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Teenagers vs. “Terrible Two’s”. It’s A Toss Up

Being a teenager is tough, and so is parenting one. Think about it. Moms go through pre-menopause around the same time their children go through puberty, and that means a household full of mood swings, raging hormones, sugar cravings, weight fluctuations, bad hair days, forgetfulness, exhaustion, and inability to focus due to habitual multi-tasking. (Not a good time for a husband to have a mid-life crisis). Scientific studies prove that neurological changes in the brain peak at certain stages in life, including the time parents are raising their teens, so I’m not making this stuff up.

All you moms with little ones, you’ve heard it before. Your sweet, innocent children grow up so fast. One day they think you’re the greatest, smartest, prettiest person who sings the best nursery rhymes in the whole world. The next day, that same baby who wore saggy diapers will be squeezing into $100 designer denim shorts and will take control over the radio station in the car and everything else in your life. A typical teenager considers their old lady clueless about everything in life and the most embarrassing human being on earth, particularly when it comes to fashion, music, hair styles, and the latest dance moves, not to mention algebra homework.

It seems like just yesterday when my daughter Sari, who is now 13, was a sweet toddler pulling on my pant leg and crying, “mommy, mommy” to get my attention. (Actually, it was yesterday, only this time she was begging me for cash to shop at the mall). Anyway, my point is that now my little girl with honey colored curls prefers to spend hours straightening her hair and wants to hang with her BFFs instead of me. Now I’m the one pleading for a little love.

And my 17-year-old son Jack is no different. I still can picture him eating soggy Cheerios with his chubby little fingers, or was that at breakfast this morning before he left for high school? It’s all a blur. Anyway, these days he’s busy studying for ACTs, which stands for “Almost Crying Tears” whenever I think of him going away to college. I remember when he was a baby and kept me up all hours because he was colicky. Now I’m still wide awake in the middle of the night, only this time I worry if he drives at night, and I have no control what happens on the road.

Worrying is what moms do, from the time our child is in utero all the way beyond adulthood. And if we can make it through the teenage years, we can survive anything. Depending on the personality of the teenager, of course, this volatile stage of development is potentially similar to the “terrible two’s” because the brain goes through rapid fire changes that causes temper tantrums, impulsiveness, risky behavior, sleep disturbances, and self-centeredness. Sound familiar?

Until teens grow up, moms have to maintain their cool and practice good communication skills. And if you haven’t mastered how to text and tweet, then you’d better learn fast. This age group doesn’t believe in talking, as in eye-to-eye conversation or even over the phone. Instead, they type short messages in code, using punctuation as symbols. For example, :-)) means really happy and 🙁 is sad. Confused is %-) and shouting looks like : @ or :-(0). Sure, texting is convenient in today’s fast-paced world, but I’m also convinced it leads to poor eyesight and stupidity. I have to squint my eyes when I try to decipher their messages, so it’s no wonder I keep a pair of readers in every drawer. And the scariest part of all…I’m afraid today’s generation will forget how to spell, sign their name in cursive, or verbally engage in a job interview.

Besides communication, discipline is a whole new ballgame. When my kids were younger and I’d get mad at them, I’d send them to their rooms. But that’s not punishment for a teen; that’s a reward. Don’t be naïve; these wannabe adults like nothing better than to lock themselves in their room for hours, especially when they have access to a laptop, television, cell phone, iPad, and a bag of stale potato chips hidden under their bed.

So when they get in trouble, I have a different approach to teaching them a lesson. I give myself a time out. I run away to my bedroom and barricade the door with my nightstand in case they try to pick the lock. (They’re very capable of figuring out mechanical things like keyholes, so I don’t take any chances). Then I escape into my bathroom, light an aromatherapy candle (it’s cheaper and less addictive than Zanex), and fill the tub with hot, sudsy water. I soak in a bubble bath until my toes turn into prunes or my kids run away or my husband comes home from work and asks what’s for dinner.

The truth is, despite the challenges of the teen years, I wouldn’t go back to the toddler time for anything in the world. For one thing, I don’t have to worry about childproofing. I just have to make sure I always have plenty of Stridex and frozen pizza on hand.

In all honesty, I admit that I love watching mine metamorphosize into young adults and gain independence. They’re able to make many of their own decisions, learn from their mistakes, discover their identities and passions, and take on responsibilities. Best part of all, we love to laugh and have a good time together. When they’re in the mood to talk or spend time with me—and it doesn’t happen very often—I try to stop whatever I’m doing and give them my attention. For example, Sari and I bond in the kitchen and like to whip up cookies or whatever else we crave, never measuring the ingredients exactly and always nibbling the chocolate chips along the way.

Likewise, when my son wants to show me his latest breakdance moves in the basement, I’m his biggest fan and can’t get enough. These are the moments that I’ll always remember because one day (sooner than later), I’ll have an empty nest. It’ll be just my husband Scott and I.

I miss the “terrible two’s” already.