I used to have plenty of self-esteem. It was a hard won victory despite parents of the '60s who knew nothing about the art of parenting for self-worth as we do today. (I call this era Before Parenting was a Verb.) As an adult I saw myself through the eye of my numerous accomplishments, and I was doing very well in the self-esteem department, thank you.
But that was then.
Now I have teenagers. The best advice I can give to anyone who has not done the teenage parenting thing yet is save up your self-esteem -- bottle it, lock it up and store it somewhere. Trust me on this -- you won't have a shred left by the time your darling teenagers are through with you, especially if you have more than one at a time and they can gang up on you.
To those who are still blissfully raising kiddos in the elementary school years I have some shocking news for you: that angel or prince that is so perfect and adorable now will turn into a hormone-fueled Jekyll and Hyde shortly, and I am letting you down easy with that description.
Since my own children began their teenage years I am constantly told how unaware, unsophisticated, and utterly clueless I am. I am called the equivalent of stupid, with eye rolls, sighs, laughs and other pointed behaviors, many times a day. In fact, I see more eye rolls on a weekly basis than your average optometrist.
If I don't let the kids go somewhere that "every other parent in the universe" is letting their child attend, I am the ONLY parent living in prehistoric times. Of course, after I make a few calls to parents, I find out there are more than a few other cave dwellers like me.
If I hate their music, I am hopelessly out of touch and old-fashioned. Liking their music is even worse, such as when I downloaded a recent top 40 hit for my cell phone ring tone and got nothing but contempt for doing such a ridiculous thing.
In fact, whenever I try to point out how hip I am, I'm met with more eye rolls along with my son and daughter throwing a knowing glance at one another. As if to say that anyone who has to tell you how cool they are is really quite pathetically uncool.
And forget about trying to have an intelligent discussion about navel piercing and infection possibilities.
In general, I have been made to feel like an unworthy idiot so many times at this point, like a victim of mental abuse; I am beginning to believe it.
Parents of teens become nothing more than a walking, talking credit card and hand-servant. They don't call us "rents" for nothing. (For those uninformed, "Rents" is slang for parents, using the last syllable -- see how hip I am that I know that? Throw me a bone here, you can see that I need one.)
It kind of makes you want to take a long vacation from parenting. And if you are unfortunate enough to have one of the more rebellious, angry types thrown into the adolescent mix, I recommend a complete sabbatical until they turn 22. Boarding school, anyone?
As someone with psychological training, I know that teens have to assert themselves in this manner to separate from the nest, as they become adults. But with my own flesh and blood pointing out my many inadequacies, book knowledge goes out the window.
Fortunately, it is all normal behavior, and the stories of parents who breeze through this era unscathed, are probably highly exaggerated.
If you see me, throw me some praise or a compliment or two. With my reserves of self-respect at an all time low; I could really, really use it.
Postscript: I originally wrote this piece many years ago when my kids were teenagers. When I read this now, years after writing it, it might as well be a century ago in terms of changes. The good news is that the kids have outgrown this stage of "teen attitude" and they are the best young adults imaginable -- sweet, thoughtful, successful. They love me again, appreciate me, and actually enjoy spending time with me. So have hope, parents of teens -- your child will become a completely different person when he or she hits the early 20s. Hang in there!
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