Teens can be really interesting people in your house. They make you think about the world differently. They make you keep an open mind. They make you invent fun games like guess the amount of items on the bedroom floor (it’s kind of like guess the number of smarties in a jar but you will never ever win) and learn new languages so you say “get off that screen” in Norwegian (which Norwegian parents probably don’t have to say because their teens are hiking while knitting blankets for the homeless).
When you have teens in your house you get to keep in touch with popular culture, you get to watch movies together that you’re actually interested in, you get to eat dinners that have chilli in them, and sometimes, even, that really pungent variety of mushroom. It can be so glorious.
You also get to have parent teen fights. Which are the worst. Which can change your entire personality in the time it takes for someone opposite - or even behind you - to perform an eye roll. Basically you are up against the cocky, arrogant, black and white belief system and argument style of a supreme court judge crossed with the cunning, will and take-no-prisoners approach of a UFC champ.
I have two teens and a tween. I have no idea what they are thinking when we fight. I have a hunch their internal monologue goes something like: "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you .... Please I want this to stop but I don't know how. I can't believe you said that. Ha ha, she forgot she gave me $20 to get some bread three days ago and I never gave her the change."
The thing is, I don't know whether I'm much better.
Mamamia's podcast for imperfect parents. Post continues below.
These are the four things adults are thinking about when they fight with a teen.
That book I skim read online about positive parenting said to count to 50 in your head when they start to get angry and dramatic in a fight. Don't let it escalate.
Okay, here goes. This argument about hanging up a school blazer has completely blown into a fight about "personal space", the rights of the individual and my "sad need to control everything". I'm going to be calm. The angrier they get the calmer I will be. I am the adult. 1, 2, 3, 4 ...I'll let them get it all out and I'll just stand in the doorway and not even comment on the three wet towels I can see hanging out of the wardrobe. 14, 15, 16 ...The Towels. The Towels. How hard is it to pick up a wet towel? Who do they think picks up that wet towel when it magically disappears? The wet towel fairy? Don't get worked up. It's just a couple of wet towels. You don't even make it to 20. You lose your cool.
I need to listen but also let them know I am the adult. The parenting expert with the very short trousers who gave a talk to school parents about "Tackling the teen years" said so.
You nod vigorously as various explanations are put forward as to why exam preparation has been less than adequate. Basically fault lies with teachers, a problem with technology and something about notes that were in the bedroom but then ended up in the car and then ... whoosh ... someone must have thrown them out WITHOUT ASKING. This seems to happen a lot. You say, "Seriously, this seems to happen a lot, do you think it had anything to do with the fact you didn't do enough study?" They say something about you being a hypocrite and quote a story about your study habits at school they overheard at a barbecue when they were six and then they ask you to drive them to a friends because they left their phone there. You lose your cool.
Here is how women in the Mamamia office look after their minds. Post continues below.
You didn't see this one coming.
You were having a great time, laughing, thinking we are really connecting and aren't they a good kid and I must have done something right. Then you say something wrong about one of their friends. It's insensitive. You are not allowed to talk about home hair dye jobs. That's like racism but for hair. You say, "I was only joking." They say, "That's one of your biggest problems: you think you're funny but you're not." You lose your cool.
They didn't see this one coming.
You come home from work. You look at the kitchen. Dishes and old pancake mix. There are a pair of undies in a bathroom drawer. Everyone is on a screen. There is even a year 4 navy leotard on the floor. No one has done dancing in the house for six years. You put your handbag down. You lose your cool.
The thing is you love them so much. You think a lot of things. You have a lot of good intentions. Then you have a teen fight and you swear you won't do it - and you lose your cool.