Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Parenting Teens Your Munchkin Is 13 Already

In the last six months, my 12 year old… oops, I mean, my 13 year old, has grown about as many inches.  His friends are wider and bigger, too.  He ignores my cooing over him.  He snaps back with a big boy bite.  He’s – like – different.

Ever feel that after parenting your child for a full twelve devoted years, you deserve a graduation certificate of some kind from some kindly parenting university out there, if ever such a one existed?  Well, just persevere one more month till year thirteen.

You’ll know it when it arrives.  It kicks in.  Like a baby in the stomach, only with huge legs and powerful thighs. 

“Surprise.  I’m a teenager now!” will be your kid saying it without saying it.  Parenting teens definitely is different.

When my first son turned thirteen, he let me know the shocking truth.  One evening, he was out and about wandering with friends late at night, so I drove looking for him.  Found him in the Block Buster parking lot.  There he refused to get in the car to go home.  It was a P-T standoff.  A burst of stubborn.  A muster of persistence.  And I lost.  Dizzed and dazed, I gathered myself again.  Then cried. 

I was being kicked out of class.  I ended up having to finagle my way back to parenthood prep school.  Twelve years of parenting had just evaporated. 

For this reason alone, I believe that if you are parenting teens, you need a group of your own.  And desperately.  Many new parents enter this “teenager” thing every year, unprepared.  It need not be like that.  If you’re about to enter this radically cool group of parents of teens, then, please talk with someone who has “lived” through it.  Listen to them.  Be heartened.  Be educated.  You’re next.

Be assured.  Parenting teens is not about losing your mind.  Parenting teens is not about losing your cool.  Parenting teens is not about freaking out.  Parenting teens is about you going to Parenting Graduate School.   Classes are beginning in just a few.

Seriously.  The most valuable thing you as a parent of a munchkin can do now, before that fateful thirteenth year arrives, is meet with another living parent of a teenager (yes, there are a few alive as we speak).  Even better, meet with parents of 20-somethings.  (Per my definition: a “munchkin” is any child below the threshold age of being able to be pinched and kissed on the cheek at any moment and just take it because they still like it.)   

Find these living parents of teens.  They smile.  They breathe.  They walk.  They offer hope.

They will give you the biggest “P-word” ever a parent must know: Perspective.  Perspective on teenagers.  Perspective on what works and what doesn’t.  Perspective on being patient, losing cool, fighting fire, failing at it all.  Experiencing its joys and sorrows.  They will give you a good perspective on parenting teens with love.

That’s the number one task for you who aren’t there yet: Talk to other parents of teens.  Listen and learn.  Easy to do, just be a sponge.  Oh and don’t worry.  You will be tested on the material soon enough.

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