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The truth about teenagers

Jeanne Sager - Columnist
Posted 1/20/20

This was our first encounter in a professional setting, aside from a few emails passed back and forth to set up the call.

So when the thank you came, I was befuddled.

We were nearing the end of …

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The truth about teenagers

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This was our first encounter in a professional setting, aside from a few emails passed back and forth to set up the call.

So when the thank you came, I was befuddled.

We were nearing the end of a work call, one that started with social niceties about the upcoming holiday weekend before diving into some legal jargon about an upcoming project.

“I want to thank you,” she said, to which I confess I sputtered out a surprised “for what?”

It turns out she'd been thinking the whole call about the beginning, when she'd shared that her upcoming long weekend with young children would be anything but a vacation. A parent of a teenager, I remember those days all too well.

You enjoy spending time with your kids. That doesn't mean you get to relax. There are PB&Js to make and clean up after. Toys to stumble over and clean up after. Baths to run and clean up after. It's a non-stop riot of noise and messes, all backed up with the strong scent of all-purpose cleaner.

Those days are behind me.

Sleep is enjoyed without the encumbrance of a terrified toddler kicking you in the nose at 2 a.m.

The messes have transformed from jellied handprints on the walls to backpacks abandoned on the living room floor, backpacks that I can ask an able-bodied teenager to pick up and transport to the appropriate spot in the house.

There are no toys on the floors.

There are no baths to run.

In place there are Saturday afternoons on the couch watching movie marathons. There is laughing in the kitchen over the Alexa. There are long conversations in the car, and mani/pedi dates at the mall.

“It gets better,” I told this mom I'd never met. “I promise it gets better.”

I told her this because it does. The treasures of toddlerhood are there, but so too are the treasures of teenagerhood, so long as you look for them, so long as you strive to raise the sort of teenager who you want to spend time with.

It's not something I often heard when my child was young. To hear other parents tell it teen years were going to be nearly a decade of screaming fights, laying down the law, and having to play police detective. I would never sleep. I would not really like my own kid, and they certainly would not like me.

There are sometimes fights. There are days I'm not the most popular person on the block. There are tough decisions.

But I decided early on that I didn't want to be at war with my teenager, and I refuse to propegate the myth that war with your teenager is inevitable.

The thank you from that mom? It turns out it was for that refusal.

She'd heard all the warnings that I'd heard when my child was young, all the fears, all the depressing stories of children turning into monsters at the stroke of midnight on their 13th birthdays.

She didn't need more of that. What she needed was a little light at the end of her tunnel.

Couldn't we all?

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