I was always a person who loved the early stages of childhood. I love the newborns. The smell. The cuddling. I love the toddlers. The first steps. The first words. I love the preschoolers. The wonderment. The endless play. I love the school-age kids. The questions. The crayon-creations. I never imagined I would love the teenage years. Everyone said I would not love it. Everyone said it will be hard and I will barely make it through. So here I am in the middle of it now. I have a kid in 10th, 7th, and 4th grade now. And I am wondering if I will love the teenage stage as much as I loved those other stages.
Well, here's the thing that keeps running through my mind. Did I really LOVE those early stages as much as I think I did? Maybe. Maybe not. I truly adore little kids. I love the way they love you back unconditionally. I love the way they talk and giggle and dream about a fantasy world that is better than reality. But I also had struggles through those early years. Diapers dominated our grocery bill. Toys were always on the floor. And there were some days I didn't talk to an adult for more than 2 minutes. But in the end I remember them as precious years when my little ones belonged only to me and I'm happy I learned to love those times.
So I've decided that the teenage stage can be the same. If I was able to learn to love years that were full of poopy diapers and tantrums, I can embrace my life as a mom of 3 teens/tweens just as heartily. It will take some work. I will have to eventually forget that stinky pile of clothes on the floor, forgive the many times they roll their eyes at me, and probably learn that those hard discussions we have to have are the ones that will make all the difference in the world.
But here's what has surprised me about my teens and pre-teens: they have made parenting MORE FUN--not worse. My teens and tweens have enriched my life as a parent and here's why:
1. Teenagers love to laugh.When my kidlets were younger, they used to make up jokes that didn't make sense at all. My husband and I would have to pretend to laugh. But now our teens and tweens finally get humor. They get the jokes. They get the funny experiences. They understand crazy, awkward stuff. And they laugh about it. Show a funny video and they are right beside you laughing away. With teenagers, our house is full of laughter.
2. Teenagers love to talk.
Teens mostly love to talk with their friends, but I have found that they still want to talk to us parents when the timing is right. It comes when I least expect it--driving in the car, late at night, or just randomly while doing yard work together. Because they are older, they can talk longer and about more important things. The conversations are actually interesting as they are developing their own perspective.
3. Teenagers love to play.Teens are always ready to play (with the exception of when they need to sleep). This is the main reason my husband loves the teenage years, saying that his kids are finally FUN. They play stuff that we actually like to do as well--baseball games, hiking, scuba diving, game nights, shopping, and long camping trips. They can go with us to events, movies, or restaurants without us needing to take a lot of stuff. No diaper bags needed. We just get in the car and go. No more sitting at the McDonald's Playland to keep them entertained.
4. Teenagers love to learn.Even though teens and tweens talk about hating school and such they still like learning. Whether they admit it or not, they are still fascinated with the world and they soak in all the info they can. Because they understand more, they want to know more. They want to hear about politics. They want to know why that war was started. They want to know what the latest technology is or try the latest shopping trend. They want to know how to drive, how to use an ATM, how to do things on their own. And believe it or not, I think they still want to know what their parents think and they want to know what their boundaries are.
5. Teenagers love to come home.Don't get me wrong, teenagers love to be away from home practicing their independence. They want to experience life and all it has to offer without their parents always looking on. But because they are still kids, they want a safe place to retreat to after their adventures. That safe place is home. I've heard it said that, "home is not a place . . . it's a feeling." and I am learning that teens want place where rules, and love, and routines still exist--that is how they find that secure "feeling of home." As a mom of teens, I believe that my job is to be at the crossroads of their comings and goings. We cannot go everywhere with them (and frankly, I don't want to), but we can be there to listen, offer advice, encourage, and help them set boundaries.
May you embrace your teens and tweens. Find ways to love them and SHARE any teen/tween advice with me! I'm gonna need all the help I can get.