I currently live in a house with two teenagers and a third child desperate to join their ranks. Living with teenagers is a whole new experience that those mother and baby books never, EVER prepare you for. That they are more emotional volatile than an exhausted, hungry toddler was a superbly hidden secret those parenting books never even hinted at! By the time my eldest hit the teen tantrums, my youngest was only just emerging from the Total Emotional Meltdown that could blindside us on a daily basis. All this basically means is I haven’t really experienced a tantrum, or tear free day in almost 16 years! (I’m lumping in a few months for my own emotional volatility during the final stages of pregnancy for good measure too!)Teen & tween abundance
Teenagers are the most forgetful creatures on the planet. Which is slightly concerning, especially when you know that one of my children (I am not going to say which!) managed to forget to put her pants on for her final day at preschool and only remembered as we were standing on the steps at the door being welcomed for the last time by her beloved teacher. As opening greetings go, “I forgot to put my pants on this morning” is up there amongst the all time classics. That this could happen at a time in her life when her neurones should have been firing at their optimal potential means I am deeply concerned about her inert potential to forget things during teendom!! (You bet I’m glossing over the fact that I, as her mother, failed to realise my 4 year old had left the house in a dress with no underwear on….)
There are so many different pulls on my teens’ thoughts and attention. There is ever present social media, allowing them to be connected to their friends at home and overseas at all times and in all places. I love that they are so sociable and enjoying engaging with their peers. I know I’m meant to take the “all social media and screens are bad” attitude when it comes to raising well balanced and productive members of society, but when it enables them to keep in touch with friends who now live overseas, I can see only benefits of sharing their life experiences to help shape them into global citizens. Teenagers also have the most ridiculous amount of school work to complete. That the adults on the planet decided, with infinite wisdom, to stick teenagers into exam rooms at a time in their lives when a mind map of their thought process would look like a target hit by a custard splatter gun, is just cruel. Watching the amount of things Big currently needs to know, learn and crucially, retain, before regurgitating them onto paper in an exam hall in a matter of a few short hours, brings me out into a cold sweat. Is it any wonder that she will regularly forget her lunchbox, or to eat breakfast, or which day PE is this week. (Another cruelty inflicted upon children these days – a fortnightly school timetable. How on earth is she meant to remember what actual day of the week it is? Literally, how??!)
My daughters don’t forget things deliberately. They don’t sit around discussing ways to irritate their mother into insanity, however much evidence may point to the contrary. There is just lots of stuff happening. All the time. And it is really important I remember this. Especially when the teenage Pumplette admits that the raging high blood sugar levels that have been seemingly ever present throughout her afternoon at school was a result of her forgetting to bolus after lunch. I will not berate her for such an oversight. It is her and her alone who has had to live all afternoon with the consequences of her teenage brain behaving NORMALLY, managing with fortitude and stoicism to ensure not a moment of lessons is missed. The fact that she remembered she forgot was the biggest plus of all. We had a clear reason for these bonkers numbers and no lecture is ever needed when these things happen. It would only serve to make her feel as if she failed. When she really hasn’t. She’s just been a normal teen. Living a normal teenage existence. Just the same applies when it comes to food. Teens are hard wired to eat rubbish. Sweets, chocolate, crisps – they all serve to meet the body’s demand for high energy, high fat foods to fuel the monumentally rapid growth process the body is undertaking. So again, when contraband wrappers are found in the depths of a school bag, suddenly clarifying a particularly rubbish run of bgs, there is no point ranting at your teen. They are not doing it to piss you off. They are driven by a brain that craves this fuel. The best you can do, is discuss with them the merits of eating sweets with a meal, or instead choose chocolate and crisps, as at least they’ll stand half a chance at matching their synthetic insulin’s performance to their carb intake in a more timely manner. If we’re all lucky.
Remember – teenagers are meant to be different
But parents, most of all, please don’t judge your teen. They make bonkers decisions and take risks. That is all set in their DNA. You can’t change it any more than they can alter your appalling old person music taste that they can’t abide! Just bite your lip. Lots. (Its the equivalent of walking away from your prostrate, tantrum throwing toddler in a supermarket. Attention will perpetuate any behaviour.) And, listen to your teen. The world is a confusing place, and its worse when your thoughts are scrambled across your brain. If they know you won’t respond with ranting and nagging, they will rapidly seek your counsel, meaning that, even if you’re not keen on what they’re telling you and what they are doing, at least they are telling you. And that is how we can keep them safe, whilst they keep flapping their wings on the edge of the precipice, ready to fly away from us independently into the wide world.