The teens they are a’changin’

Posted on March 9, 2015

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Middle school bullying insurance

Son, you’ve heard of dog years but what about teen years? Here’s how that works: to calculate a teen’s age in people years, you need to subtract 10. So, a kid who’s been on the planet for 13 years is really about 3 in people years. I figured this out through a highly scientific study of, well, you. It seems that starting around your 13th birthday you began acting like a three-year-old much of the time. I can’t say if this is true for girls but I suspect it’s not; they seem to grow up as they grow up. Based on the theory of teen years, when you’re 19, you will be acting like a nine-year-old. The good news is that’s almost how old you were when I started this blog, and that means I can just recycle all my old posts.

Now, before you get all huffy about me calling you a three-year-old…aw hell, I guess I kind of am. But if you’ve followed this blog at all, you know how dearly I love you. All the more reason I’m distressed by this recent hormone-induced regression. Fortunately, everything I’ve read (Archie comics, mostly) indicates that it’s temporary.

In addition to teen years, there are also parent-of-teen years. Parents of teens age much faster than other parents. A 40-year-old parent of a teen is about the same as a 50-year-old parent of a non-teen. Weird but true. This is because parenting a teen is scary; the stakes are way higher than when you were an actual three-year-old. You made dumb decisions then, too, but the consequences of those decisions involved things like spaghetti all over the floor. These days, you’re making decisions that could impact whether you’re able to get into the college of your choice. Kind of a bigger deal.

The decisions I make are higher stakes, too. Do I let you go to that kid’s house after school when his parents aren’t home? Soon I’ll have to decide whether or not to let you go to a party or when you can get your driver’s license (currently, I’m thinking 40).

So yes, I’m scared. But I also know that you are too. You’re scared and confused. Some part of you desperately wants to remain a child while another part is struggling for independence and the self-determination that comes with being a grownup. I get it, and I know your defiance and moodiness are, in fact, positive signs that you’re reaching yet another developmental milestone. It’s supposed to be this way.

I guess what I’m saying is we’re both struggling with changes. We’ll come out the other side of this a very different family than we are now. You’re a smart kid and I know you’ll grow to be a fine young man. I will need to be a different kind of parent than I was when you were a kid—than I am now–and I’m as confused about how to get there as you are about where you’re going. All I know for sure is that we’re better off figuring it out together.

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