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Is there an upside to parenting a teen?
The L Word

Is there an upside to parenting a teen?

1 by Sarita Rao 4 min. 11.07.2020 From our online archive
As her daughter turns 13, columnist Sarita Rao takes a lighthearted look at the good and bad sides of parenting a teen
Teens will have you questioning your own fundamental beliefs as a parent Photo: Shutterstock
Teens will have you questioning your own fundamental beliefs as a parent Photo: Shutterstock

My oldest becomes a teen today. I can barely remember my teenage years, but I have to say that so far, I’ve been somewhat disappointed at the lack of eye-rolling and sighing I thought I’d be in for.

Still, there are plenty of good and bad sides to parenting a teen. So for all parents of tweens, here’s what to expect. To all those who have parented teens, I hope you will nod, sigh or smile in agreement.

The downside 

As a parent, your teen will never answer any of your calls or texts. They will, however, text and call you a million times if they miss the bus and need you to come and pick them up.

The bathroom suddenly becomes the most prized room in the house. Teens will occupy this room for the lion's share of the morning rush, leaving the rest of the family to squeeze their daily ablutions into the remaining 10 minutes.

Oh, and remember how cross you got when your kids put on clothes stained with yesterday’s dinner? Not so with teens. Even if a t-shirt has only been worn for 5 minutes, it must go in the wash basket.

Money is no object to your teen, because it’s your money. They will demand you buy bio and organic food whatever the cost, and expect you to regularly hand over cash, which will disappear with no explanation.

All parental hegemony starts to fade. I don’t know the passwords for anything in the house, and whenever I check family link, I find that everything has been unlocked and unblocked. How teens do this without parents noticing is a mystery to me.

My teen is a girl, so unlike her male counterparts she doesn’t descend on the kitchen like a swarm of locust. Instead she is very fussy about everything she eats. But she still expects that bread will never run out, fresh fruit is on tap, and with no prior warning, she regularly announces that she is hungry beyond belief and needs to be fed in the next minute. 

Teen hood is the age when children discover their own identity and values. They will berate you for having a car (even though you mostly use it to drive them around), constantly question your fundamental belief system, and enter into fierce arguments over the “way” you said something.

This is also the age when parents fall from grace, as your teen realises that they know more about maths, physics, politics and space travel than you do. They will use words you have never heard before. Don’t look them up or try to use them as you are firmly an OK Boomer to them (and no, they haven't heard of and don't care about Generation X). 

Teens are also navigating their own style – trying out new haircuts and fashions. Be prepared to sit outside the changing rooms for what seems like an eternity. Now might be the time to take a good book, a flask of tea (or something stronger) and treat that sofa at the front of the changing rooms as if it’s the one in your home, since you’ll probably spend more time on it.

And when you are talking to another grown-up, expect to get withering looks that suggest that everything you say is highly embarrassing and hugely irritating.

The upside

With that list of negatives you might wonder why we go through this as parents.

Firstly, you will have really interesting conversations about the environment, racism, feminism, animal rights, and just about every topic under the sun. You’ll start to re-evaluate your own beliefs and values, and remind yourself that you do actually have an opinion on most things. You’ll see the younger generations perspective and reminisce about the time when you were the younger generation.

No longer will you be a fuzzy-headed parent, forced to watch animated movies with sickly sweet moral messages. You can get down to some bad-ass TV, and your musical tastes will be hurled from the 1990s into the 2020s.

You’ll also get more sleep – lots more sleep. If you’re lucky your teen will sleep in later than you at the weekend. But even if they don’t, they will go down and forage for breakfast alone, leaving you to get a few hours' extra kip, even if the kitchen looks like a bombsite when you finally emerge.

Teens will guilt trip you into giving up chocolate, introduce you to mindfulness and yoga apps, and teach you ways to remember French grammar. They’ll make you curious to try new things, as you wonder why at your ripe age, you still don’t have any answers to those big questions in life like Who am I? Why am I here? What’s it all about?

I’m looking forward to the teen phase of parenthood. I can already feel the benefits and don’t really mind the downsides.

Perhaps the only thing I miss are the cuddles (which only seem to come when I am in the middle of cooking or desperate to meet a work deadline).

I wonder if this is why so many parents suddenly acquire cats and dogs just as their children hit their teens. (As an aside, I will be no different, with two kittens joining the family next month.)

And finally, I  leave you with what seems like an appropriate song from My Chemical Romance - "Teenagers". However scary they might seem, you have to remember that they are going through the most scary phase of life - growing up. 

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