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Lost Something? Why Teens Need Moms

Quick link: Mom, Where Is the…? Moms Help Teens Find Everything

I’m excited to share this piece, my first with Grown and Flown. It is about how teenagers can’t find anything but also, it is about how I expect (hope) that someday, eventually, they will come looking for me, too.

Here’s an excerpt:

I potty trained my kids and taught them how to eat with utensils. I helped them learn to speak and walk and have decent conversations. So by the time they became teenagers, I expected they would be half-independent. Turns out they are. Sometimes. As in, the times when they want to be. But the other times? Our conversations go a bit like this:

Mom, where is my homework?
In your backpack.
Where is my backpack?
On the hook where backpacks go.
Where is that hook?
By the front door.
Where is the front door?

Mom, where are my shoes?
In the shoe basket.
Where is the shoe basket?
By the front door.
Where is the front door?

Click here to read the rest of Mom, Where Is the…? Moms Help Teens Find Everything

How to Wake Up a Sleeping Teenager

Quick link: How to Wake a Sleeping Teenager on Vacation, in 16 Easy Steps

waking up teens

Brain Child published my essay about sleeping teens Friday. Something has clearly changed since the infant/toddler years. Used to be these same people couldn’t stay in bed past 5:30 a.m. Used to be these same people woke up talking and ready to rumble.

Especially my son. Used to be that he would wake up his twin sister every single morning. Once, when they were about five, he ran into my room, yelling, in shock.

“Mommy, mommy!” he said. “Maggie knows how to wake herself up!” Apparently he hadn’t yet gotten around to waking her and lo and behold, she could do it all by herself. Miracle of miracles.

Now? I think he is making up for wasted years of sleep. Over Christmas vacation I wanted to let the kids sleep but also wanted to spend some time with them or send them off to their tutoring job on time. This required creativity as their body clocks seemed to have been set on ‘wake up never.’

Here’s the first few tips and they get progressively more, ahem, aggressive.

1. Pound on the door. I mean pound, full-fisted, make it rattle.

2. Shout, “Time to wake up. Time to wake up. Time to wake up.”

3. Add the loudest rooster crow you can muster.

4. (You are now in the room) Shake their shoulder and say, “Good morning.”

5. Yank the pillow out from under their head and say, less gently, “Good morning.”

Click here to read the rest: How to Wake a Sleeping Teenager on Vacation, in 16 Easy Steps

How Teenagers and Toddlers are Basically the Same

Quick link: 22 Ways Teenagers are Basically Super-Sized Toddlers

Saturday Babble published my listicle about how having teenagers sometimes makes me feel like I am back to having toddlers.

Funny thing – the same week I sent this to my editor I heard three comments from parents about the exact things on the list. They compared the eating habits of teens and toddlers, the sleep habits, and one mother said the exact words you’ll find in #16 on the list. I have to say, it felt good to have those confirmations that it wasn’t just my own teenage/toddlers.

teens and toddlers

How are teens like toddlers?

1. Without insane amounts of sleep, they turn into raging monsters.

2. Their stomachs are insatiable black holes.

3. They have funny things on their faces — for toddlers it is that red ring of juice, for teenagers it is acne.

4. They throw tantrums, especially if needs #1 and #2 go unmet.

5. They don’t have anything to wear unless mom washed the pink tutu or the special blue jeans…

Click here to read the 17 other ways (and I know parents could probably list dozens more): 22 Ways Teenagers are Basically Super-Sized Toddlers

Being the Mother of Teenagers

Quick link: A Day in the Life of a Mother of Teenagers

Today at Brain Child, my essay looks at the question of whether or not a mother is relevant in the life of her teens. This was obvious when the kids needed me for simple survival, but now? How much does mom matter? Also, a bit about the challenge (what happened to all the food?) and delight (they have such great senses of humor) of raising teenagers.

a day in the life of a mother of teens

My summer day starts at 5:20 a.m. when I push open our squeaky metal gate and go for a run just as the sun begins to emerge. A rose-colored ball slithers through pockets of the gray clouds that still hover over the Gulf of Tadjourah, tinting them pink. Normally I listen to Longform podcasts—interviews with journalists—while I run but this morning I couldn’t find my iPod. I set it out last night, in the armband and with the earphones, all set to go. This morning it was gone. I could probably find it near the pillow of one of my teenagers. I also planned to eat a banana before leaving the house but those were gone, too. I could probably find a banana peel curled around the iPod.

Djibouti is hot, this morning the temperature already registers as 42 degrees Celsius, that’s 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is so humid my moisture-wicking shirt shows a line of sweat before I even walk outside the house and by the time I get home, sweat flying from every pore of my body (did you know eyelids sweat?), the only comprehensible thought in my mind is of the banana-orange-mango juice popsicles in the freezer.

Except…they’re gone. The popsicle box (still in the freezer) is empty. The countertop is littered with yellow and red plastic popsicle sticks with enough residual juice left on them to attract dozens of huge black ants. I would make a smoothie with frozen strawberries and ice cubes but the ice cube trays are empty, the bag of strawberries, though still in the freezer, is also empty. Who puts empty ice cube trays back in the freezer? Empty bags of frozen fruit back in the freezer? Teenagers.

To read more, click here: A Day in the Life of a Mother of Teenagers


Parents of Teens Give Advice to the Parents of Teens

Yesterday I published with Brain Child called Teenagers’ Advice to the Parents of Teenagers. Here is an interesting backstory to that essay.

To start off the very informal survey, I posted a message on Facebook asking teenagers what advice they might have for the parents of teenagers about raising teenagers. The responses I got were from parents, almost nothing from actual teens. Later I clarified, I sent out personal messages, and I grabbed the teens in my physical vicinity and hounded them. Of course, most of my Facebook friends aren’t teens, but some are.

I thought the more experienced parents (since I’m just over a year into the teen years, which by the way, I am loving) had pretty sound advice. I even got email responses so that people could respond more thoroughly. I wanted to leave the Brain Child post essentially to the teens but I also wanted to spread the wisdom of these parents far wiser than me, so here are some of the highlights.

parents of teens1

1. Listen. Do whatever it takes to listen. If it means staying up until three in the morning but that is when they are talking, stay up. If it means driving past your final destination in the car but they are talking, drive right on past. If it means biting your tongue because now they are talking and are not asking advice, bite your tongue. Their thoughts and opinions and perspectives are important, valuable, and fascinating but you won’t know them unless you shut up and listen. Listen to what their whole body, not just their voice is saying. Make choices that let you listen at important times. One example was: if your kids go to a camp, offer to carpool and offer to take the drive-home-after trip. That is when they will be gabbing with friends and when they get home they might not be so inclined. Listen.

2. Pray. Pray with them and for them and for yourself as you parent them.

3. Negotiate. Rules don’t have to be hard and fast anymore and they shouldn’t necessarily be the same rules you had when they were younger. Choose your battles carefully and, as one parent put it, practice “creative ignoring” and “don’t shoot a mole with an elephant gun.” Part of negotiating is asking their opinion, for what they think would be a fair solution. I’ve done this with my own kids – “I don’t really know how to respond to this situation in which we find ourselves. What do you think?”

4. Be honest. You aren’t perfect either, confess and ask forgiveness when you mess up. You also weren’t perfect when you were a teenager. I love how one parent put it, “Don’t hide your mistakes, problems, and personal geekiness. Let them see it is okay to be imperfect.”

5. Know their friends. Know their names, invite them to your house. If possible, have your house be the center of social life or at least a safe and fun place for them to hang out. Food helps with this.

6. Be available and present. One parent wrote, “Be prepared to spend more time with them than you did in the early years.” I think that can come as a huge shock or can be something parents simply ignore. They are pretty independent and self-sufficient. But they are also going through huge hormonal and brain developments, facing major life decisions, and learning to navigate new, intensely important, experiences. Be available.

7. Find good role models. Role models that aren’t you. Ask other adults to invest in your teens or encourage the ones that already do.

8. Let them learn. Let them ask questions, push boundaries, take risks. Remember that the journey is not over yet, they haven’t ‘turned out’ yet. Have any of us? Let them process and test, make mistakes, develop their own interpretations or decisions.

9. Fight for them. Be “fiercely ‘pro’ for your kids,” one parent said. Others don’t know them and might judge them. You fight for them. Another used the same word, “love fiercely.”

10. Enjoy them. They are people. People! Enjoy them and enjoy watching them figure things out. Make it clear that you enjoy them. Does your face light up when they walk in the room? Keep a good sense of humor. Never, ever talk negatively about your teen, or younger child, in front of them or in front of your other children.

Hug them, tell them you love them, wrestle with them, play with them, listen to their music, read the books they are reading, do what they love to do, tell them you are proud of them and make it obvious.

I know you’ve got more advice…

And click here to read what our teens what us to know: Teenagers’ Advice to the Parents of Teenagers

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