Michelle Martin

The good years

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I remember being a young parent, or at least a younger parent, up to my elbows in preschool and kindergarten activities, getting one child to school while trying to coordinate naps with the other one and always not quite getting them to bed on time.

We had a lot of fun chasing fireflies and going to the park, but it wasn’t always easy. There were tantrums and tussles and tangles to be brushed out of hair. Sometimes it was exhausting.

When I would sigh too long or complain too loudly, there was always someone there to say, “Just wait. It’s so much worse when they’re teenagers.”

Now, with two teenagers, I have to disagree. I love having teenagers. It’s not that I love them more now than when they were little; it’s that I love this stage of life.

Part of it is practical. They don’t need attention in the same way they did when they were toddlers or even in elementary school. They need limits, yes, and to know someone is keeping an eye out for them and an eye on them, but they don’t need constant supervision.

They can use the microwave and even the stove to make food. Washing machine, too, and when they need one particular shirt clean for school tomorrow, they can wash it themselves.

When we travel, we don’t need to tell them to sit still in the car or stop yelling. They don’t scream when their ears pop on an airplane. They can save seats, or let us save seats at the airport gate while they go get coffee.

They drink coffee.

Never mind. Teresa is 6, and she drinks coffee, too. I guess she didn’t want to be left out.

The bigger part is we get to see more of who they are becoming. They talk to us about the TV shows and movies they watch and the books they are reading. They discuss politics. We don’t always agree, but that’s OK. We learn things from one another.

It’s not always easy, of course. They’re teenagers, and by definition, they’re immature. Sometimes they do or say things that leave us scratching our heads. Sometimes they forget that we’re not here only to make their lives easier.

No doubt, big kids can have big problems, and they can make mistakes that will have lifelong consequences. They know that, but they feel invincible at the same time, and the part of their brains that handles things like impulse control is still developing. So of course we worry, and we pray.

At the same time, I pray for all the parents of 2- and 3- and 4-year-olds, the ones who want to sit down and cry next to their child in grocery aisle when they have a tantrum. Really, they’ll get past this. It’ll be OK.