If your idea of fun is the smell of moldy food and sweaty socks constantly wafting in the upstairs hall.
Or if your idea of fun is constantly treading water in a tank full of unpredictable sharks, sharks that are often snippy and aggressive, but sometimes (although somewhat rarely) thoughtful and sweet. You just never know which it's going to be (and you'll never have a day when they all agree).
Or if your idea is communicating through grunts and eye rolls and the constant questioning of authority.
But it is fun... in an unpredictable, life-on-the-edge kind of way.
|"Teens sharing a song" by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget -|
Flickr: Teens sharing a song.
Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. "
While it is sometimes difficult to watch the formerly sweet children whose chubby fingers would curl around my own as we crossed parking lots turn into gruff and irritable strangers (Recently, I called to my son on his way out the door to "hang out" with friends, "Have a good time." He responded, "Don't tell me what to do."), there are some surprising perks to their entrance into adolescence.
I wasn't completely aware of all of the advantages of living with teenagers until thrust right into the middle of life with three (thankfully the oldest will turn 20 before the youngest hits 13. Phew!).
1. Fashion advice. Usually in the form of "You aren't going to wear THAT, are you?" This said in reference to my comfortable choice of yoga pants and baggy hoodie. "Would you like me to change into full evening regalia and do my hair before we go return books at the library?" (They totally understand sarcasm. It's a teenager's native tongue). "Well it would be better than THAT." (Which pretty much cemented the fact that I was indeed going to the library in yoga pants and baggy hoodie.)
Still, with a teen daughter around, I can run outfits by her and get the most brutally honest feedback. "That's not your best color." "The other outfit made you look thinner." "Those jeans are kind of outdated. They look a little like mom jeans." (God Forbid!) Thanks to the sound and trendy fashion advice of my teenagers, I may be more stylish now than I was at 21 (unless I'm returning books to the library).
2. Free Labor. When they were little, having the kids "help" usually meant more work for me. When they would "help" wash dishes for example, there would be a floor to mop and a soggy child to change at the end of it all. Plus a task that would take me 10 mintues to complete alone would turn into a one hour endeavor with little helping hands.
Now I can ask them to start a load of laundry, take out the trash, clean the bathroom, wash the car, or even cook dinner and I rarely even have to supervise. (I'll just sit back here with my feet up and munch on these bonbons.) It will usually get done without any help from me, although the tasks may be accompanied by muttered grumblings and sarcastic eye rolls. I'm okay with that.
3. Tech Support. If I can't figure out how to email myself a photo taken from the tablet, or get the GoPro to take video in slow motion, or figure out why the app that I thought I just downloaded mysteriously disappeared... chances are very good that at least one of my teenagers will solve the problem for me.
And when I don't understand crowdfunding, or what the hell a Cloud is, or other unintelligible technobabble, my teenagers will save me from my ignorance (also usually accompanied by their signature eye rolls).
4. Personal Development. It may sound cheesy, but my teenagers have made me a better person.
While they are busy pushing boundaries and testing limits in order to find who they are as mature individuals, having my boundaries pushed and limits tested has helped me do the same. I am not who I so adamantly thought I was. Through the constant process of guiding and negotiating and really listening to my teens, I've been changed.
I have heard them, really heard them and I've changed my mind about some things that I'd never questioned. I've grown and been stretched in unexpected ways. I've learned about my own limits of flexibility and durability and endurance. I've learned more clearly what my basic values are, what I'm willing to compromise and what I hold firm and unmovable. My most basic views of the world have been questioned and examined and reassembled.
So, no. Surviving the parenting of teens isn't all drama and hostility and power struggles (although there's plenty of that). It's also full of some pretty marvelous stuff, even if that marvelous stuff is laced with an abundance of sarcasm and moodiness.