'Why I love teenagers'

Around my parts, parents are scared of teenagers. More specifically, they’re scared of the moment their beloved adoring offspring will turn into one. It’s like the boogie monster in the parenting closet. But having experienced both ends of the stick, as a parent and as a teacher, I am here to shout something controversial from the rooftops: I really like teenagers. In fact, I might even say I LOVE them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. They can be bloody annoying a lot of the time. They’re rude, grumpy, self-centered, selfish, they grunt a lot, and have I mentioned they smell? They leave shoes in a trail under every piece of furniture in the house. They take over the couch and the TV remote control so you are doomed to watch channel 11 or mate for hours on end. They leave unmentionable products for you to pick up off the bathroom floor etc etc etc.

Just now my 17-year-old daughter returned from her boyfriend’s house and when I asked her a few meagre questions she yelled (cue shrill tone), “Don’t talk to me! I’m too tired to talk.” But she still managed to ‘talk’ for hours on Facebook or coo to her beloved over the phone. Still, when I gave her some space, then gently pulled her up on her behaviour, she apologized whole-heartedly for her rudeness (the second time, the first time she apologized with attitude!) And that seems to me pretty typical. Scratch a moody adolescent’s surface and you’ll catch a glimpse of good. If you can ignore all that superficial so-called ‘bad behaviour’ there is a lot to celebrate about being the parent of a teenager.

For a start, they entertain themselves. You don’t have to spend the day racking your brain for ideas about how to keep them occupied. They can also do amazing things such as feed themselves, walk to places on their own and tape your favourite television shows when you’re too tired to stay up and watch them. They not only sleep through the whole night (when they get to bed that is), they are even kind enough to give you the house to yourself until lunchtime. They don’t interrupt your phone conversations (they have mobiles of their own) or follow you to the toilet. They’re not so fussy about food either (see ability to feed themselves note above!)


They are also interesting. They make unexpected choices and develop in fascinating ways. My eldest daughter recently announced she wanted to become an engineer. This from the girl who spent years inhaling a television diet that included ‘Laguna Beach’ and ‘Sweet Sixteen’ (you don’t want to know!) My youngest is off to the US on student exchange and has already taken it upon herself to contact the local high school cheerleading team via Facebook to see if she can get a place on the team. Not choices I would have made but it’s exciting to watch her create her own life.

To survive your children’s adolescence it helps to understand that being a teenager is not a choice, it’s a biological imperative. They can’t help being moody grumpy pains in the rear. That’s their hormones talking (most of the time!) I have been a primary school teacher for over a decade. What I have noticed over the years is that ex-students who once adored me barely look me in the eye from the end of grade 6 to about year 11. Then it’s like they’re my best friend all over again. ‘Hi Miss! How are you going Miss?’ As if they’ve just returned from a long voyage overseas. One of my BFs describes it as going into ‘the teenage tunnel’. Eventually they poke their heads out the other end. And the thing is, if you can modify your expectations about how they should behave in the meantime, you might actually find yourself enjoying the ride.

Tanya is the mother of two teenage girls and a primary school art and language teacher. She is currently working on a novel about a group of people who get together to study tarot cards called ‘The Tarot Teaclub’

What’s your take on teenagers?

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