There is no formal announcement: "Mom, Dad, I've made my transition into adolescence! Things are about to get real." The crazy world of parenting teenagers just sneaks up on us.
As early as age ten, kids begin cultivating habits and attitudes which soon blossom into full-fledged adolescence. It can be disorienting, because everything stops making sense. Only when we recognize where we are can we adjust and properly tend our new landscape.
The sooner we recognize signs of adolescent behavior, the sooner we can wake up and act accordingly. (Parenting teens is different than parenting a seven-year old). If we can name a thing, we can understand it. If we know what it is, we may be less afraid of it (and I'm here to tell you, teenagers can be pretty scary). Knowing the nature of the beast figures mightily in our ability to tame it.
And so. If you've heard one or more of the following come out of your mouth lately, step back and take inventory. Is it possible you have an adolescent on your hands? (Take heart: your kids aren't rotten or ruined--at least not permanently. They're just entering the wasteland of adolescence.)
IF YOU FIND YOURSELF SAYING THESE THINGS . . . YOU MIGHT HAVE AN ADOLESCENT ON YOUR HANDS
1. "That's the fourth jacket you have lost this year!" (or phone, textbook, glasses, key, mouthguard or . . . .) This is often where it begins.
2. "You have an F! An actual F!" If a perennial star pupil suddenly loses interest or ability when it comes to school, you're probably IN IT.
3. "But you LOVE baseball! You can't just quit!" Likewise gymnastics, groups of friends and other passions. Dropping things they have loved all their lives is a sure sign: you've got a teenager in your house.
4. "Can you say something positive for a change?" Gradually--and then all of a sudden--their negative commentary on the world will overwhelm you. When every sentence begins, "You know what sucks . . ." or "You know what's cheap about . . . " or "You know what I hate . . . ," you've entered Teenage Wasteland.
5. "Who ate all the cereal?"If your child eats like an animal and/or sleeps like a rock, the brave new world of adolescence is right around the corner.
6. "What did you just say? I swear, I can't understand you!" Does the kid who spoke in full sentences before her second birthday now mumble, grunt and spit her replies to you? Check. That's a teenager.
7. "Please remove your headphones when I am speaking to you." The tendency to retreat from us into their own, surly little worlds? Particularly when that checking-out is accompanied by an angry, private soundtrack? Yes, indeed: that's adolescence! (7a: "Will you just come out of your bedroom for a change?")
8. "Why is the bathroom door locked?" A sudden (and suspicious) need for privacy is a tell-tale sign. Times, along with hormonal little bodies, they are a changin'.
Well, Friends, where do you stand? If you recognize yourself or your child here, welcome aboard! Now that you have your bearings, make the appropriate adjustments and keep your chin up (and please keep reading about new role models for all of us!). Together, we'll help each other find our way to that enchanted land of healthy, happy adulthood for the people we love best in the world.
And in honor of your new position on the map, Pete Townshend and the boys remind us where we are: