By Jim Palmer
From about age 0-12, my three boys would often “light up” when I would walk through the door. It was a big deal when daddy was home. I was a bit of a hero in their eyes. Then something happened right around the ages of 12 and 13 that changed things. While they (usually) acknowledge my presence, the excitement level is not nearly where it used to be. In their minds, the transformation happened to me, not them. I suddenly got much less intelligent, and more annoying and embarrassing (According to my wife, those things are only partially true). The real change happened to my boys... they became teenagers.
The transformation into a teenager doesn’t happen overnight. It often takes a few months, but it has happened to our first two boys, and it is happening to our youngest right now. This month, for the first time in our household, all three of our boys will be teenagers. Noah turns 18 in July, Zach is 16, and our youngest, Easton, turns 13 in July.
This means, for the next few years, my wife and I will be viewed as the two least logical, cool, and intelligent soles on the planet (in our boys’ eyes). As the teen years end, I’m told by other parents that we will suddenly become smart and logical again. The “cool” factor, however, may never return.
The change from fun-loving, pre-teen boy to full-fledged teenager doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes a couple months for the transformation to be completed. To get a good visual, find the movie Teen Wolf and watch the scene where the character played by Michael J. Fox changes into a wolf for the first time. Slow down that scene so it stretches over a seven-week period, and that is pretty much how it is.
A quick search on the internet shows that we are not alone. Here are what other parents revealed about their experience:
“Having a teenager is like having a cat that only comes out to eat and hisses when you try to pet it.”
“Hell hath no fury like a teenager who was kindly, gently asked by their loving parent, “‘Hey, how are you this morning?’”
“A nice thing my teenage son does to help around the house is tell us when we’re out of the junk food he likes.”
“Having a teen is sending them an ‘I love you’ text and getting a thumbs up reply.”
“Welcome to being the parent of a teenager. Prepare for large amounts of eye-rolling, emotional outbursts, and thoughts of running away. And that’s just the parents!”
“Road trips with teenagers are fun if you enjoy them eating all the good snacks and then tell you your music choices are garbage.”
“Raising teenagers is like nailing Jell-O to a tree.”
“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”
Some of the requirements of being a teenage boy includes keeping their room messy at all times, leaving random stuff around the house, keeping their bedroom door closed, perfecting the art of eye rolling, using bizarre words and phrases that only make sense to their friends, never wearing a winter coat (ever), and the ability to eat a full meal on their own an hour before we serve up the regular meal (they eat a lot!).
Of course, all of us were teenagers at some point. Some of us were probably angels as teenagers... and some were so bad that they undoubtedly took several years off their parents’ lives. There is a quote that goes something like, “The scariest part of raising teenagers is remembering the stupid things you did as a teenager.” I can relate to that. If I’m being honest, I was probably more difficult as a teenager to my parents than all three of my boys have been to us. And really, my boys haven’t been too difficult... just a little more challenging, unpredictable, hairier, and hungrier then they used to be.
And who can blame teens for being difficult. There are a lot of things going on inside a teenager’s body -- their brain and bodies are changing daily. And today’s teen has some new challenges. I grew up in the 1980s. Things were fairly simple with no cell phones, no internet, and only the start of cable TV. Life wasn’t as simple in the 80’s as it was in the 1950s and 1960s, but it was pretty close. And while some things have gotten easier for teens over the years through changes in technology, many things have gotten much harder because of technology. So it is important to factor that in before you judge teens too harshly.
If anyone should be prepared for three teenage boys, it should be me. I was the middle child in a family of three boys myself. My youngest brother, Steven, is eight years younger, so we were never all teenagers at the same time in the same house, but I know my parents had some similar challenges during our teen years. Like most teens, I had acne, crushes, and mood swings. I had hormones rushing through my body, and was trying to figure out who I was and what I was going to do with the rest of my life. It was my first time driving a car and experiencing independence. It was one of the most exciting, fun, and difficult periods of my life.
What should you do if you encounter a teen “in the wild?” For many, dealing with a teenager can be a little daunting. But it’s not that difficult if you remember... they are still learning to be an adult, and you can help them get there. Just remember that African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Like most parents of teenagers, if you encountered one of our sons, I would want you do the following: Be honest if they are doing wrong, lead by example, show them the high road, listen to them, show them what it means to be responsible, and let them know that you are human and make mistakes too. And if you can break down the communication barrier between generations, you would be surprised how big of an impact you can make on teenagers. Our boys have had some wonderful role models, and some of those mentors and influencers have come from unexpected places. It truly does take a village.
As my wife and I brace ourselves for having three teenage boys in the house (officially on July 10), we also know that the clock is ticking. And its ticking louder every day. In about a month and a half, our oldest son heads to college. And in five short years, we will have an empty nest. The chaos and excitement of having three teenage boys in the house will suddenly go quiet. So, while a part of us is enduring these teenage years, there is a bigger part that is cherishing every moment of them. We have had the opportunity to laugh and cry with them, teach them and learn from them, cheer them on in their activities, and watch them grow up. Ultimately, they are transforming from boys to men right before our eyes. Yeah, that’s pretty cool.