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.
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.