So, my friend Tiffany wrote about teenagers a while back.
It was more than two years ago. I kept the link because even back then, I lived among the mess of a life with two teen daughters – then 17 and 14. It was as if Tiffany, who writes Sounds Like Life to Me, had looked into our window. Tiffany even included comic strips depicting life with teenagers.
You know, those awkward yet lovable collections of our DNA and parenting skills and 80% other factors we have no control over.
Teenagers are like those cool tropical fish you get after you’ve mastered goldfish.
Who am I kidding? No one can master the keeping of goldfish. Or pre-teens. Or teenagers. You graduate only to bigger kids, but with bigger issues and bigger appetites. God help us all. Especially me?
My girls are 19 and 16 now – and the ‘baby’ will turn to full-on teen in five short months.
Keep your head up – here are tips I offer from years of battleground experience.
Tips for feeding and watering teens and preteens
1. They need lots of feeding. And encouragement for watering
Every container represents one serving size.
I used to believe that only for myself when a box of animal crackers would become extinct in my car in 24 hours. And that was just with me riding alone. Ever watched two or more teen girls devour a bag of chips or box of cookies?
My girls make piranhas look downright vegan.
You cannot take a simple head count and accurately feed these creatures on pizza Friday. There is no pizza logic when it comes to them. Add in a father like me, and you can toss the pizza-to-person ratio out with the Brussel sprouts.
You just buy a bunch and pray. While they prey.
2. It doesn’t pay to have nice things.
It’s a miracle of biblical proportions that the flat-screen TV and fish tank haven’t taken a tumble during one of my girls’ wrestling events.
They’re events, not matches. A match implies 1 vs. 1 with a points system and eventual resolution. Not so with these three. Sometimes, it’s tournament style. Always, it’s no holds barred. The fracases never bust out into true fights, but the sportsmanship remains iffy.
It’s like, prison rules. There are body blows and headlocks and evasive action that cannot be taught in basic training.
3. Boys will bring out the lion in dad – or at least the dingo
Yes, I once counted myself among the ranks. Arguably, I never advanced from the stage. Yet, I’m completely outside their DNA when it comes to trying to figure out why they act the way they do around my girls.
That’s a post for another day – Grace, age 12, asking why boys do the things they do.
I might need a series of posts to tackle that. My girls seem to handle themselves without much of dad’s help. Another future post: When people assume that being a father to three girls results in gun fanaticism and masochistic tendencies.
4. You must let them forage, too
I wanted to create a protective bubble of military force around my oldest daughter during her very first Easter egg hunt.
If anyone knocked her down, I promised, I’d seek out the kid’s father and disrupt the family lineage in a violent way. No need, though. Elise got bumped around, but kept her feet, and even found a few eggs.
I’m here to help, always, but I try not to interfere.
I’ll see something in a soccer match from the sidelines and want to yell out to my girls. As I pace the sideline to get her perspective, I notice things. But I don’t want to cross any of their coaches, who might be teaching something contrary.
5. Even the strongest need your encouragement
We raised our girls to be strong and self-sufficient.
That doesn’t mean they’re on their own to sink or swim. Marie, especially, is the tough nut. She doesn’t run on praise, but self-appreciation. And although she isn’t likely to outwardly as for kind word, I know she could use them.
Sometimes, it’s as easy as not pointing out the obvious, when a cake falters because they’ve used baking soda instead of powder, or when an inadvisable pass turns into a scoring chance for the other team.
It’s at that point they need to know we believe in them and stand behind them, whatever their choices and predicaments.
I hope they know this, as they move on to college or consider life decisions or just want to grill out and chill out. To know that once I existed in that unsettled realm between childhood and adulthood, where so little makes sense.
That despite that 80% we have no control over, they’re our kids, and we’ll love them until the end of time.
The rest of the A to Z to this point:
A is for Addiction to Devices
B is for Burgers (3 Lessons I learned During a Month Without Them) Plus 3 Random Smartphone Pics
C is for Interview with a Cat
D is for Do What I Do and Eat What I Eat
E is for Eight Things I’ve Left Behind
F is for Foods That Bring Me Comfort
G is for #GirlsRock: An Interview Mental Health Care Advocate Kitt O’Malley
H is for Halfway There
I is for Ice Cream
J is for Justification for the Blog Life
K is for 7 Women I’d Sing Karaoke With
L is for Last 3 Blogs I Read (and Why You Should, Too)
M is for Men I Forgot to Be
N is for the New Plan
O is for One Day From Payday Spicy Chicken Skillet
P is for Too Many Projects, Not Enough Time (a Guest Post from Kathy of The Second Half of My Life)
Q is for Quote Challenge
R is for Blogger Recognition
S is for Six Words
I will be facing teen parenting in a few years…. Gosh! Scary 😀
Fear not – it’s actually a fun ride.
I had 4 teenagers at one time and survived! (which means I had 4 kids 5 and under at on point also)
I think the most important thing is to not forget what it is like being a teenager. They want to be grown up but are still children. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to eat dinner together (even if it is at 9:30 p.m) try to be at every function, game, etc, listen, and get to know their friends and friends’ parents.
Good luck to those of you in the trenches. My kids grew up to be awesome adults that are so much fun to be with.
You’re living proof, Claire! I think both are challenges, the group in their teens and also under 5. Ever written about it?
You’re exactly right on not forgetting we were teens, too. I find there’s a bond when I associate a story from my youth to my kids – it reminds them I went through some of the same things. Nothing’s more important than staying involved in their lives – I need to do better with my oldest, who is off at college.
All we can do is parent with love and commitment and the rest, I think, takes care of itself.
I actually feel a bit guilty whenever folks talk about the horrors of the teenage years. I raised 4 kids and I LOVED the teenage years. I loved watching them mature and grow and take on and overcome challenges. They have moved on to be adults raising teens of their own, and though I am glad to be at this stage and love having grandchildren, I look back fondly to those times when they were dating, holding down a first job, working on Eagle projects, and developing their faith through their experiences. Every stage of life is a great!
Making Life an Art
I’m with you, Gail. It’s been such a blast as my girls have matured and gone after interests and developed as young adults.
I hope they love these years also, and I know that although I can’t give them the lap of luxury, they’ll never go without love.
I’ve been rather enjoying the teen years, but my boys are…unusual. The thing that I think took me the most by surprise was how different the two are. In the early years, the younger just went along and did whatever his brother wanted. It made life easier. But somewhere about junior high, he began to assert himself, and his final HS years are looking so very different from his brother’s!
There’s no blue print, right Rebecca? My girls have been so similar, it’s tough to imagine a divergence at some point, but it’s possible.
I see pockets of it, in preferences and plans, and it’s been beautiful to see.
Somewhere along the line an epiphany happened in regards to my boys and girls. Looking back I can apply it to my childhood friends too. I’ve even managed to apply it at work. When you really drill down to it, Boys are stupid and Girls are silly.
Think about it 🙂
As a boy, I struggle to challenge that assertion!
See, and I was pretty prepared to defend myself. I know it applies to me (laugh)
Sometimes I’m thankful I still have a toddler, ha!!
I wish I still did mainl so I could help them finish their kids’ meals.
So girls are like boys when it comes to food? Mealtime at our house (I have two brothers that I grew up with and a third who’s a lot younger) was like feeding wolves…
If you mean ravenous, John, then yes. Wolves, wolverines, piranhas … you get the picture!
Eli! I have missed being around and thank you a million times over for tagging me in this awesome, enlighten post.
Teenagers are the most amazing, beautiful, sometimes vile and wonderful reminder of why sex is bad. They keep us real and remind us older people what really, REALLY matters. This is a fabulous post my friend. Thanks again for reminding me that I love this little blogging world.
Tiff! Thanks for writing the post to inspire this in the first place. You summed it up perfectly.
I thrive on the youth of my girls and those I teach, and hope I can impart a little of life lessons I’ve learned already in return.
Your post was fabulous first. We miss you around here.
You will love them forever and like them for always. And you are right, you can’t have nice things. All of my nice things have been broken over the years, and now they are all grown up and one of them will start bringing a grandbaby around soon, so there will be no replacing of the nice things.
Exactly right, Mimi. Nice things are overrated. Nice things go on higher shelves and then eventually they get them anyway, don’t they?
i know that what you say is true, having survived 3 daughters. peace be with you, my man –
you’ve thrived with three daughters, beth. i have the peace, the force, and sometimes even jesus on my side!
Teenagers are such interesting creatures. I didn’t realise girls would settle scores with physical fights (or wrestling matches as you mentioned) until one of my friends (who is so quiet and I can’t imagine arguing with anyone) came back from a weekend visiting her sister with bruises all over her. They were grown adults at the time too, so I’m not sure if it ever ends!
Teens are a great experiment. Yes, girls are just as rough and tumble as boys. Maybe more. And I don’t see age getting in the way of their fracases.
I have the boy version of this. 8 and 11. And some days I understand why some animals eat their young. Totally kidding. The non stop eating and the boy talk. And when they have friends over I feel like my kitchen and pantry have been swept away with the tide. Where do they put all this food. I keep telling myself if I can just get them both to 18 and be decent human beings, I win! 🙂 I hope you are having a great week!
The lines between boy and girl versions blur, don’t they Kim? I’d eat my kids, but I’d get a sugar rush and probably a brain freeze.
Non-stop eating and boy talk are hallmarks of my house, too – and I have girls! And I help with the nonstop eating, so there’s that.
The food is burned in an incinerator with them, but not with me. I store it. All.
I think you’re already winning.
The majority of teenagers I know are pretty cool. There are the odd ones though who are a good advertisement for birth control 😀
I know the ones on my team are, Lyn. I think there are plenty of grown-ups who might give us pause in the entire reproductive process, too.
Oh yeah…and you have to feel sorry for their kids 😦
Teenagers baffle me. You sound like such a loving and doting father to your girls and they are so lucky to have you as their protector ❤
I am glad you know when to step in and when to let them spread their wings–it is most important, especially at that age.
I was the only girl in my family and learned to rough and tough it out with all of my boy cousins. I do however also remember my dad and uncle joking that they'd just sit there, polishing their guns when male suitors came to the house. Hence I never had a bf. Do not do this lol
It helps to remember that we were in that stage not long ago (okay, for me, a long time ago), too, Charlotte! I’m the lucky one to have them to watch over. I don’t own a gun, so the whole scare tactic wouldn’t go far with me! I prefer to try and let them believe I can match them, wit for wit. Honestly, I’ve been lucky, as the boys who’ve come around have been respectful.
My girl are not teenagers yet but they do need a lot of feeding. I’m looking forward to these fun years. Wish me luck. (*•̀ᴗ•́*)و ̑̑
It doesn’t stop, Pat. It’s going to be a blast because they can start to learn to make gourmet dishes such as mac and cheese and sometimes pancakes. Maybe the Force be with you!
Thanks, Eli! I need all the support I can get. (≚ᄌ≚)
I’ve got you.
Thanks for this! My stepdaughter 11 and we’ll on her way to these fun T years. I need voices like youts to help me find the the words to keep my poor husband same! 😂 (And yes….me too!)