The Coming of Teenpocalypse: What to Expect When Your First Kid Becomes a Teen

Teen
A friend of mine once described having teenagers in her house as an alien invasion. I figured she was being a bit melodramatic…until my first daughter entered her teen years and I realized that she was exactly right.

But let’s be clear. It is not the cute, helpful ET kind of alien invasion where your technology gets upgraded and lifetime bonds are formed. It’s more like the Twilight Zone clone-invasion kind, where at first, you think you’re standing next to your child, but then you look into those hollow, lifeless eyes and you realize, with horror, that your child is long gone. What remains is a petri dish of teen angst, eyes that roll like they’re magnetized to true north and attitude that will either result in world domination or criminal charges. It could really go either way.

What I’m saying is that everything that they tell you about having a teenager is true. All of it. One day, you have a sweet little girl in pigtails who like to play with dolls and the next, you have a lanky quasi-adult who is prone to violent mood swings, hysteria and only wears clothes that are either way too tight, or way too big. There is no middle ground.

And I think that’s really it with teens. There is no middle ground. It’s like they’re constantly running wind sprints – racing to the outer edges of adolescence to touch adulthood, then spinning around to sprint back to the safety of their childhood. If you think about it, it’s no wonder they’re tired all of the time.

Unfortunately, there is no magic button or simple formula for raising a teenager. And when your first one appears on the scene, there will be days where you think you’ve died and gone to some special hell reserved for people who didn’t appreciate the toddler years enough.

Then, when the next child ninja kicks its way out of its tweenage cocoon, convinced that it is fully grown and ready to fly, you’ll think you have it all figured out this go around. Trust me. You don’t.

The teen years are all about flexibility, adaptability, patience and learning how to pair wine with pizza.

And yet, I love having teenagers. I really, really do. But I love it because of one reason and one reason only: I have learned to embrace it. Having teenagers is all about setting your expectations. And once you know what to expect, you can manage it. I promise.

When it comes to teenagers, there are many truths that are universal – and a few you’ll have to figure out on your own. Here are just a few of the things I’ve come to expect with the coming of Teenpocalypse.

 

You are going to embarrass them.

It never occurred to me that I would be anything BUT the cool mom. Until I had teenagers. But here’s what I’ve learned – everyone else’s mom is just as ridiculous. In fact, there’s usually a competition for who has the worst parents. If you listen closely to your kids and their friends, you’ll hear them almost bragging about how ridiculous their parents are…he sings in the shower, she wears clogs, neither of them know how to work their cell phones, etc.

I’m here to tell you – it’s ok to embarrass them. Secretly, they appreciate it. It helps them fit in and in some weird, ironic way, it may even make them feel a little cooler themselves.

I once held a car full of teenage girls captive in the driveway to prove that I know every word to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” There was even some mild interpretive dance. I am now the stuff of legend in the embarrassing parent competition. It feels pretty good, I’m not going to lie.

 

They will change their look, not just once, but multiple times. Go with it.

These are not easy years. Teenagers are trying desperately to figure out who they are. The good news is that who they are now is not very likely to be who they end up.

Think about it, most of us would be dead from hairspray inhalation by now if we had not evolved from our own teen years. Our looks change. Our identities develop. Our personalities evolve. So when they ask to dye their hair blue, remember that it’s not the end of the world. It most likely won’t be blue forever and the more you resist, the more they will want it.

Have your boundaries, of course. Anything that requires more than one adult signature may deserve careful consideration and a long conversation, but as for the rest of it? As long as they aren’t choosing looks that are hurtful, insulting or offensive, let them have a little fun. You can always embarrass them with the pictures later.

 

Teen suddenly develop multiple personalities. And only one of them is nice.

Unfortunately, that nice personality makes few family appearances. That’s the one usually reserved for social gatherings, phone conversations with friends and parental interaction engineered for the express purpose of asking for money, a later curfew or a ride.

The remaining personalities are more like the Furies from Greek mythology: Tisiphone (avenger), Megaera (the jealous) and Alecto (constant anger). The Furies punished their victims by driving them mad. When not kicking butt and taking names on earth, they hung out in the underworld and tortured people there. Yep. That sounds about right.

But the Furies also served a purpose. They kept the social balance in check. They pointed out injustice. And yes, they were a bit extreme in their methods, but they got their point across. All I’m saying is that there’s usually something worth hearing in what our teens have to say, even if it does sound like the vengeful shrieking of ancient goddess-warriors. Try to hear past the hysterics and hear what they’re really saying. You’ll be surprised at the depths they actually possess.

 

They become hermit-like recluses – except when they are rabid social butterflies.

There comes a day when your sweet child who was constantly underfoot, suddenly can’t be found even though you’ve shouted her name 15 times. Here’s a hint, check to see if the slightly human-shaped pile of clothing on the bed is moving its thumbs. If possible, put your ear near the pile and listen for text notifications.

Now wait for it.

Ten minutes later, that same child will appear at the door, fully dressed, hair done, bag packed and will want to know if she can have a sleepover at Katie’s house? But first, she is meeting Ethan, Sarah, Blake and Emily at the mall? Then they need to stop by Rebecca’s house, because, you know, she, like, just broke up with her boyfriend and is really sad? Then she needs to go to lacrosse? So if you could just drop her off at all of those things, it’s totally cool. Katie’s mom can drive them home from lacrosse. You won’t need to do a thing.

Once your head stops spinning, rejoice in the fact that she is alive and did not smother under the pile of clothes. Then take a moment to set some realistic social parameters. But most importantly, really stop and soak in this moment. You will want to remember it when you are having your first of many panic attacks the night before she gets her driver’s license. Just like pregnancy served to nurture and develop your child with nine months of constant contact and kicks in the ribs, it also served to make you so sick of carrying a baby inside your body, that you really didn’t mind labor so much. Try to follow my analogy here. You won’t mind once she can drive herself places, I promise.

 

They seem to lose their ability to speak.

Remember that kid that wouldn’t STOP talking? The one that told you everything about their day –even the parts you didn’t want to hear? The one that would explain the intricacies of dinosaurs or ocean life or photosynthesis with such enthusiasm? That kid is no more. Grieve in your own way, but move on.

The new alien life form (ALF) will not speak to you voluntarily –unless it needs food or money. The ALF will also make very strange faces, making you worry in the event that it is actually having a stroke or other medical emergency. Do not panic. They are most likely on SnapChat. However, if the facial expressions are in response to something you’ve said, remember, this is how the species expresses like, dislike, pain, anger or happiness. Learn to read the facial cues. It will save everyone a lot of frustration.

But don’t stop talking to it. It is listening more than you think. Keep asking it questions. Keep telling it stories. Keep reminding it that you’re there. And when the day comes, and it will, that it regains its human-like speech patterns and turns back into the child you once knew, you will be amazed at the intelligence, wit and beauty that emerges.

 

They will sleep in really weird places, at really odd hours.

There’s not much to say about this. Their bodies are growing, sometimes in front of your very eyes. They have insane schedules. Their heads are constant swirling tornadoes of self-confidence and self-doubt and self-reflection. They have hormones that don’t stop. It really IS kind of as bad as they try to tell you. So let them sleep. Even if it’s on the armchair in the living room. Even if it’s at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. Even if you have to wake them gently and remind them that school starts in 15 minutes and if they miss the bus one more time, they will be walking to school from now on.

The point is, relax, and let them rest whenever and however they can. They need it just as much now as they did when they were three…maybe even more.

With teens, like with everything in life, there will be good days and bad days. There will be curveballs and wild cards and jokers to spare, but keep your eye on the prize. After all, your parents survived, didn’t they?