Being a parent isn’t easy. In fact, it is arguably one of the most challenging and complex activities engaged in by humans – the multitude of tasks, decisions and concerns involved in caring for, raising, protecting, educating and socializing our own children. When our kids become adolescents, the tasks explode exponentially in both quantity and quality. We worry more, because they give us more to worry about. They scare us more – often because by the time they have reached their teenage years, we are able to see elements of ourselves both as we were and as we are in them – in ways that are much more ‘in our face’ than they were when our children were young and we could focus on the hugs, kisses, cuteness and dependency of their relationships with us. As they approach adulthood, the mix changes considerably. Less cuteness, fewer hugs and kisses, more demand for independence (and, subsequently, less dependence) and – to add insult to injury, all of these things are entirely normal. Teens are betwixt and between. They are no longer little children nor are they adults. They are the ‘nowhere men and women’ of our culture. Luckily, most of us survive this epoch of human development to become the adults we frequently promised ourselves we would never become. But that’s another subject.
So I place in nomination for the Second Hardest Job In The World that of being the parent of a teenager. An adult struggling with knowing and not knowing, with our own experience growing up vs. what we thing would be better and with wanting to secure the roots that have developed over the years between our children and ourselves in childhood while concurrently helping the teen(s) to grow healthy wing muscles – after all, our job is to give them both. Roots alone will keep them forever dependent and childlike; wings alone will cause them to leave their entire past, including us, in the dust as they move on with their lives. Roots and wings. Sounds trite – but, it isn’t. It’s never certain what the right thing is to do – but we must act anyway. We can read books and take classes, but each one is different. We can try to duplicate our own upbringing if we thought it good or struggle to be as different as possible if we feel that it was not. Either way, we are doomed to fail.. Ultimately, we are stuck with being, pretty much, who and how we are and there is no time in life where this is quite so painfully obvious as those years when we are raising a teenager. Thus, the nomination.
There is only one job I can think of that is unarguably harder and that would be being the teenager themselves.
I probably have met a few people in my life who would like to be 16 years old again, but they are clearly and dramatically in the minority. For the most part, adults are glad to have survived their own teenage years and do not year to return to any “golden days of yesteryear.” It behooves us all to try to remember that when dealing with our own teenage children.