Monday, October 06, 2014

Teenagers, Plural

So we've now experienced approximately eight consecutive days as the parents of teenagers, plural. Naturally, I feel compelled to write about the whole, albeit brief, adventure.

At last count we had two teenagers in the house. Now, plenty of families have three or more teenagers. My parents nearly had four. I did some rough math the other night, and I think my younger sister was twelve and three quarters when my brother turned twenty. My long-suffering parents nearly had four teenagers living at home at one point. Let the record reflect we gave them a run for their money, and it's not without reason that my mother has a bit of a nervous twitch.

I have friends who will one day be able to say they have five teenagers under the roof. Hello, Rachel! Click here to get Rachel's observations on life with teenagers. You can survive and even thrive, though your grocery budget may not.

Yes, it's true. They eat everything in sight. The grocery bills are astounding. Their clothes aren't cheap. Their shoes cost even more. So all of you moms of littles who hit the yard sales and consignment stores, keep it up. The pickings are slim once puberty sets in. You don't often find a bargain on size 11 men's shoes.

Hanging on.
But while sticker shock is, well, shocking, the real challenge for me falls under the category of  what I call The Agenda.

Here's a typical scenario:
Nameless Teenage Boy: Yeah, well, we're all working on our t.v. commercial for Civics and it's worth 900 points and it's due tomorrow and we have to get together and we're headed to the river and it's totally fine with all the other parents and we're leaving in a few minutes . . . oh, they're here right now, so can I go?
Bewildered Parent: ?????
Note that every Agenda has three required components:

1. It's Now!
2. It's New!
3. You're the only parent in this limitless solar system who has ever had the slightest qualm, misgiving, catch in the old spirit about whatever it is.
Hanging on.

Let's examine these points one by one.

1. It's now!

Nothing is ever Next Saturday or The Day After Tomorrow. No, no, no. It's now or never. The future tense barely exists for the average American teenager. They are in the driveway, revving the engine, late, late, late for a very important date and the only thing gumming up the whole works is YOU.

2. It's New!

New is far more troubling than Now. This age is chock-full of Firsts. Deodorant, driving, shaving, braces, acne, checking accounts. Now Firsts can be nerve wracking at any age. I remember when it dawned on me that John really, truly could walk two doors down to the neighbor's to borrow a cup of sugar without any fear of repercussions from the Department of Family and Children's Services. I recall when John and Ainsley could play in our backyard without me hovering over them. When Kolbe could ride his bike to a friend's house.

Hanging on. 
We all struggle with these Firsts, of course, but Teenage Firsts are extra worrisome and when they're your First Teenage Firsts, they're downright alarming. Because they involve cars or boats. Because they usually happen at night. Because they're typically unsupervised. Because they might even include girls.

3. What's Your Problem?

To hear a certain nameless teenager talk, no one else in the state of Georgia spends Sundays with the family. No one else is expected to dine at home on a regular basis. No one else is hampered by such trivial matters as homework, orthodontist's appointments, piano lessons, chores, sleep, Mom's sanity, the family budget, etc.

Every other parent  -- and I mean every. last. one. of. them. -- is a-okay with (insert something never done before, something you've never even envisioned your child doing).

(Here I should admit that there is a slight element of truth in this, just a shred. Tim is an oldest child who is friends with a whole bunch of youngest children.  Many of these parents are grizzled veterans. Been there, done that, don't sweat some things that are, in Tim's vernacular, epic to his uninitiated parents.)

I remember running a youth ministry event when I was young and single. The phone rang. It was my good friend on the line. Her oldest daughter was en route to the party and was driving alone for the first time ever! Would I please call back and tell Mom that Daughter had arrived and do it all clandestinely so that Daughter wouldn't know that Mom was on her knees with a rosary and a box of Kleenex wondering how Daughter had graduated from a Barbie bike with training wheels to a mini-van in the blink of an eye and who on earth decided that sixteen was a reasonable age to issue a driver's license and Saint Christopher, patron saint of travelers, pray for us.

I get it.

My dear friend Bob V, father of many, had a stock response when his kids would come to him with the dreaded Agenda: I'll let you know in ten minutes. Ten minutes. Enough time to ask the question: Am I crazy or is he? Enough time to confer with the spouse because if there's one absolute in parenting it's United We Stand; Divided We Fall. Enough time to assess other priorities and to offer a Yes that is confident or a No that is reasonable and not simply a knee-jerk response to the fact that, ready or not, you're going where you've never, ever gone before.

Teenagers, plural. Just hang on.

7 comments:

Kris said...

I've been in the two teenager club for 3 years now. It's not for the faint of heart. But having raised a teenage girl first, I can honestly say that two teenage boys is a piece of cake compared to that. I'll take it. And I'll have THREE teenage boys for about 5 months in 2016. Until one turns 20.

Roxanna Mills said...
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Roxanna Mills said...

We had teens 1 or 2 at a time for 5 yrs - everything you described can drive you nuts. But enjoy every minute because once they are out of high school......you are no longer the "boss". You'll be on your knees and saying more rosaries than you are now...you don't have daughters but I do and the concerns then are oh so big - no matter how they were raised. Enjoy the teens and stay United with hubby. BIG TIP... be the "open house" for hanging out, etc. It's worth the noise, mess and everything else. Because then YOU know what's going on and you'll learn the dynamics of the group.

Roxanna Mills said...
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Kris said...

I echo Roxanna on being the "open house". I virtually NEVER turn down a boy's request to "have a few friends over". I love knowing their friends and I love hosting them and being the mom that says "yes" to having them hang out.

Kelly Dolin said...

Kris and Roxanna - You've given me food for thought. May have to do a few things differently.

Kris said...

Keep it simple- I order pizza or throw taco fixings out on the counter. They eat and hang out on the screen porch and then they watch a movie, or sit and talk, or go outside and play basketball or something along those lines. Sometimes it's just the guys and sometimes a mix of guys and girls. It's awesome to be "that" Mom and I love that my son wants his friends around our house.