Bringing home your first kid from the hospital is intimidating enough. Facing the prospect of your kid eventually becoming a teenager can freeze you with fear. After all, you remember what you were like as a teenager.
Even if you feel unprepared for parenthood, babies and little kids are manageable because you’re bigger than they are. Sure they’re constantly trying to discover random ways to injure themselves and argue about bedtime, but you can physically catch them or chuck them into bed.
Teenagers are a different story.
While adolescence is shrouded in dread and some parents conspire to sentence their kid to a wooden barrel from age 13-19, teenagers aren’t all that bad. And I’ll tell you why.
1. Blow their own nose
By this point you’ve probably lost track of how much snot you’ve cleaned off your hand, shirt, jeans, or phone. If you have no shame, you may have even picked your kid’s nose (Gross!). Teenagers don’t like their faces being poked or wiped, but you will have to remind them to actually blow their nose with a tissue instead of wiping it on their sleeve.
2. Wipe their own butt
No sane person misses dirty diapers or hearing their kid scream, “Dad! Can you wipe my butt?”, from across the house while guests are over. Teenagers have their butt covered. The new challenge is understanding why it takes them 45 minutes to sit on the porcelain throne every night after you ask them to wash the dinner dishes.
3. Helpful with heavy lifting
Babies can’t even hold their own head up and little kids have zero upper body strength. Teenagers, especially boys looking to display their muscles, come in handy for rearranging furniture and carrying groceries. Just don’t ask me why they’re too weak to pick up dirty clothes off the floor.
4. Spectating is more fun
You love your kids, but if you had a dollar for every minute of peewee soccer or little league baseball where you watched a dozen kids stumble around the field, you could afford that family vacation to Disneyland. Teenagers have (mostly) mastered the fundamentals and are more competitive. Their desire to win makes it more fun for parents to watch. Little kids just want to know what’s for snack.
5. You actually remember being their age
Childhood is pretty sweet because you have very little responsibility, your metabolism is through the roof, and your memory is short (Squirrel!). Odds are you don’t remember much before age 10, but you can recall a lot of detail from 13 and beyond. This memory bank helps you relate to your teenager. Even if you grew up in different millennium.
6. Logical arguments are more effective
Kids have no sense of space and time. Don’t get me started on babies. Kids are irrational, illogical, and ill-tempered if they haven’t had a nap (and so am I). Teenagers, while subjected to mood swings and temperamental phases, can be reasoned with. Their brains are developing and grasp simple concepts like “Clean your room if you want to play video games.”
7. Deeper conversations
Kids say the strangest things. Teenagers continue that tradition, but they dive a little deeper if you let them. The trick is to avoid cutting them off even if you think they’re wrong, which is likely. Ask probing (aka “better”) questions and you might be surprised by your young progeny.
8. Still enjoy being a kid
Despite the inevitability of growing up, some of us are still kids at heart. Teenagers, while they try to put on a cool facade and act like a small scale adult, still enjoy cartoons, Lucky Charms, and building forts. An added perk is they help you remember to be a kid with them in the process.
9. Partner in crime
Misery may love company, but mischief is way more fun when shared with others. Whether you’re scheming to prank your spouse or trying to sneak candy into the movie theater, teenagers are always game for shenanigans. Pro tip: no one searches cargo shorts for Skittles.
10. Delegating chores
Does cleaning the bathroom disgust you? Are you always forgetting to take out the trash? Get someone else to do it. I don’t despise taking the garbage to the curb, but for whatever reason I can never remember to do it on the right day. Fortunately, that’s been my teenager’s chore for years now. Muahaha.
11. Eating leftovers
Little kids are finicky eaters (even if they do stick everything besides food in their mouths), so parents are often left with the decision to either get another container dirty or throw it out. We don’t want to be wasteful, so we usually eat it. Enter the teenager whose metabolism knows no bounds. Slide the toddler’s macaroni and cheese across the table and poof! it’s gone.
12. Learning new things
Kids get tons of homework. Odds are your elementary kid takes home more worksheets than you ever turned in during college. It’s ridiculous. However, beneath the mountain of homework, teenagers like to learn and try new things. From food and music to books and movies they are expanding their horizons. Join them in exploring and you might discover a new, shared interest.
13. Practicing leadership
It’s cute to watch young kids play house and school. One will jockey for power and lead their little minions through the charade of domestic life or higher education. Teamwork is a great skill to develop, but leadership takes another level of character. Watching teenagers come into their own and demonstrate leadership at school and in sports will swell your heart with pride.
14. Free babysitter
You may have noticed raising kids is crazy expensive. From diapers and daycare to doctor visits and dental coverage, you are hemorrhaging money out your eyeballs before they even leave the womb. Then your oldest kid turns 13 and karma comes back to pay up for all those nights you roamed the halls soothing a teething toddler. Give a teenager some power over their siblings for a few hours and let them deal with the mayhem of bedtime. Goodbye children. Hello date night!
Each phase of parenting comes with its own set of challenges. Over the years you navigate dirty diapers, messy rooms, hours of homework, and miles of taxi driving. Don’t be afraid of your teenagers. They smell fear faster than you notice their newly acquired body odor.
Raising teenagers is scary at times, but in the end, they are pretty awesome.
What were you like as a teenager? What tips do you have for relating to teens? Why is your teenager awesome? Share in the comments.
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Also published on Medium.