I don’t write too much about Nick’s diabetes any more because we’ve reached the point where writing about the diabetes is inextricably connected to writing about parenting a teenager – and writing about parenting a teenager isn’t cool because teenagers are not generally okay with having their family interactions served up as fodder for public discussion. It’s a shame, really, because parents of teenagers could certainly use the exchange of information, stories and ideas as much as the moms and dads of the under-five set. In fact, the struggles around breastfeeding, whether or not to put a toddler in time out, how to get your picky child to eat – well, all that just seems so quaint. Your three-year-old is having a tantrum? Yawn. At least the power dynamic is obvious and intact.
But having teenagers isn’t all bad. You can leave them at home, for example, and be relatively confident that they won’t stick a fork into the electrical outlet. This is very useful for those times when they make you so crazy you just need to get the hell out of the house and go for a long calming walk on the beach. Or a long calming drink at the bar. (And they will judge you, oh, how they will judge you!)
Now, let me make it absolutely clear that my children are smart, kind, sociable, helpful, resourceful young people – anyone who knows them will vouch, absolutely. One thing about my kids is they’ve all been super excellent people out in the world – they save their scorn for their parents only – hooray! Because that’s good. That’s exactly the sort of thing that, when you’re the parent of a teenager, gives you hope that you’re not: 1.) completely doomed; 2.) raising a sociopath; 3.) the stupidest mother that ever lived in the history of all the world, ever; 4.) all of the above.
The other thing about teenagers – and young adults, as my daughters are now – is that they are just brimming with youth. Vitality. Skin and bodies that gravity has yet to ravage. Hearts that have yet to harden. Chances that have yet to be taken. So no matter how well-kept you are, no matter how fit, how excellent your highlights and dedicated your regimen, the truth stares you in the face: you are no longer young, baby. And every day, they do their very best to accelerate your personal aging process.
“But you’re almost done!” people say. Usually the parents of younger children or childless people. I don’t know what they’re thinking, exactly – that the kid turns 18 and you’re suddenly unshackled? You get to clock out and go home? That because these people you’ve loved more than anything for a huge chunk of your life are now “adults” that your concern dials down to only middling? That your children being out in the world means you’ll never lie awake at 3 a.m. worrying about the choices they’ve made, are making? Well, wouldn’t that be nice?!
In all fairness, when they’re out of the house, it is a little easier. But it’s not easy.
Now I’m feeling a bit guilty for making the parenting thing sound so grim. (It is!) So here is something very fun, hooray!, about having teenagers: You can watch high quality shows and movies with them without regard to the sex/violence content. Yeah! Bonding over True Blood! You’ve been wanting to re-watch the entire Sopranos catalog anyway – here’s your chance!
Yep. See, not all bad.
Oh, and there is one thing worse than being the parent of a teenager: being one.