The trouble with teenagers is that deep within them lies a really awesome human being. Bet you didn't expect that, did you?
But it's just such damn hard work getting past all the moodiness, gruffness, the messy rooms, the smelly shoes and the daily contradictions in order to see it.
And that's just the boys. Girls, I've been told, have a whole different set of challenges that I will never get to experience, being as I'm surrounded by my honour guard of males.
So who's fault is it that teenagers are so difficult to live with?
For a while there I resided on the 'it's the teenagers fault' side of the fence on this issue. I mean, how dare they not show me respect and make up their own minds about things? Why should they be the ones making decisions about what's right for them when it come to life choices and bodily hygiene?
All these years I've looked after them and kept them safe and done a perfectly good job of it. I've got them to this point, what gives them the right to relegate me to the 'She's just Mum, what does she know' group that I relegated my mother to all those years ago. This time it's different, right?
Well, after a few years in this mindset, I finally realised that perhaps, just maybe, I was a little off track.
Conflict abounded in our house, tug of wars over privileges and choices, room tidying expectations and the minimum number of permissible showers per week (7, if you're wondering).
After a while though, I got sick and tired of it all. Day after day was the same routine. Off to work (me) or school (teenagers), come home, straight into housework and dinner prep (me) or homework (them), dinner then zone out in from of the tv (me) or xbox (them). Interspersed within these activities was the conflict (initiated by them I thought) and moodiness (from both sides if I'm honest). Repeat. Ad infinitum.
None of us were happy. None of us really wanted it to be like this. Not that teenagers will tell you this, they may shrug non committedly though if you ask.
Then had a lightbulb moment!
I no longer had a connection with them.
As they grew they had started to move away from me, which is a normal and healthy step on the way to independant adulthood, but what was shocking to me, was the realisation that I had started to move away from them.
You see, when kids are little and cuddly, and think you're the best mummy in the whole wide world, it's easy to be close to them. They need you, and truth be told I needed them, to fill my heart with love and fill my days with smiles. But as they grew it was a little more difficult to pick them up for a cuddle (ever tried to pick up an unwilling 6'2" teenager for a cuddle and a tickle? It's best not to try).
I had bit by bit stopped trying to connect with them, as they pulled away, thinking that's what they wanted. But underneath it all, despite exterior gruffness, they really still need their mum. Just in a slightly different way.
Suddenly, from a mothering point of view, things had changed. And I wasn't ready for it. There's the saying about kids not coming with an instruction manual, but at least when small, children are a little more forgiving if you make a rookie parenting mistake. Teenagers, not so much.
They give you the sigh and an eye roll, and then proceed to moan about you to their friends. Suddenly you've been demoted from best mummy in the whole wide world to little better than the annoying woman who puts food on their plate and clean clothes neatly on their bed. You've now become the worst parent ever because the parents of all their friends always let them do this or that. I'm sure you know the drill.
Teenagers unconsciously challenge you, searching for a weakness. It's their forte at this age, apart from sleeping. And eating. Oh, and leaving previous neat and clean clothes in dirty piles all over the floor. Apart from those things, finding weakness in their parents is their forte.
And then I fell into their trap.
The trap they set is they bring out the teenager in us parents. That self centred, stubborn and argumentative teenager we thought we'd gotten past being about twenty or years ago.
Imagine this. Teenager wants to stay out all night. You say no. Teenager argues the point. You calmly give your reasons for saying no. Teenager ignores every single point you've calmly made and reiterates their reasons for staying out. You not so calmly reiterate your reasons for them not to stay out all night. Teenager stubbornly repeats the exact same points they previously made. You restate yours. Frustration makes you a little more forceful this time. Teenager yells "You just don't understand" and stomps off to their room, full of eyerolls and muttering. You stomp off to the kitchen muttering about how you wish they'd start listening to you. Stalemate. They've reduced us to their level. Damn, I hate it when they do that.
Being a good and loving parent however, an hour or so later you go back with the intent to talk calmly and bring your teenager around to your way of thinking. Within five minutes it's back to frustration, eye rolls and mutterings again. Neither side listening to the other, or if they do, only superficially.
It's like arguing with a toddler. You can't win.
And I've found that's the best way to view teenagers. As toddlers. Just slightly larger, but often just as temperamental. They need love and cuddles too, even if they do try to push you away.
If you think about it, toddlers are standing (or wobbling) on the threshold of moving from babyhood to childhood, breaking new boundaries such walking, talking and tantrum throwing.
Teenagers are also on a threshold, this time of adulthood. Only they are breaking boundaries of every sort, rules, courtesy, family congeniality, you name it. And they've already perfected the tantrum throwing, now they just up the ante.
This may seem all rather dire that's it a wonder anyone comes through raising teenagers a sane person. But I've discovered there is a magic to this parenting teenagers gig, a secret I never got told about.
Something, that although not making us a perfect family, has certainly made us a closer family. With a lot less eye rolling.
And no, it's not shutting your eyes and downing multiple glasses of alcohol. Though that is optional.
The solution that has worked for me is.......
.........hmmm, this post is more than long enough already. Stressed out parents of the internet, you'll have to wait for this to continue at a later date.
In the meantime, fix yourself a stiff drink and keep your eyes shut.