Parenting a teen–and other things that make you stupid

If you are a parent of a teenager, there are a few things you should know that might help you feel…better about this new journey. Parents of preteens, this most likely applies to you, too. Parents of toddlers, I apologize for the glimpse into your probable future. You see, parenting a teenager is like being dropped into a foreign country–while you were sleeping– and you have no Parent to Teen Translation Guide. It can be disorienting, confusing and frustrating. However, there are a few things you can do that may help you out. Well, help may be a strong word. Perhaps I should say a few things that may aid you in feeling less like a foreigner and more like a tourist on an extended trip through Teenville.

First, you are stupid. Now, it does not matter if you were the smartest person on the face of the Earth prior to the teen years. Now? Well, now you are probably the stupidest person ever. Whereas you once had the answers to everything, you currently know nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean you have the intelligence of a rock where your teen is concerned. Other parents? Well, they probably think you are still smart, so you can rest comfortably in that. The good news? As your teen grows up– and it make take until he or she has kids of his or her own– you will once again be brilliant. You just have to ride out your stupidity for now. It’s okay. We are all Stupid Parents of Know-It-All Teens. Welcome to our club. We would have meetings, but we are not quite smart enough to plan any.

Secondly, you are not cool. Not even a little bit. Don’t even bother trying. It is like nailing Jello to a tree. Pointless and impossible. You may have been the super star of the world once upon a time, but now you are a dork. This is especially true if The Teen is around his friends. Even if his friends think you are a “cool parent”, trust me when I say your teen still thinks you are the most uncool person to walk upright. Personally, this just adds to the enjoyment. The moment my sons put on their “My Mom is so uncool” hat, I immediately become just what they fear. God bless the updated Freaky Friday movie for the embarrassing line of “Make good choices!” shouted out of a car window to a teenager. If you think I have not popped that one out when I get attitude, you either don’t know me or don’t see the humor in finding creative ways to keep your kids from acting too cool to have a parent.

Can we talk about your wardrobe? It just isn’t working. It doesn’t matter if you are impeccably dressed for the office and would make it on Blackwell’s Top Ten Best Dressed List. Your teen is not impressed. You probably look like a nerd. Or we can go to the other side of the spectrum. Take for instance the other day when I had on an old pair of jeans and a vintage concert t-shirt. Comfortable. Casual. And might I mention the t-shirt in question is the exact t-shirt The Teen stole out of my closet just a week before to wear to school. Now? Now it is just “so old and outdated” and makes me look like I am trying to be cool and failing miserably. Seriously. You cannot win no matter what you wear, so don’t try. Even stealing one of their very own t-shirts is a crime against humanity. In fact, once it has touched your body, it is no longer a shirt they will ever wear again. (I have found this useful on more than one occasion when I really covet something The Teen has in his closet.) When it comes to how you dress, dress for yourself because you will never be cool enough for your Teen.

Now that we have established that you are stupid, uncool and cannot dress yourself properly, let’s go over a few guidelines. I did not make them up, but have been well trained by my teen and near-teen long enough to have them down.

Do not speak to your teen in public. Unless his hair is on fire and then only use hand signals. He is above this whole communication in public situation.

You do not speak their language. I do not just mean text speak. I mean at all. Period. Even if the words that are coming out of his mouth sound like words you know, they do not have the same meaning if you were to use them. Just give up the challenge and hope to gain a phrase here and then that makes sense.

It is absolutely, positively unacceptable to show any kind of affection what-so-ever towards your teen if there is another person within a 20 mile radius. My teen and I came up with something similar to a gang sign that means, “Golly gee, sweetheart, Mommy sure does love you. Have a great day.” I don’t think his means the same thing. And “whatever” means “Are you finished talking yet because I am really not listening and am in desperate need for your voice to be quiet now.”

Don’t believe that I am telling you the truth? Read what these moms have to say about their teens. Busy Mom has the Ten Commandments of Being the Parent of a Teen that is a must read. You can see how she is learning about things that fall into these areas. And Chris Jordan? Her open letter to her son was priceless. (And for the record, telling your teen that continual and repetitve rolling of his eyes will cause seizures does not work. It just results in a massive eye-rolling event.) And Tammara? She is learning about picking her battles. Always good for some learning on everyone’s part.

But most of all, the thing you should remember is that even at their worst, even when they slam doors or roll their eyes, they need you. They will never tell you that. They will never even admit it to themselves, but they do need you. That little toddler that was learning to walk and knew without a doubt that should he fall, you would be there to help him up and get him back on his feet? He is still in there. And he is still counting on you to help him up when he falls and get him back up on his feet again.

I am off to listen to my stupid music, wearing my dorky clothes about to take my uncool mini-van to the store. Alone.

23 Comments

  1. Oh how right you are. I think all of us moms of teens feel like the girl with the big nose, glasses and braces at the high school dance. (oops, did I just give myself away?)

  2. Man, I knew this was coming. I’m in denial, though. PunditGirl, a second-grader, still lets me hold her hand as we walk down the sidewalk to school. But I’m not allowed to kiss her goodbye anymore. πŸ™

  3. I know. No really, I KNOW! Do not wave at them. Even if they walk past the car and you think they’ve just missed seeing you. They’ve seen you! Don’t wave! And how could you embarrass them like that?! You need to drive them to the mall at 4 o’clock sharp. You need to not be wearing that ugly sweater. You need to not be listening to your ridiculous 80’s music when they’re in the car. You need to STOP saying it “like that”, because no, just no. You need to lend them 20 bucks, because “I love you Mom, thanks!” (You also need to know that that is one of the only times you’ll hear an expression of gratitude come out of their mouths).

  4. Look, I realize that all you’re really doing is commiserating on something, like any group of people who share a particular and difficult experience. Truly, though, what a bunch of crap.

    I’m 35 now, and the older I get, the more I realize that my parents really didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. The big conflict that teenagers have isn’t that they think THEY know everything; it’s that they biologically become adults, and suddenly they realize that their parents DON’T know everything. We have this weird setup in the west — the US, Canada, et cetera — where people need so much education just to function in society that we have artificially extended legal childhood by several years mostly to ensure that they get that education. Children are used to blindly following what their parents do to an astonishing degree, not all the time, but certainly much more so than adults; when they hit puberty the biological imperative that makes them do this evaporates, though, because when we evolved to our current state puberty was when we were finished with that childish stage of our lives.

    Meanwhile, in the adult world, despite all the effort that has gone into finding things out, both to make our lives better and simply out of ordinary curiosity, we still don’t really know all that much, and any given individual — like, for example, a parent of any given child — is still remarkably ignorant. The phrase “because I said so” becomes insufficient to teenagers. It’s a shocking revelation to realize your parents are just ordinary people, approximately as ignorant as everybody else. Moreover, because of the whole education thing, kids in school are often engaged with teachers, who are a little more interested in general knowledge than most people. In contrast, their parents are probably doing whatever non-research, non-dynamic job they’ve been doing for years, possibly decades. It’s no wonder kids suddenly see their parents as fallible.

  5. I read BusyMom’s ten commandments and laughed, and laughed! I mean, LOL. One of my favorite teen moments was the time my daughter’s friend came over and told me (with admiration!) “You’re my brother’s science teacher!” The brief conversation that followed, of course, was accompanied by eye-rolling by my daughter.

  6. lol
    this is funny, sad and true….mom to a almost 21 y/o, 15 y/o, 13 y/o and 11 y/o here. i must confess my heart will break when my 5 y/o hits th teen years because he is my baby and i am the center of his universe.
    the good news i can testify to is that they (your darling children) do come back to you around 18 or 19 and you do regain your wisdom (and sometimes your coolness) albeit slowly, very slowly. my firstborn is actually listening to and taking some of my advice and just last week she told me that i am pretty smart. yeah, i was blown away by that.

  7. My daughter has the eye-rolling thing down to a science. Unfortunately she is 3. I hate to think what she’ll be like as a teenager.

  8. This is very funny and very true! I’ve raised a teen (let me tell you college is no picnic either so far, though it’s better in many ways). We all go through some version of this with our teens. I put my parents through a version of this.

    Which brings me to a thought about what Zafner had to say. I do think teens begin a process of realizing that parents do not, in fact, know everything. Parents hesitate, they make mistakes (not just in relation to the teen but in their own lives too), they do not always know exactly what to do. Teens sense this, they start to observe cracks, imperfections, human failings. It starts a process of seeing the parent more objectively as a “person in this world” and not just as Mom or as Dad. This can be anywhere from scary to truly devastating to a teenager.

    I personally was disappointed. I certainly came out respecting certain things, but I’ve consciously rejected others. I deliberately try to do many things differently with my children and my life because I do not agree with the way my parents did it. I am at peace with this because I believe my parents did their best. Some are not so lucky. Like my daughter.

    Her dad has not done well, he has not done his best. It has been painful to watch her pain in coming to see him as this man that he is, beyond and including “dad”. That being her dad was not enough to make him want to be a better person. I have not been perfect either. I suffered from depression for 10 years of her 18 on this earth and it affected things. We’re fine, she and I, but this shit is hard. Her step-dad failed her in many ways too. Today she only really has that I did my best; her mom did her best and loves her beyond measure and is sorry everything wasn’t perfect.

    But teens handle this information, whether it’s a simple “God you’re such a nerd” or a real “Dear God, you are not a good man” with immature, still child-like hearts and heads. There is some truth to it. We don’t know everything. But we aren’t stupid. We probably aren’t cool by teenage standards. We probably don’t want to be!

    Relax Everyone! They come around. They’ll respect what you tried to do if you tried your best. If you didn’t, well, they won’t respect it and they shouldn’t. But teens do gain insight into who you are beyond your relationship with them personally and it’s not all pretty. Unconditional love triumphs again.

  9. LOL!
    “First, you are stupid.”
    Hilarious!

  10. ahh Man! Did you have to throw a dose of reality into my life? LOL! You have got it nailed down here! πŸ™‚ My guy is ONLY 2 (as of this past week) BUT I teach 8th graders, so I know EXACTLY what you mean by all of this!!! LMAO!

    Thanks!

  11. This whole post just scares the hell out of me.

    But I know it’s coming…like a freight train I can’t avoid.

    Also…you’re Bradbury quote at the top of your blog? You are my new best friend.

  12. This was GREAT! I’m in that transition period. I’m seeing the eye rolling more and I can actually feel myself get dumber by the day. But, I still get those brief moments of the most amazing young men in the world. I LOVE spending time with these kids. I sure hope that in a few years, they’ll like spending time with me again too. In the mean time, I plan to live it up. When I embarass my boys and they give me the “Mooooom” with an eye-roll, I remind them that it is my right and priveledge as a parent to embarass them to my heart’s content. I may be dumb, but I can make sure everyone know’s they are related to one dumb but very outspoken lady!

  13. This post is so true – and so funny! I have a 20 year old and a 17 year old and lived through a lot of this already.

    I’d agree with Zafner – and everyone since the history of teenagers who has observed that a teenager is just learning that his or her parents have limitations in knowledge. Unfortunately they then come to believe that we know nothing! No matter what advice I give my 17 yo, I am completely wrong, because at 17 she knows much more about everything than I have ever learned in my 40-something years.

    You’re right, once a piece of their clothing touches your body, it is forever contaminated. On the other hand, once something has entered my Little One’s room, I consider it contaminated as well. You ought to see how she keeps her room!

  14. This is the best post ever! I’m drying my eyes from laughing too hard. My oldest is only 3 1/2, so I have a while to go, but hopefully I will remember this post and laugh on the craziest days.

  15. I heard a quote recently:

    “Babies are smart and teenagers are stupid.”

    I do believe that’s true. And used to date a guy (years ago)who liked to say: “Man, I wish I was 16 again, because I knew EVERYTHING then!”

    So very, very true!

  16. By the way, just wanted to point out to Zafner that while we may have a weird setup in the West, in Eastern cultures they actually revere their elders. Seek out their wisdom and all that. How do we get in on that deal?

    Just think, if we’d only been born in a different culture, how much smarter our teens would think we are right now!!

  17. The best parenting aid of the 20th century has got to automatic car windows, you see if my pre-teen (much moodier than my teen) does not give me an appropriately cheerful “Bye Mom!” when exiting the car for school each morning I simply press the down button on the passenger window and call out “I LOOOOVE YOOOOUUUUUU!” as I slowly make my way around the drop off driveway. Honestly, that kind of consequence only has to happen once. He’s very nice to me since.

  18. You guys! When I think back on what I was and what I did when I was a teenager… Holy crap! My mantra is a BAD example is the BEST example – meaning I totally learned from my parents’ bad example and so far – cross my fingers – knock on wood – whatever I have to do… so far – my three have turned out OK. Two are dyed in the wool theatre geeks and the oldest is just now starting to see that I wasn’t so stupid after all. Its a great ride. Enjoy those people we are sending out into the world to procreate based on our example… oh, holy *&%#!

  19. It’s nice to know all that info up front. and it’s also nice to know that this phase doesn’t last forever. With luck, you will be great friends when the growing up gets past this stage.

    Cas
    And dressing for yourself is always good.

  20. I am just passing over that line here…my girl will be 13 in January…and I’m feeling the change already…getting the eye rolling, the “please don’t speak” look, the “hurry up and drive away” look…it’s sorta sad. My 10 yr old son still loves me though – still thinks I’m pretty great…I’ve probably got 2 more good years with him and then they’ll BOTH be wondering how I got so stupid! Sigh.

    Great post. Gonna have to come back more often!

  21. I love the term, you just don’t understand. But I will tell you a real funny. I was told by my 15 year old son that I knew nothing about music he plays guitar. The day he came up to me and said I want to buy a CD of this new group that is out will you take me to the store. I said what is the name of the group he said Journey and they are really cool. Well I had taken great pleasure in showing him the Album and informed him he could put it on the turn table and play it. HA HA one up for MOMMA. I truly think he believes I am an Alien and have not lived a life my 41 years. If I have to hear one more sigh from him I am gonna blow. This can not last until he is 20, please tell me I have a light at the end of the tunnel. Where did my child go, I demand the mother ship bring him back,

  22. I am a mother of a 14 year old (Son), Our son is very stuborn (ADHD) But he is very popular in his first year of high school. He puts his arms around me and hugs me in front of his friends (Very cool) But when he does not get his way, he calls me B—-, F— y–, etc also on the phone when I remind him no girls are allow to come over. Last week he had a small party even though we were cheking every hour to make sure everything was under control, things were not under control some girls making out with boys. No opologie nothing. What do you do, or what can you do any sugestions will be great.

  23. I forgot to mention that our son, even when his friends are not over, He is always showing his affection Hugs and Kisses.

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