Parenting teens is hard

I have no excuse for my consternation. 

We’ve been warned for years. All along, we’ve heard comments in response to the antics of our kids’ younger personalities, playfully pointed out as little foreshadows of what might be yet to come: 

Oh, you think that’s bad? Just wait ’til they’re teenagers!

She’s so pretty. Better watch out: You’ll have to fight off the boys when she’s a teenager.

It goes so fast. Once they hit eighth grade, they’ll be out of the house before you can blink.

Time’s ticking away

Despite all the warnings, I feel a little like I’ve been jolted into a new reality. 

Somehow this year — with two active teens — everything is moving at double warp speed. 

Any parent would agree: “They grow up sooooo fast,” as the old adage says. 

But why does it have to be so alarmingly true? 

Time is flying by faster than it ever has. I feel as though I’m in the middle of a pack of trained runners, who are well practiced at keeping their pace. 

I can’t help but think I should be farther back on the course somewhere.  

Our ideals

Parenting teens is hard. Really hard. Shockingly hard. 

I suppose — just like when you become a first-time parent — you go into the teen years with certain ideals, certain “I’ll nevers.” 

Then, of course, when you’re in thick of it, your reality changes. 

Before parenting my kids as littles, I thought: I’ll never have THAT screaming baby in a restaurant. I’ll never lose my toddler in an IKEA and have to have the entire building shut down so the staff can look for him. 

Likewise, with teens, we go into it with a bit of naivete. We may realize we’ve again tightened our grasp on our ideals — to no avail. 

And if we refuse to face reality, we can end up on shaky ground; and our relationships with our teens can suffer. 

Teenage ‘I nevers’

I never thought I would show my fear when my kids were learning to drive. 

I’ll be calm, I thought. 

I never thought their schoolwork would cause me so much stress. 

I’ll let them learn through it, I thought. 

I never thought dating would make me want to yell at them. 

Date? No, never, not ’til college. 

I would trust them, I thought.

I also never knew how much it would hurt to watch them become adults. 

My truths

I’m learning that you can’t go into the teen years with presets for how you’ll make things work, thinking your kids will work to protect your vision. 

You can go in only with your own overlying truths. And those core truths will help you keep your sanity when the emotionally charged days come. 

And they will come. 

Teens are wired to become independent from their parents. 

They’ll crave freedom away from you. They’ll lie stupid lies just to feel like they made their own decisions. 

We don’t know as parents in what ways our teens will deal with these urges. And we may be surprised at the feelings that rise up in us in response to them. 

I’ll always believe my kids were each blessed with a certain set of just-them qualities — special characteristics that show they’re meant to have a purpose in life that’s unique to them. 

My job is to tell them they can achieve their life’s ambitions and support them through struggles and strife.

In their day-to-day requests, challenges and attitudes, they seem to be telling me: I want to grow up just a little bit. I want to learn to fly. Are you going to let me?

Even though it’s hard and scary and it hurts, I respond: I will.


Jennifer Wizbowski lives in Excelsior with her husband, and daughter and son, ages 13 and 16. Send comments, questions and story ideas to jwizbowski@mnparent.com.