Do you remember when you thought being pregnant was hard? Remember proclaiming that the newborn stage was hella tough? What about your experience with the terrible twos? They weren’t exactly a walk in the park were they? The teenage years are kind of the same thing but the kids are just bigger and hairier. Oh, and this stage also goes on for longer. And comes with added hormones, stress and anxiety. And a probable language barrier. Teenagers might also make you feel ancient.
Teenagers are also highly volatile creatures, and they will bite your head off for the most ridiculous reasons.
Like asking them to put a spoon in the dishwasher, for example.
I first became the owner of a teenager about 6 years ago. And it’s been a period of intense learning. For me, mostly. So I thought I’d pass on some of the things you need to know about teenagers.
1. Don’t go in their bedrooms.
Teenagers need their privacy and are very protective of their environment. Also, if you do in there you’ll balk at the state of it and that’s not good for anybody. I’ve seen tidier skips to be honest. Not much makes them angrier than being disturbed when they’re relaxing in their natural environment. Especially if the source of disturbance is a parent asking them unreasonable questions. Like, how was your day?
Plus, if you have boys, you really don’t want to catch them in the act of something you don’t want to see!
2. Don’t ask them to tidy their bedrooms.
It doesn’t matter if you ask nicely, shout at them or offer bribery, you’ll be met with the same response : Eye rolling, attitude, and zero action. Teenagers are always too tired to hold a Hoover, but not tired enough to put their phones down. They can’t work out how to put a clean pillowcase on, but they can easily install any kind of new technology in seconds.
Don’t bother arguing with them about it.
Instead, tell them their mate is coming over in an hour. You can guarantee their bedroom floor will reappear in next to no time.
3. Don’t be tempted to clean their bedroom for them.
Unless you want to touch things that could be a new species of something, catch ebola, or have an asthma attack because of all the dust (even if you weren’t asthmatic before you went in there), don’t touch a thing.
Do not be tempted to clean their room as a “nice surprise” for them. Your teenager will probably go mad, and not be at all appreciative of your hard work.
I mean, how could you interfere with their organised chaos for goodness sake?? How are they supposed to bloody find anything if you’ve moved it off the floor and hung it in a wardrobe???
4. Don’t put their washing away for them.
It is highly likely that you will find all kinds of secret crap in their drawers that you didn’t want to see.
And for goodness sake, never ask a younger child to go and put something into the teenagers drawers. Unless of course you’re prepared for your younger child to suddenly appear next to you and shove something that’s vibrating in your face, and then ask you “Mummy, what’s this?”
5. Never speak to them in the morning.
You know that feeling when you’ve been dragged out of bed at 2am to discover a child puking everywhere except the toilet? Add to that the feeling of trying to clean it up before the dog eats it, whilst the child is still screaming and then discovering you’ve got no coffee left? This is the mood teenagers wake up in every day.
Even if they sleep in until noon.
Joe once told me that:
Your voice is so annoying it makes my brain scream to get out of my head. And that’s the only reason I’m getting out of bed.Joe Fox circa 2016
So that was nice.
I like to time when I Hoover for around the time I want a teenager to be awake. Even if they start screaming at me, I won’t be able to hear them because of the Hoover.
6. Don‘t act happy to see them.
I can’t stress the importance of this one. Never act happy to see them.
Whether it’s picking them up from school/college or greeting them when they’ve come back from a week‘s trip away, NEVER jump out of the car for a hug.
You will be met with the most chilling stare, limp arms, huffs and more eye rolling. You will also be called ‘hella embarrassing’ or ‘bare moist’ and feel rejected for the rest of your life. So just say hi and hug them in the privacy of your own home.
7. Don’t sing along to the radio.
Picture the scene : You’re driving along and a song comes on the radio that takes you back to your teens. Instantly you’re transported back to a time with no responsibilities, no wrinkles and no grey hair. You can’t resist turning the radio up and singing along. And why would you? You can remember every word to this song! Goodbye responsibilities! Wave those bingo wings in the air like you just don’t care! (Not at the same time, you’re driving remember).
Don’t ever do this with a teenager in the car. For some reason they aren’t impressed when you’re able to rap every lyric from Gangster’s Paradise. They don’t care if “Love in the 90’s is so paranoid”. And they definitely aren’t overjoyed to hear you singing “Push it”.
They will, however, try to escape from the car whether you’re doing 70mph on a motorway, or sat at a red light.
It annoys them even more if you know all the lyrics to a track they love.
It is perfectly acceptable to do this when they aren’t in the car though. Whack up the volume and release your inner rapper.
8. Don’t ask them what they want for dinner.
Teenagers have no imagination, and are hungry ALL THE TIME. So daring to probe them on what they want for dinner is essentially the same as lighting the touch paper of the hangry bomb. They don’t care what it is. They just want to EAT! They’re STARVING!!
You know what they eat by now, so just make something they’ve eaten before. They’ll either reject the roast dinner you’ve lovingly slaved over in favour of a pot noodle or they’ll eat it. Whatever. They’ll never starve. (See number 13).
9. Don’t ask them how school or college was.
There’s no point. The only answer you’ll ever get is ‘fine’. It’s very rare for a teenager to expand on this, so if you genuinely want to know how their day was, give them a different opening. Ask them who the most popular teacher is, and why. Or ask them what they were thinking about in assembly instead of listening. Chances are, they’ll carry on talking to you and you’ll get a good indication of their day.
10. Never expect any kind of affection from them.
But take it when it’s offered. Yes, they probably show more affection to their phones than they do to you, but don’t let it get to you. As long as they know they can have a hug whenever they want one, they will eventually approach you. If you need cuddles to get you through a day, get a puppy instead. They always want to give and receive attention and are always happy to see you.
11. Say your goodbyes to your cutlery, crockery and glasses.
They will soon be living in the teenage wasteland. They will become prisoners of laziness and growers of new species. I’ve stopped nagging mine about all the missing stuff now, because they don’t listen. Or they deny having anything in their rooms. But they’re bloody quick to go and retrieve their stashes of dirty things when they realise they can’t eat their dinner with their hands. Or they want a drink and there are no glasses.
Don’t be tempted to buy them their own mugs in the hope they will just use them. They will. But they’ll also use all the other stuff too.
12. Always check their pockets before doing a load of laundry.
Teenagers are notorious for leaving things in their pockets. Depending on their age you could find ; Keys, lipstick, chapstick, tissues, lighters even. And you can bet it‘s always your fault when the washing machine ruins whatever they left in their pockets. You won’t get thanks for washing their dirty clothes, but you will get demands to replace the items.
Counteract these demands with ‘OK, you do your laundry from now on then’ and you’ll find all is forgiven.
13. Don’t bother unpacking your shopping.
I can’t reiterate this enough: Teenagers are always hungry. Returning from the supermarket laden with bags of groceries is the closest you’ll get to feeling like an Olympic champ.
They’ll actually be happy to see you, and will eat everything straight from the shopping bags which saves you the trouble of putting it all away. Oh, and by the way, you haven’t gone mad, you did buy 24 packets of crisps, 4 loaves of bread and 24 minirolls yesterday, and yes they have all been eaten.
14. Just love them.
Despite all the attitude, eye rolling, refusal to speak to you or be seen in public with you, accusations of you being the worst parent in the world, they do still love you. Their rejection is just a part of them becoming independent from you. They are full of hormones and feelings that they don’t know what to do with. Especially when something dreadful happens. Like a minuscule drop in internet signal/speed. That can bring about rage like you wouldn’t believe. And their bodies are busy growing, making them perma-hungry and exhausted.
They will grow out of it. I’m told that by the time they’re 25 they will appreciate everything you’ve done for them. Although I have to say that my eldest is days away from being 19 now, and he’s much more reasonable and responsive.
But the BEST thing about teenagers is that they make you miss those days where they loved you so much they wouldn’t let you shit in peace.
I like to remind mine of this when they’re being extra-attitudey. It makes them cringe so much it renders them speechless.
If your little darling hasn’t quite reached the teenager years yet, have a read of my parents guide to puberty here.