Saturday, June 11, 2011

Suddenly, Two Teens in the House

The creature emerging from our nearly 12-year-old younger son is something we already are raising: a teenager. Living as a peri-menopausal woman with two instead of one moody boy in a family, however, is different than coping with one. Already this morning they were bickering before breakfast over who had to walk the dog. Later, a hungry 14-year-old walked by and grabbed waffles off the breakfast plate of the 11-year-old, who is hungry All. The. Time. ("Mom, you've been telling me for years I am about to have a growth spurt"). And it wasn't even 9 a.m.

As any parent knows, every child is different. The teen years of our first, a reflective, artistic soul, are going to be much different, I imagine, than that of our family's lone extrovert, who always has had a posse of pals and "met" the principal on his first day of middle school. (The details are dim but something about storming the cafeteria doors when the students were asked to leave in a line) 

I know things are going to be fine. First, we survived two toddlers, including one (guess who?) who climbed the inside shelves so he could sit on the top of the refrigerator and who, during a "nap" unlocked his window, then kicked out his window guard and screen to sit on the roof. He was two and wanted fresh air. Second, I now teach adolescents, which gives me lots of tools for managing their moods, which can range from outrage to a desperate desire to please in one 44-minute class. And finally, my own parents somehow shared a house with FOUR teenagers at the same time; four wildly varying personalities and emotional needs. (Yup, when I was a 9th grader,  my siblings were in 10th grade, 11th grade and 12th grade. Thank goodness I got behavior passes from the vice principal based on their goody-goody reputations.)

Psychology can fail us when it comes to raising children. Consider the life of the late Stanley Hall. Wikipedia tells us he is credited with "discovering" adolescence with his 1904 study "Adolescence" in which he describes the developmental phase now recognized as adolescence.

If you keep reading this Wiki page you will discover Mr. Hall "also had no sympathy for the poor, the sick or those with developmental differences or disabilities. A firm believer in selective breeding and forced sterilization, Hall believed that any respect or charity toward those he viewed as physically, emotionally, or intellectually weak or "defective" simply interfered with the movement of natural selection toward the development of a super-race. " Oh, and he also was the first president of the American Psychological Association.

As I regard the school backpack contents strewn across the kitchen table, the dirty socks on the family room floor and the wide-eyed puggle waiting by the front door for someone to walk her, I know my sense of humor and joy is what will help us all navigate this chapter of our family's life.

Children, no matter their talents and frailties, quirks and delights, are gifts brought to us through no merit of our own. And joy, not fear or worry, is what we can experience. "Go, eat fat meats, and drink sweet wine, and send portions to them that have not prepared for themselves: because it is the holy day of the Lord, and be not sad: for the joy of the Lord is our strength."


  1. The line that really hit me was the moodiness of the boys AND being perimenopausal. Right there with you!

    Good argument for having kids EARLY...though God knows, I couldn't have afforded to do so. :)

  2. @Elaine: Yeah, I guess there is a reason women's peak fertility is like age 20. Alas, I didn't even MEET my husband until my late 20s.

  3. They are so moody indeed and boys need as much affection as girls do....
    we have a almost 16 year old next month and a almost 12 year old and a almost 7 year old princes....precious they all are!
    The one thing I notice is how fowl boys smell Lord knows I love them but where this oder comes from and they turn into normal smelling men someday. Wow this is a! they eat a lot too!

  4. At 53, I have a 14, now almost 15 yo stepdaughter. Oh the moods... She moves from love and joy to absolute disdain faster than I can inhale one breath and exhale another!

    Yet in it is all gift, challenge but gift beyond measure.

  5. your starting to make me think that having teenagers might be harder than having them all little with constant needs. hmmm. I don't want to think that far ahead!

    Is that you with the auburn hair? How cute!!!

  6. @Sarah: Yes, that is me, the shortest of the bunch. I am 5 feet 7 now and still feel small; I am the shortest of my siblings and shorter than both my parents!

    Raising teenagers is a roller coaster ride - similar to the toddler years. So much is a surprise and unexpected and so much growth in such quick bursts!

  7. Right there with you, though I had to LOL about "meeting" the principal on the first day of middle school and the "dim" details. I laugh because my second child is just like that! I have a 14 and a soon-to-be 16 and I sometimes think the maturity level is going the wrong direction! Keep your faith and your sense of humor. We need both!