Sometimes when I look back at photos or videos of my kids when they were younger – toddlers and preschoolers – I get this wistful feeling. Momentarily I’ll wish I could go back in time and have those littles with their squeaky voices and silly habits. I’ll remember the days when my biggest concern was whether my kids would nap or not, instead of worrying about things like vaping and getting their driver’s license (yikes).
These trips down memory lane usually happen on those days when my teen and pre-teen are being extra teen-ish. But I usually snap out of it quickly and remember just how physically draining those early years of motherhood were and remember how much I love this phase of parenting.
In fact, I’m scared to admit this, and I’m sure as soon as these words are out of my mouth, I’m going to regret ever thinking it, but you know what? I actually really love raising teens. I thought it would be terrifying. And it is. I expected it to be mentally exhausting. And hooooboy, is it ever. But it is also so much better than I ever expected too. Here’s why.
1. Teens are funny. Like really funny.
Sure, toddlers are goofy and preschools say the darndest things, but teens are legit funny. My teen will regularly bust out spit-out-my-coffee-funny jokes, and I’ll think, “where did that come from?” As cute as toddlers are, I spend way more time laughing with teens.
2. Teens have a unique and interesting way of looking at the world.
Just in the past few weeks, I’ve had some really interesting conversations with my teen and pre-teen about things like raising the minimum wage, bullying, the criminal justice system, and religion. While I definitely don’t agree with all of their opinions, they have a unique way of looking at the world and various issues. It’s fun to see their mind expanding and thinking about big picture things while still holding on to the innocence that hasn’t been beaten out of them by the world yet.
3. You feel young again (while also feeling super old).
I was recently talking to a 20-something-year-old colleague, who told me that she feels super out of the current trends. She doesn’t know the lingo “kids these days” are saying or the facial expressions or hand gestures. She too far removed from the teens years to know (or care) what the “youths” are saying, but when you are living with a teen, you’re in the know. You’ve heard all the latest slang (whether we understand or not is a separate issue).
5. You have fun together doing activities that you both enjoy.
When my kids were younger, I struggled to find activities that we both enjoyed. Coloring and reading books were about the only thing we all enjoyed doing together. Now there are tons of things that we love doing together. We watch sports, go hiking, go out to dinner, and even enjoy many of the same tv shows and movies. I gotta tell you, it’s fanastic to not have to wait to turn on a show or movie until the kids are in bed. If I did, I probably wouldn’t watch anything because my kids now go to bed later than me.
6. You see glimpses of who they’ll be as adults – and it simultaneously blows your mind and melts your heart.
Sometimes I’ll watch my teen, or listen to him share his opinion about something, and I’ll catch a glimpse of the person he might become and it nearly takes my breath away. It feels a little like watching a Polaroid picture develop very slowly. You can see the edges and the outlines, but there’s still so much possibility left on what’s left to come. What colors will come out? It’s both thrilling and terrifying all at the same time. Like a roller coaster ride that you know will make scream, but fills you with joy at the same time.
Don’t get me wrong. Teens can definitely be assholes. And I’m sure that what’s around the bend with my teen and pre-teen will bring me to my knees in despair somedays, but for now, I’m soaking this phase up. Even though I’m scared to admit it (knock on wood), I really this stage of parenthood. Teens are pretty awesome. And I think it’s important to say that amidst the sea of warnings about the “dreaded teen years” – if only so that I can remind myself of this on the really hard days.