The Terrifying Teens

My teenagers sample fried gator while visiting my sister and her husband in Texas

The thing about being the mother of three preschoolers is that eventually you will be the mother of three teenagers.  You hear a lot about the Terrible Twos, but what about the Terrifying Teens?
With three teenagers in my house this summer, and with the tragedy of a friend’s hospitalized son to remind me of one possible result of poor teenage choices, it’s only natural that the difficulties of raising teenagers have been a lot on my mind of late.  I don’t think teenagers are terrible at all–I enjoy mine very much; it’s exciting to see the beginnings of the adults they are slowly on their way to becoming.  But I don’t look too hard for the light at the end of the parenting tunnel for fear that it may be an oncoming train.
Our daughter is 19 and is home after her first year of college.  It is wonderful having her here, and not just because she actually helps clean the house!  She and I sparred quite a bit during her early teens, but we made it through that and for the most part her teenage years have been smooth sailing (for her parents; I doubt that any child finds their teen years anything but full of ups and downs!).  Part of that is just because she is a good girl and always has been, but I think part of it is because she is a GIRL, and I have a very clear recollection of what it was like to be a teenage girl, so having one of my own held no real mystery to me.
But boys are another story.  Not only was I never a boy, I had no brothers.  Teenage boys seem like another species to me.  But I know that boys are risk takers.  And I’ve read the latest research on the immaturity of teenage brains and its effects on decision making.  And I know that teenagers think they are immortal.
When my boys were three and four, they drove my car into the side of the garage.  When they were six and seven, they ran off one day and returned telling me they had gone to LOOK AT CHAPMAN HIGHWAY.  I once looked out the window and saw Jake methodically setting fire to the grass and then putting it out, one spot after another.  Another time I caught him about to jump from a dogwood tree with a rope around his neck–not because he was suicidal, just curious.  I have wondered many times how boys make it to adolescence in one piece, let alone get through it.
My boys are now 15 and 16.  They are, for the most part, good boys.  But I know that they will make mistakes, because everyone makes mistakes.  And I know that as much as I would like to just give them all the wisdom I have gained through life experience they will still have to learn many things for themselves.  Parents can only take children so far; at some point they have to start making their own choices and we can only pray that most of the choices will be good, and that the occasional bad ones won’t turn out to be life-altering.
Jake (2) feeds Teddy (1). Notice they are both in diapers (and plastic pants!)

Enjoying nature together at 2 and 3

Sharing sweet dreams

From toddlers to teenagers takes too little time

Postscript: Today Jake and Teddy are 23 and 22.  Let’s just say that their teen years were even more terrifying than I anticipated and I am glad we made it to the other side.

22 thoughts on “The Terrifying Teens

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    1. Jen, I know people have probably already said this to you a million times, but my boys were toddlers YESTERDAY. I swear. Time goes so fast. I would give anything to go back to those days when I was the answer to every problem they had.

  5. AHHHHH! My boy is only 4 and we have had street mishaps and electrical outlet scares. Every day he is testing the boundaries of what is “safe”…Not looking forward to the teens.

  6. I love this post and can so relate. I never had boys, but I have taught an awful lot of teenagers! It is so true that their brains are not fully developed, especially the frontal lobe which is the seat of rational decision making. My girls were a mixed bag. One was pretty easy, the other gave us a very hard time. I wasn’t sure it was going to turn out OK with her, but ultimately it did. She was lost for a while, but ultimately she returned to us and the values she grew up with.

  7. Oh man, I have two boys close in age too (22 months apart) and I am always wondering what stress they will put me through in the years to come!! reading this I think I got a glimpse! haha great read, thanks for sharing!

  8. The teenager years are so difficult; not just for parents but for the actual kids themselves. It’s a strange time in life and you’re going through so much. My mom and I went AT IT back then and I can’t imagine having teenagers of my own. Great post & perspective!

  9. byecomparison

    Oh, gosh. I have 3 and 6 yo girls right now and some days it just feels like I am a mom to small children. Period. For ever and always. I know it will come quicker than I’ll believe, because the past 6 and half years have come and gone so quickly already! Plus, everyone with teens and beyond tells me so 🙂 Glad to hear you’re enjoying them now, too 🙂

  10. The greatest gift my teen son has given me is the ability to truly give something over to God in prayer. We just happened to be trying to come up with an alliteration for 17 after discussing his little sister’s terrible twos. All the older kids are wondering what on earth is wrong with her all of a sudden and are dumbfounded when I simply explain, “She’s two.”

    1. You know, I love that you are able to see that as a positive. It is so true that there have been times when I knew that all I could do was pray. It is strangely liberating to realize that you really have very little control over how your kids turn out.

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