Adios adolescents! For the first time in 20 years, we don’t have a teenager in our house. On Dec. 30th , our son Mark, that little bundle of joy we induced for tax purposes, said goodbye to 19. Having survived the teen phase four times, I can’t say I’m going to miss it.
Before we even had a teenager, I was dreading the adolescent phase. That’s because my parents were not tolerant of teens. My mother couldn’t stand “bodies in the bed” in the late morning. They also hated kids coming home at odd hours of the night. Giving us spending money was a foreign concept. Having their authority challenged infuriated them.
For my part, I was a terrible teen. I was the first “rebel without a cause” in my family. I had a good excuse: the 1960s. But there was no excuse for going AWOL every weekend without even a call to my parents. Our relationship during that time made the Cold War look friendly.
So, when one of our kids hit 13, I expected the worst and tried to ignore most of it. I didn’t react to every sarcastic “mutterance,” or knee-jerk disagreement, because they were just trying to pick a fight. I endured their sullen silences, interrupted by sniper-like corrections of my speech.
I didn’t mind them turning sleep into an Olympic sport. I got used to night owls straggling in and listened to their stories without criticism. I didn’t like providing taxi service to far away friends and school events but, like my dad, I didn’t complain. I handed them walking around money, so they wouldn’t have to borrow from friends.
After all, their behavior was so much better than mine had been. There were minor scrapes but nothing too extreme. I watched each kid descend into the Valley of Angst and emerge onto the Plateau of Adulthood. They all turned into model citizens but I’m thankful I don’t have to do it again.
I’m not going to miss the white-knuckled driving lessons, or waiting for the bathroom, while someone abuses skin care products. There will be no more braces. No more bottomless bellies to feed. No more tragic teen romances. I won’t miss the wild mood swings. I won’t have to deal with zombies stumbling home from “sleepovers.”
However, I will miss seeing kids discovering who they are and moving from narcissism to maturity. It was healthy for them to challenge some of our attitudes and beliefs. I didn’t take their criticism seriously but it felt good when they stopped thinking we were completely brain dead.
So, as a four-time survivor, my advice to parents is to not treat the former golden child as a devil child, just because of their need to rebel. I believe teenagers require more tolerance than confrontation. And just think, thanks to cell phones, it’s tougher for a teen to disappear for an entire weekend.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.