As my kids have grown up the prophets of doom have never ceased to say things like “it gets worse”, or “enjoy it whilst you can.” Hanging like a shadow of tragedy over all was the teen years! So many horror stories and so many people wanting to pile in and tell you about how terrible this particular stage in parenting is going to be. Not least of these was of course my mother because believe it or not I was the worst teen in existence and worse than any of my siblings. She is right I was pretty terrible and got expelled from school for partying too hard and playing truant and was finally sent by my parents to work on a farm in Yorkshire which straightened me out forever.
And so two of my kids are there now, one is 16 and one is 15 and my youngest will be 13 next year and I utterly and absolutely love this stage of their lives more than any other so far. Having said that I have loved it all apart from the horrific newborn first twelve weeks of sleeplessness. So I wrote this with love to my wonderful and gorgeous children forever.
1. They sleep!
Oh yes, at last they manage to let me lie in. No more dawn raids on mum or nursing a cup of tea at 5.30 in the morning whilst watching children’s cartoons propping my eyes open with matchsticks. Their body clocks are still a little out of kilter with mine because at least one of them is making up for years of wakefulness with years of sleeping but at least it is peaceful. They even sleep till a reasonable 8 am at Christmas.
2. They can maintain a decent conversation because they know things
It is a joy to watch as they discover politics and philosophy and uncover the more intricate facts of science and technology. I love long conversations about why things in the world are happening and how we can influence them or contribute to a better world and I don’t have to explain everything all the time.
3. They can mend stuff and reach things
My son is turning into a man and he can reach up to things I have to get a ladder for. As a mum it is glorious to have someone around who can mend things and open jars without pouring with sweat or stabbing myself. They can lift and carry and are good at packing and unpacking shopping, reaching up to shelves to put things away as well.
4. They do creative things well
I have sat through years of ballet or concerts where I tried really hard to plaster a smile on my face and enjoy all the other kids as well as my own (who were obviously brilliant). I am now going to things like theater and art shows or concerts or ballet which is brilliant and where I don’t have to sit on some tiny, worryingly fragile infant size seats but I get a real chair too!
5. They can share jokes
We laugh a lot at home but much of my humor is quite adult. I love Eddie Izzard and stand up and I am pretty heavy with sarcasm and irony. At last it doesn’t hurt their feelings (well not often) and we can laugh together. They can watch comedy and they get it. They have even introduced me to some great comedians as well.
6. I can leave them on their own
This may not sound like much but being able to live my life without worrying about baby sitters or who gets their dinner is divine. I can go out with a clear conscience and have a life. It is pretty liberating. I know that when I come home they will be fine and sometimes they have made dinner for me as well.
7. They have taste
It may not be my taste but taste it is. Starting with food we have had our battles over new things, I remember them hating anything green or too spicy but as teens they are willing to try things and actually taste before saying no. My eldest daughter knows her mind and pours over vogue looking at fashion but still asks for my opinion even when she disagrees with it.
8.Going out is fun
Kids cinema has got better and better but now I can watch more adult and exciting films with them and even with subtitles! I take my kids to the theater regularly and enjoy their reaction to Shakespeare when it is performed in front of them. We go to art galleries together and talk about modern art and on my birthday this year went to both Tate Britain and Tate Modern and then saw a Shakespeare play and they enjoyed it as much as me.
9. They do chores
They may not like it but I am insistent on them pulling their weight now they are older. They take out the trash, do the dishwasher and tidy the kitchen alongside hoovering at the weekends. I have explained that as they grow older and move out to college they will live with people who are not their parent and who will expect them to do their share and they may as well start now.
10. They are starting to really understand consequences
Only the other day my daughter was reading vogue and describing someone who had a vast collection of designer shoes as I watched the news. On the news there was appalling footage of the famine in Somalia and so I turned and pointed and then we had a discussion about how shallow fashion could be. I thought no more of it but a few weeks later a letter came for her which she showed me. She had decided to sponsor a child in Africa with some of her earnings from her waitress job.
11.We get it wrong together
My teens are not perfect by any means but when they get things wrong it is no longer a matter of telling them off but about discussion and dialogue. I get things wrong too and sometimes have to apologize to them but the most important thing is that we are all learning together and this is a time of mutual growth and discovery for them and for me as a parent.
12. They still need me
Personally I think that being loved and loving your kids is a gift and knowing that however grown up they are getting they still need parenting is rewarding in itself. Despite everything teens need their parents as never before to talk to, confide in and to set those all important boundaries which they test each and every day.
So contrary to expectations I love my teenagers and enjoy being their parent more and more as they grow up. Every stage of being a parent has its challenges but at last they are at a stage where I have to use everything I know to parent them. They test me all the time but that is what a teenager is there to do and I enjoy it despite the odd headache.
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