The toddler years seem so far away now, chubby cheeks, temper tantrums, defiance and wanting to try out everything themselves without any help or advice, messy rooms, toothpaste all over the bathroom (and I mean all over the bathroom), after attempting to clean by themselves …… oh hang on, wait a minute!
Yup, fast forward and nothing’s really changed, they’ve just grown in height considerably and now eat us out of house and home. One main difference is the sleeping pattern, I remember us spending hours trying to get the little cherubs off to sleep, rocking, pushing them around the block and then gently trying to scoop them out of the push-chair into the cot-bed without breathing, so as not to stir and the minute they hit the bed. Bellowing cries and wide awake! Now, can we get them up and out of bed? Hell no! Not even when we had builders climbing all over our roof did our son stir, the whole roof was tiled and soffits replaced. He still slept through to mid-day and we live in a dorma-bungalow for goodness sake! I just wish I could sleep for that long or even had the time! They do say that youth is wasted on the youth. Unfortunately, parenting does not come with a manual and nor should it really – good parenting comes with experience and knowing your own child. Over the years we have learnt how to nurture our little saplings and definitely know when to let situations lie and when to choose our battles. Still a long way to go but here’s a few DO’s and DON’T on how we approach life with our teens:
Just because they’ve grown-up doesn’t mean to say ditch the routines. Remember the toddler and earlier years, bath time, milk time, story time and then bed time? I do think Teens benefit from having a routine, we try and sit down at the table and eat together most evenings (obviously clubs and other activities permitting). As they tend to fester in their bedrooms on most other occasions, it’s sometimes the only way the four of us do get together to socialise and discuss things. We do also try and set a time for bed, due to their bat-like tendencies they would stay up all night. I believe setting routines and advising them of when we are doing anything out of the norm does help, (particularly Teen One) who struggles when we do anything impromptu. It just lets them know where they stand.
Electronics (Mobile Phones, Laptops, The Xbox etc. etc.)
Yep a constant battle in our house-hold trying to extract them off the darn things. If Teen One spent as much time and effort on his studies as he did on the Xbox he would be a scholar, a brainchild and probably on his way to Oxbridge to study biochemistry or majoring in some Ology or other by now! And if they are not glued to the Xbox controller, it’s the mobile or laptop. Unfortunately, technology is the way forward and it’s never going to change, all we can do is try and restrict their use. With Teen 2 it’s the phone, so this is removed before heading off to bed and with Teen 1 the Xbox finishes at 10 pm. This is in order for the wired Teen 1 to come back down to earth, park himself in the kitchen and then munch his way through 200 grams of Cornflakes and a pint of milk. We’ve had many a battle over gaming and I’m sure many more to come, unfortunately most of the games are designed for the player to become addicted and that’s what it does. I do think children on the ASD are prone to this as it’s very stimulating and gives them confidence without having to be confront ‘real people’ face to face. As a parent I try not to get too anxious about all of this, I know talking to other mum friends (especially those with teenage boys) that we are not alone in our battles so I just try and roll with it (through gritted teeth).
The Bedroom Situation
Like walking through Beirut 99% of the time, dirty plates, empty drinks cartons, clothes left dumped on the floor, un-made beds, dirty trails of pants, muddy football boots – it’s like a weekly shopping list. However, as mentioned earlier chose your battles, it’s just not worth it in the grand scheme of things. They do receive daily reminders from both of us “To tidy that flipping bedroom” or words to that effect, but at the end of the day they are still healthy and haven’t caught any infections. They are yet to show any signs of embarrassment about the room situation (even when they have friends up there), and the friends always come out alive and well, so we tend not to sweat about the small stuff and just close the doors instead.
These do happen occasionally but under duress and only when we ask them (God forbid on their own initiative). Just simple things like taking rubbish out to the dustbins, emptying the dishwasher, laying the table. Our Teen 1 is at the stage were his limbs are growing faster than him (so a bit clumsy) and whilst it is tempting to do most of the jobs ourselves rather than face cleaning up after he’s dropped half the contents of the bin on the floor. They do need to learn and take on some responsibility. Teen 1 does have a part-time job so he is slowly going in the right direction, so there is hope out there everyone.
So, we always try and make them plan ahead, do not leave your homework to the last minute, have you handed in your homework? have you got any homework? It always falls on deaf ears, and we’ve settled for as long as they do their homework and it gets handed in then that’s fair enough. They will learn in time. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. I do know some very successful people that thrive on leaving work projects, reports, dissertations to the last minute and achieve excellent results as they enjoy working to tight deadlines and get a buzz out of working under pressure. So not everyone is the same, we can only encourage them to be organised and to work hard.
Girlfriends / Boyfriends
We are not at that stage in our house yet; Teen 1 can’t be bothered (in his words) although he does seem to get a lot of female attention and is absolutely oblivious of the fact. Teen 2 is still at the boys are a nuisance phase (does this ever change)? We are quite relaxed about the whole scenario (now), both of them always seem to form friendships with sensible and kind children from good morale upbringings, so here’s hoping they chose partners with similar traits. I am determined not to interfere however I will advise.
My mum was never very keen on one of my partners but failed to tell me how much she disliked him until the relationship was over and then there was no holding back! Even down to his big googly eyes as she put it. I really wish she had said something, but as she explained it was my life and she didn’t want to interfere, she also felt that if she had told me I wouldn’t have listened anyway and she feared it would push me away. I always vowed from that moment that I would be honest with my children’s partners, as I wish she had.
Sex, Drugs and Alcohol
We’ve always been very open about the subject of sex and so far, both of the Teens have been very mature when talking about the whole sex thing. During the initial birds and the bee’s conversation they listened without any sort of embarrassment and were remarkably chilled, both of them telling us they knew everything already! To be honest, we were probably both more stressed out than they were. I know they do learn a lot in schools and we were even invited into school ourselves during Year 5 to watch the videos before they did. What a way to spend a Wednesday evening. You just hope that they always use protection. For girls it’s always more of a concern and you just pray they do not get taken advantage of. I think it’s a bridge we will have to cross when we get there.
The alcohol situation, they are going to drink and inevitably get drunk. Haven’t we all? I still cannot drink Malibu to this day, it makes me sick just thinking about my first drunken experience and the hangover, not to mention the telling off I got. Teen One has had a similar experience with a bottle of vodka and learnt a valuable lesson, he hasn’t done it since but then it’s early days. We were very calm about the whole situation having rescued him from a party (my stomach was in knots at the time). We didn’t tell him off though after he finally arose the next day, I think he felt embarrassed and terrible enough, instead we just reminded him about the dangers of binge drinking, fed him a Sunday roast and off he went to play football. Drugs, I don’t know if Teen One has tried anything. He does seem to be totally against them and that’s a good thing. This is a major worry of mine and no matter how many times you tell them and warn them I think it’s peer pressure and the excitement and danger that draws them in. When I was a teenager drugs weren’t as prevalent, some of the stupid boys from my school experimented with sniffing glue but that was about it. I was happy drinking cider, perhaps a little naïve but always totally against drugs. Drugs destroy families and I can only imagine the heartache it causes, so for now this is one thought I tuck away in my little box for now, otherwise you’d never let them out and worry yourself to death and don’t get me onto festivals and clubbing. The good thing is I did the clubbing scene and have lived to tell some great tales!
Hair, Make-up and Clothes
Remember the days when you could choose all your children’s outfits (without protest), lovely summer dresses and sandals with matching hair bows. Little denim dungaree shorts with cute checked shirts? Not a designer label in sight. I have officially waved the white flag and do not get involved anymore, I do have to bite my tongue on occasion, however it’s their choice and their character, not mine and I have no idea (apparently). I went through a kind of Goth phase and a stage where I customised all my own clothes, had shaved hair and orange hair (aka) Five Star but have come out the other end. If Teen Two wants to wear slugs on her eyes, that’s her choice and if Teen One wants to spend a whole month’s salary on a pair of trainers then that’s his decision, he has worked hard for the money. I only wish the clothes they do buy and wear could one day end up in the wardrobes and not the floor.
I wish all of you dealing with Teens out there the best of luck and don’t forget we were all teenagers once and probably exactly the same. It only lasts for 7 years and then onto the next stage, we’ll never stop worrying about our children and then our children’s, children. We can only set examples and try and steer them in the right direction.
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