You remember when your kids were little and having them “help” with anything actually meant more work for you? Not so with teenagers. They can be legitimately helpful when necessary (or forced). I’m not suggesting that it is easy to get your teenagers to do things, just that it can be done when you own the power over their lifelines (see also: electronic devices) And teenagers can do actual jobs that are really and truly helpful to you. Doing laundry, washing dishes, cooking dinner, caring for pets, etc. My husband acquires sporadic injuries from his recreational sporting hobbies and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have a son that can help me lift heavy boxes, move furniture, get in the attic, etc. And then there are the times when my son, without prompting, will take a bag out of my hand to carry or insist that he can take care of fixing something for me. It is in these moments that I realize that we have truly come full circle. After all the years of me doing these things for them, my children are willing and able to return the favor and I am truly grateful.
There is no greater satisfaction as a parent than watching your child master something new or working hard to achieve a goal. When they are little this involves watching them learn to walk and talk and venture out into the world without you right by their side. As they inch closer to adulthood, however, these milestones involve watching them make tough decisions and reach increasingly more difficult levels of maturity. It makes me so proud to watch my teenagers make decisions to do what is right even when it is not the popular choice. The greatest achievement we as parents can hope for is to raise people who love fiercely, think independently and give freely. If we manage to do this as parents then we can truly enjoy the satisfaction of a life well-lived.
All the ❤︎,