Monday, August 03, 2009

Teens: Good, Bad and Precious

Amy turns 13 this month. Our home will officially be inhabited by two teenagers, with a third hot on their heels. We are in for interesting times.

The real problem with teenagers is they are schizophrenic. One moment they’re snuggled up with you on the couch watching Cosby re-runs, the next they’re stomping up the stairs because you said, “It’s time for bed.” The jump from loving child to the kid who thinks you’re an incompetent boob happens in a nanosecond and always without warning.

I think that’s my real beef with the situation: they need to pick one persona. Either be the sweet kid I’ve known since birth or be the kid who thinks I’m a moron. But don’t be both. And definitely don’t be both in the same five minutes. I’m old. My brain is tired and can’t handle such gymnastics.

There are glimpses of the sweet babies I’ve known and loved and those peeks back in time are precious. Sunday Amy asked me to play a game with her. I didn’t want to play; I had lots to do and I really needed the afternoon to get ready for the week. Then it hit me: she may never ask me to play something with her again! I told her of course I’d love to play, got Othello all set up and she proceeded to obliterate me. I remember a time not so long ago when I had to skip a turn to give her an advantage; now she’s smoking me and barely breaking a sweat to do so.

Another glance back happened several weeks ago. I’d had a really bad day but dinner must go on, so I was in the kitchen trying to get it ready. I ended up crying over the veggies. Amy came into the kitchen to ask me something, but when she saw I was a bit of a mess all she did was hug me then leave. The next time I’m at my wits' end with that girl I will think back to that hug and remember a dear child is in that body somewhere. The memory of that hug will get me through the next six years.

Parenting teens is not smooth sailing. (How’s that for understatement of the year?) But there are fabulous opportunities to see some of the hard work you put in start to pay off. Like getting a good report from parents after Michael and Amy babysit for them. Or the sheer joy I experience watching Michael drive well. There’s also the thrill I have when Sean and I pull away from our house, knowing our three children are home alone and are able to take care of themselves while we see a movie. We are making progress. It may be one step forward and two steps back, but we are getting somewhere.

The teenage years are not my favorite stage of parenting. And yet, sometimes they are. Maybe we’re all a little schizophrenic.