Parenting teenagers

They told you it would get easier…They lied.



If you have just had your first baby, avert your eyes…You know the stuff they tell you before you have the baby about it more or less being an easy process and not to worry etc. Well, the same applies to having teenagers. I remember listening to an HR person who was about to have her first baby saying words to the effect of why did people think it was such an issue. It’s only a few years and then they’re at school… School opens a whole other can of worms.

In the early days I thought things would be plain sailing by the teen years. Everyone would be semi-independent. Yes, one or two of them might go off the rails, but generally I would be able to sleep, I would not be up to my elbows in poo and there would be no nits. Ha!

It is probably my fault for having a lot of kids, but, while the teens do sleep a lot and are almost impossible to wake up, they tend to go to bed very late too which, if you have a younger one who is up early, makes for substantially reduced hours in bed. Plus teenagers go out often. Which means staying up late and worrying as well as having to go to dark and unknown places at 2am. Which would be all very well if you knew when they were coming back and could have a kip or a bath or something before going to pick them up. But no, they are on their mobile phones all the time EXCEPT when you ring or text them. “The number you have called is not available right now…Would you like to send a text?” No, I would not and, in any event, they will not look at the text for another four hours. “It was just that I was on airplane mode to save the battery, mum,” they will inform you sweetly, throwing back in your face all your years of budgeting advice.

Getting people ready used to be a bugbear of mine when the kids were little. I’d have the baby ready and dressed after an emergency second nappy change only to turn around and find the toddler had stripped naked during the process and caked themselves in sudocream. On many occasions it seemed like an Olympian feat just to get out the door, let alone get places on time. You’d think this would be easier with teenagers, but no. Not only do they not wake up quickly, but they have to go through all sorts of moisturising processes before they even go near their school uniform. Most of the processes are gleaned from Youtuber tutorials and involve things like putting honey on your eyebrows or some such. I spend many, many hours a month in the car, waiting and then having to get places in minus 10 minutes.

Toddlers can be fussy eaters, but, in my house, at one point we had two vegans and a vegetarian who hates cheese. I have nothing against vegans and feel I should join them, but my partner is very firmly a meat eater and only son loves chicken. That means there is no one dish that everyone will eat. Plus it means checking labels all the time. I got daughter two a bath bomb the other day to ease her through the GCSEs. “Sorry. Can’t use it, mum. It has honey. What about the bees?”

Then there is the feeling of being excluded from your own home. All the teenagers stay up later than their parents can manage, given daughter one is currently on early shifts and has to be taken to the train station at the crack of dawn, including on weekends. Plus the tv is on constant BTS duty. There are only so many BTS videos a non-teenage person can take. So I hang out in only son’s room, talking about tech. I caught a Whatsapp exchange the other day between only son and his grandmother on the family Whatsapp group. His grandmother had asked what Siri is. Only son addressed her by her first name. “Jill, Siri is an artificial intelligence that gives you information you don’t know about and you can use it on an apple device,” he stated. “Smartass” came the reply from his sister. “How can you trust what it tells you?” came my anarchist brother from Argentina. “It’s in the name intelligent,” replied only son.

I have failed to mention other teen delights such as eyebrow care, period cravings, bedroom chaos, homework, trips with friends and worries about their survival, exam stress, heartbreak and so forth. Suffice to say that any advice about heartbreak or any form of mental health issue will not be heeded. You will have to have many, many talks about the same thing, probably at midnight, hoping that in some way the idea that they are important, wonderful, fascinating human beings goes in somewhere along the lines.

All this and then they will go off into the world and leave you behind, wishing you had had more time with them and had learnt a little bit more about BTS.

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