posted on: Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Hello. A version of this post also appears on the blogzine Selfish Mother.

This teenage parenting business, it really sorts the wheat from the chaff. Weary after a particularly challenging weekend, I sent an 'SOS' emoji-laden text to a good friend and she, in response, met me for lunch to deliver a pep talk. Thank goodness. I thought parenting toddlers was as hard as it was going to get (it's circa 2003, 8.54am, zero sleep, crushed rice cakes on the floor and the thirteenth play of the 'Nemo' DVD, a whole (rainy) day stretching ahead). But now: I laugh in the face of that! I am not saying it's not challenging; it absolutely is, but just that the teenage stage, presently, is winning hands down.

It's mentally exhausting. Trying to work it all out. Teenagers behave with such abandon - I read an article that suggested it's how their brains are wired. The mood swings. The love/hate. The outfit choices. The sheer, unadulterated unreasonableness. Self with a capital 'S'. To be honest I can laugh about it much of the time, but occasionally (this weekend) I wanted to cry. The kind of parent I thought I was, the kind I want to be, gets obliterates. And we get a crazy lady in return. One who says strange (sometimes shameful) stuff. 'She drove me to it!'. And after all my teenager daughter is, on the whole, a good girl; I can hardly complain.

I do wonder whether it is exacerbated by the timing of my life? I maintained it was a good thing to be a young mum; she's 13, I am 40. Many of my peers are still in the toddler/rice cake stage. I look back on that like a distant, somewhat scary memory. But my own teenage years don't seem all that long ago and I feel like I hurtled into adulthood like a missile; met my husband at 18, married at 25, baby by 27, career, dream house in our thirties. Here I am splat bang at 40 and the missile course has come to an abrupt stop!

Meanwhile I try to console myself with the knowledge that maybe boy teenagers aren't quite so hard?!

I keep reverting to what seems basic and sensible. Consistency, especially between my husband and I, in setting boundaries. Thinking ahead to what really matters and what doesn't. Picking my battles - wait, isn't that advice for the parent of the toddler? Flash back: 'No, you can't go outside without a coat, wearing only a synthetic Disney princess outfit'. Knowing deep down that if I just keep my cool it will all be fine. The quick-fire 'can do this/go here/have that person over/get collected at 11pm' questions that litter every conversation. The realisation that if I say no, sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's Armageddon. The somewhat frightening transformation that make-up can create. Boys. Boys who come round and smell of teen aftershave. Well - not even aftershave, more like liberal use of body spray. There's no shaving - yet.

Being balanced and measured about all matters. Bolstering self confidence. Providing safety. Providing money (endlessly - I should have shares in Costa Coffee and their ham and cheese panini sales). Being the grown up.

It's something else, I can tell you.

And always - the spectre of danger, catastrophe, a wrong turn, a poorly judged acquaintance, a lie, the time she goes to a party and finds there is no adult in charge, just marauding teenagers, fuelled by alcohol, a million little things that could go wrong. And then conversely the million things that can go right; the aced test, the charm, the mature opinion that you know you've shaped, the smiles and the beauty and the sheer hopefulness of a whole life ahead. It's enough to make me burst with pride. Look what we did.

Take a deep breath... :-)


  1. Oh Lou, I could have written this myself.....although, not of course, nearly as eloquently.

    I am SOOOOOOOO where you are right now....and am overwhelmed by it.....after vowing that this year I would not be!!

    "Being the parent I want to be"....I hear you! A real challenge right now. Some days I feel like a howling weeping banshee, inside anyway ;)

    Picking your battles.....when some days every exchange (because sometimes they are not what I term conversations) is a battle.

    So so so much harder than the primary school stage....oh my GOODNESS!!

    And every time I think I've got some kind of handle on things, I haven't!!

    I can't seem to every get it right....but I'll keep on trying.

    Some day we'll look back and laugh....won't we?! Hang in there Xx

  2. Having raised 3 daughters, I understand you completely!

    In the thick of it, I once did a self-directed survey of 30 couples who had raised/were raising both boys and girls. The single question? "Which gender is easier to raise and why?" All except one said boys were easier. And the one answer to the "why" that has remained with me all these years is - "boys are so much kinder to their mothers".

    How very true. I can recall many times when I ended up in tears or felt like a failure. Teen girls are very hard on their mothers - especially if they are strong-willed, like mine are.

    There was one thing I learned to do, though, that I think salvaged many mother/daughter confrontations. I learned to bite my tongue. A LOT! Many times I literally bit my tongue, the pain reminding me that here stood a young woman trying desperately to become herself and not her mother. And, as much as I disliked her in this moment, I loved her with all my heart.

    Now my youngest is 22 and I look back and wonder how we did it. But we did, mistakes and all. They have become 3 strong independent women of whom I am so proud.

    So hang in there. These years go by so fast.

    1. Can I just say that I was really glad to read this comment....not just because my second child is a boy but also because you have clearly come out the other side :)

  3. I have a boy on the verge of the teen years - 12 years old. Feels like 16 years old sometimes and 6 at other times! Adorable at times, just plain rude and disrespectful at others. Trying to keep him focussed on one thing at a time, without 'needing' to check text messages, is a full-time job in itself! We clash, often. I escape to yoga and hope on my return I will have the willpower to not raise my voice again! It's a battle, which I fear is just beginning! I think he's going to be a tough one to get through these coming teenage years, and then I read the comments about girls! At least I have 7 more years to prepare for my little one to get there!

  4. I don't have a girl, so I can't speak to that - but I do have a boy. And he wasn't too difficult as a teen, for the most part. The worst of it for him was the tween years - between about 12-14.

  5. OK ……. I have a boy and a girl who are now 35 and 33 …… my experience is that both genders have different things to deal with. In my experience, boys are easier { no bitchiness and very rarely trouble with friends …… they either like someone who is a friend or they don't and aren't a friend !! } Girls seem to have more trouble in the friend department and with make-up, clothes etc { although, our son did go through that hair that looked like curtains and those awful long shorts !! } BUT …. when they get older, there are lovely relationships to be had with both so, don't worry Lou ….. you and your husband are doing a grand job and just remember that it would be very odd if your children were perfect and never caused you any grief …… it's all a learning process for them and for you. XXXX

  6. Hi,

    I very rarely comment here, but I do really like your blog. I thought you might like this piece:


    Not because of the home educating thing, just because it talks about parenting wobbles and how we all have them.

    Best wishes,


  7. It is a challenge, but there is no challenge more worthwhile. My daughter and I had more and louder arguments than my son and I did. She knew how to press my buttons (and I probably pressed hers, too). My son didn't argue about much. He just didn't say very much, and did what he was going to do. My daughter is now 31 and my son is 28. It is hard to believe how intense things were back then. It is a very different perspective looking back at things from a now empty nest.

    I laughed out loud at something I had completely forgotten about - teenage boy body spray/after shave. My son used to slather it on in the morning before high school. His "Hatchet" body spray at 630 in the morning gave me migraines and nausea. I used to have to leave the door open and open a window, and turn on the kitchen fan to try to get the fumes out of the house every morning. Finally, I told him he would have to take it with him and put it on after he got out of the house. He did. Thank goodness. Those poor teachers having to be in a stuffy classroom with a bunch of teenage boys and their "Hatchet" body spray fumes.

    Things get easier, better as time goes by. It will go by faster than you think it will.

  8. the primary task of adolescence is to separate from your parents. It is most often painful and ugly for everyone involved. If it does not happen, you have your 40 year old child living with you.

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  10. Just happened upon your blog a few minutes ago. Second post I read is about teens. I thought I was alone. Teen years are past, but during I thought I was losing my mind and would have, literally, a heart attack any second, every single day for years. The first three kids were a piece of cake compared to the fourth. He outdid all of them combined and then some. I'd read once that the lengths teens go to exert their independence is a sign of intelligence, so I thought he must be a genius! While there are still areas that need improving, I'm happy to report that all of my worrying, all the nagging, preaching, direction, advice, whatever, he actually heard and listened! All those years I thought it went in one ear and out the other, it actually took root. The first time I realized that, and yes I was graced with more than one example, it was as if the whole world lifted off my shoulders, my boy was going to be ok. So, don't quit trying. Through all the anxiety, the screaming and the appearance that you hate each other's guts, the one thing they'll always know and the one thing they'll always hold onto is that you cared enough. They'll know you loved them enough and admire you for it. So hang in there, it does get better!

  11. I had my first at 26 and second at 29. I'm so not prepared for this. Ha!