This is an unofficial sequel to Dustin’s previous column about The Horrors of Raising A Baby, which (of course) movies and television will never teach you. Dustin also educated the world about The Horrors of Caring for Sick Children and the unique Horrors of Raising Twins. Courtney and TK have also joined in with some parenting discussions of their own, and I’ve linked their pieces below.
My daughter is a newly-minted teenager at age 13 1/2, but I’ve learned so much already from the experience. I’m not an expert and, clearly, have many more years of learning to do because each day presents new challenges and surprises. She’s (obviously) no longer in diapers, and she can babysit her own cousins, but there are downsides to this age as well. Here are just a few things I’ve jotted down from the experience thus far:
1. The teenage attitude will materialize overnight. Did you previously parent a toddler and elementary-aged school kid who visibly adored you with all their heart? Did they shriek with joy as you picked them up from school or daycare? They may have proudly introduced you to their friends like this: “This is my momma. Her name is Kimberly, but I call her ‘Mommy.’” Those days are over, my friends. You’ll now feel lucky as they shuffle to your car, toss their backpack into the back seat, and climb into the “cool” front seat with a big sigh. If you’re even less cool than I am, they might ask you to park around the corner.
2. Bedtime as you know it is now backwards. Your child once bounced out of bed at 6:20 am on Saturday. They demanded to “play.” If you’re still in that stage with your kid, enjoy it. Relish it. Once they turn 13 years old, you’ll have to pry their asses out of the bed with a forklift. You can choose not to do so, but then they’ll still be awake after midnight. Your call.
3. Get used to reading young-adult books and watching all the movie adaptations. You’ll know the “whos” and “hows” of the major franchises well before they hit theaters. More on that later.
4. Let’s cut to the chase — periods. If you’re a mother of a teenage girl, then you’ll soon realize that your periods are not the only ones you have to worry about. Now you’ve got twice the hormones raging and twice the maxi-pad budget. If you’re lucky, you’ll sync cycles and get all the misery out of the way during the same week. Note to single mothers: You’ll probably want to buy a supply for dad’s house too. As wonderful as most fathers are, most of them absolutely will not step foot into the “pad aisle” at the grocery store. Fathers: If you do end up in that very bad aisle, never (ever) choose to save a few cents on the wingless variety of pads.
5. Two more words on that last issue that deserve their own list entry without further elaboration: Period stains. One more word: OxiClean.
6. Raising a teenager comes with the sudden realization that you’re retroactively paying for everything you did to your own parents. All of the bad music, horrible clothing, and immature friends you had? Your kid’s music is even worse. Their friends are even more spoiled and bratty than yours were. If your kid has any taste at all, then they’ll hate Justin Bieber as much as you do. Small blessings.
7. It’s not all bad. You no longer have to limit yourself to watching kiddie movies at the theater. Most teenagers are mature enough to watch PG-13 movies before age 13. The same goes for super violent, R-rated flicks. You know your kid and what they can handle.
8. Keeping the fridge well-stocked is still a problem. Now that your kid can open the refrigerator themselves and fix their own snacks, you’ll have to find a new place to hide the Thin Mints. Luckily, there is no shortage of companies willing to pander to you during all of your shopping trips.
9. The growth spurts of a teenager are ridiculous. Your “little” kid is shooting up in height, which means that you’ll never be able to keep them in clothing that fits. There’s a slight possibility that (as a mother) you’ll enjoy about 5 minutes of wearing the same size as your daughter. This too shall pass.
10. Boys will happen. Your worst nightmare will be realized when other people start sharing your opinion that your teenage daughter is gorgeous. You’ll laugh merrily at the suggestion that your daughter wants to go on a date. “Maybe in a few years,” you say as you try and erase the memory of people making out in stairwells during junior high. You’ll also be preparing to take revenge on the first boy who crushes her heart. That little bastard.
11. Your daughter’s teenage crushes will amuse you. Harry Styles IS very cute and ultimately harmless as an object of affection. You can also rest assured that in two decades, he’ll be the topic of an E! True Hollywood Story.
12. Edward Cullen is a stupid, cardboard character, but he isn’t as bad as his critics make him out to be … for one reason: Because your daughter is crushing on a chivalrous vampire, she’s going to have a hard time finding a human counterpart that measures up to Stephenie Meyer’s frustrated creation. A guy who won’t pressure your daughter into the sack? No problem. You’ll get used to that cardboard standee of Robert Pattinson in your daughter’s bedroom. He’ll only scare the shit out of you twice before you remember that he’s not an intruder in your home.
13. If your daughter has vision problems, then eyeglasses are your secret weapon. If they can keep the boys away from your daughter for another few years, they’re worth holding onto. Know not give into the pleas for contact lenses. Remind your daughter that glasses are now much cuter than they were when you wore the coke-bottle variety.
14. Mood swings can and will happen at any moment. Sometimes your daughter doesn’t even know why she’s crying. Just be there for her if she wants to talk, but don’t pry. This may or may not be related to list item #4.
15. The college years are closer than you think. Do everything you can — math workbooks, shelling out for test prep (but be wary of scams geared towards gullible parents of precious snowflakes) — to give your child a chance at earning scholarships. Start early because there’s a fair chance that you don’t be able to help them pay for college … especially if you’re still paying off your own student loans.
16. Memories may be precious to you, but do your best not to remind your teenager of their baby years. They do not enjoy hearing about the times that you opened their diaper only to have them poop across the room. They also do not like hearing about how they loudly counted “all four cheeks” while standing in a booth at Panera Bread.
17. BUT you may decide that their embarrassment is worth it if you’re feeling passive-aggressive. Such as when you’re at a stoplight and “Blurred Lines” starts playing on the radio. Your teenager will reach for the dial, but you’ll crank up the tune and start dancing as they wail in humiliation: “Stop. It. Someone might see you!” This might be fun, but it could backfire in the future. I’ll let you know.
18. Your teenager knows by now that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, but they’ll still enjoy pretending in the privacy of their own home. Oblige them.
19. The internet is a terrible place when it comes to your teenager. Never forget that they are smarter than you at navigating technology. Do not simply rely upon parental controls to do the job. Know their Facebook password and check their web history. Are you being paranoid? Maybe, but the internet is full of James Francos waiting for you to screw up.
20. Your teenager will lie to you. All the time. Even if they’re a really good kid, it happens. Mostly, they lie about little stuff like what they ate for dinner at grandma’s house, but those are gateway lies. Just assume they’re not going to tell you everything, and figure out the truth for yourself.
21. Teenagers are incredibly crafty at getting away with shit. Remember how much crap you used to get away with that your parents knew about? You may have snuck away to the high-school smoke hole even when your dad was a teacher at the same school. (Hi, Dad.) You can never be too vigilant in your observations, but don’t call your kid out on every little thing. Pick your parental battles.
22. If they’re only 13 like my daughter, then they’re not driving yet. Thank god.
23. You’ll spend many sleepless nights wondering if you’ll be able to “do good” in raising your own child. Relax. Your parents got through it without screwing you up too badly, right? Maybe not.
24. You’ll struggle to strike a balance between being a hard-ass parent and someone that your daughter will come to when she has a problem and really needs to talk. Because as painful as some of those conversations may be, you’ll appreciate the hell of it when she trusts you with her feelings.
25. Basically, raising a teenager gives you a shot at reliving your own adolescence x 5. This is both a blessing and a curse, but embrace every aspect of the experience because — in only a few years — they’ll be off on their own journey of adulthood. Maybe they’ll even let you babysit your grandkids someday.
Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She can be found at Celebitchy.