Every day teens get gobs of sympathy for coping with the changes they're going through. What about a nod toward the parents of teens and the roller coaster we get to ride?
I personally have a love/hate thing going on with the job of parenting two healthy boys who are currently tripping their way through puberty with their oversized feet and cracking voices.
Parenting teens. It rocks. And then it sucks. And then it's great. At any time on any given day, my parental perspective can turn on a dime.
As evidence, consider the following facts about teen boys that are simultaneously awesome and horrible, icky, or disturbing:
1. Teens leave their ginormous shoes everywhere, producing an annoying tripping hazard, as well as an attractive nuisance to a chewing dog.
But there's also convenience. Never do I find myself in need of slippers for a spontaneous fetching of the paper. I just don a pair of ski-length Converse and clown-walk my way out the door.
2. Teens are easily embarrassed, especially when I clown-walk out for the paper in my fluffy white robe and whatever oversized high-tops I find on the way, and my kids' classmates happen to be waiting for the bus.
But, for the thinking parent, embarrassment is also leverage, as well as potential for high entertainment. Can't be bothered to pay attention in class? Let mom join you at school. Every day. She'll sit close by and take notes. Shy around the ladies? Just bring dad to junior high registration. His double-finger-gun-sly-wink at every single passing girl is sure to help you fill your dance card.
3. Teens can be left home alone. This is my favorite thing. We no longer have to be watchful lest someone choke on a Lego, crawl into the oven, or impale himself on a kitchen utensil.
Of course, teens aren't always to be trusted. Hollywood has built an entire movie industry around this fact, and parents should take heed. Teens can be left home alone, but only for a limited time. And with a nanny cam.
4. Teens have little use for chit chat with adults. They have way less to say to us these days on almost any subject, including our once favorite topic: poop. Have you gone? Are you going to go? Might you need to? Did you flush? Did you wipe? No, I don't want to see. Nope. No more talking about poop.
Come to think of it, though, it's rather a chore to get anyone to talk to me at all around here. What did you do today? What does that shrug mean? Didn't you do anything? What do you have going on tonight? Another shrug? Okay.
5. Teens have a different set of standards for screen time. No more "Swiper, no swiping!" No more whiny bald kid. No more Wiggles, or singing vegetables. That's the good.
The bad? Almost everything else on a screen. No one around here has developed the taste for Downton Abbey we wish they would. Everything else we regulate according to -- are you ready? -- splatter. That's what it's come to. When death and dismemberment are rampant on every web site, cable channel or video game of interest to teen boys, I regulate according to tidiness. Beat a zombie into submission with his severed arm if you will, but there better not be any flying chunks of flesh or spray of body fluids. We have standards.
6. Teens haven't any sense of irony, a fact which provides plentiful blog fodder, but also threatens to drive me crazy.
Just this morning, one son insisted I join him in the garage. He pointed at his bike, which I had ridden the day before.
"Mom. If you're going to ride this, will you please wipe the handlebars down afterward?"
And then he said the very thing for which he will be the butt of all jokes at family gatherings from now until the end of time:
"I like to keep my things clean."
Good to know. Next time I'm in his room, I'll remind him that those seven weeks worth of laundry, dirty dishes and the pile of garbage he emptied out of his school locker last month and deposited directly onto his floor are an affront to his standards. I'm sure he'll react accordingly.
7. Teens have an extraordinary sense of justice. Any act of bullying, animal cruelty, or disregard for the environment is met with swift and harsh judgment followed by a proclamation that not only should we find that behavior intolerable, we should use it as a reminder to remain vigilant and united for the good and the just.
It's the exact response I'll earn should I deign to make the suggestion someone do something with the seven weeks of laundry piled in his room.
8. Teens sleep like dead people. Summer mornings have never been so blissful as when my kids stopped getting up at dawn. I can read the entire paper over breakfast, and work for three solid hours before I hear a peep. Occasionally, I resort to checking to ensure they're still breathing.
But try getting anyone out of this house before noon. For anything. For a house fire. Not happening.
9. Two words: Drivers. License. Oh My God. My kid will soon be able to transport himself to and from school, the gym, the library, his friends' houses. I can almost taste the freedom.
And, Oh My God, my kid will soon be hurtling a deadly weapon down the interstate at speeds our ancestors once thought would rip their skin off. He returned from his first day of drivers' training with a handout of classroom rules and a schedule. Right a the bottom, it said:
Remember, you have just become your parents' greatest liability.
Interesting thought, one no doubt meant to inspire a modicum of sobriety and introspection on the part of teens.
My kid wants it printed on a t-shirt.
Beth Markley blogs at www.manicmumbling.com