When my elder 3 were babies, with just 2 and a half years between them, strangers were united in one common statement.
“ooo they’re cute now but wait until they’re all teenagers at once! Your house will be a nightmare ”
Even at the time, having not slept in three years, not being able to remember how it felt to go out without baby sick on my shoulder and just sleepwalking through a life of nappies and feeding and sick and colic and that sheer exhaustion that early parenting rewards you with. I thought it unlikely that it could get any harder. I had a newborn in a sling and a double pram resembling a tank containing a 1 and 2 year old. Teenagers can walk unaided right?
Now here we are. The babies are now teenagers and nosy strangers? You were wrong. This is not harder than babies. Nothing I have ever done in my life has been harder than 3 babies. Call me a wimp but when I think back I just have no idea how I survived the first 4 years of motherhood.
Parenting teenagers isn’t easy of course, I’m not claiming that. There are just advantages to having almost fully formed humans about the place. Do you mind if I blow the trumpet of teenagers for a second? Here’s the great things about parenting teens:
1) They’re almost self sufficient.
They can make themselves food. Fair enough it’s usually a bowl of cereal and you often have to do scary crockery retrieval missions in their rooms *shudder* but at least now the response to “I’m huuunnnggrryy” can be “make yourself something to eat then”
You can’t do that with a toddler.
2) You don’t have to entertain them.
In fact they really prefer it if you don’t try. When my boys ask of a Sunday what we are doing today I know they’re crossing their fingers whispering ‘please nothing’ under their breath.
My youngest, at 9, still requires entertainment. A weekend isn’t a weekend if we haven’t baked, painted, sewed, jigsawed , visited the park, been swimming and put together a dance show!! On the weekends that she is at her daddy’s, the elder 3 and I can whack on a movie marathon and stay in our pj’s eating popcorn. I’m not going to pretend I don’t enjoy those weekends.
3) You can get them do jobs you don’t like.
There are some parenting jobs that I just can’t stand. Top of the list:making packed lunches. Making the sandwiches in a morning is now eldest girls job.
Putting laundry away goes to youngest boy and the eldest gets to sweep and mop the floors.
All the jobs I hate done by other people -fantastic!
Obviously, the kids don’t exactly revel in their duties and sometimes computer confiscation gentle cajoling is necessary. They generally get done eventually though.
4)They’re good company
Now they’re older you can actually sit and have a real conversation with them. This is one of my favourite things about having teens. The boys have interests in politics which means we can chat about that sometimes. Mostly though, they’re very good company… as long as it’s on their terms. Be that doing football score predictions, debating the best Doctor Who episode or having to read a book they’ve just finished as they NEED to talk to someone about it. I don’t mind chatting on their terms, I just enjoy spending time with them before they’re off playing computer games and can barely answer a yes or no question let alone chat.
5) They can still be bribed /blackmailed
In the baby days there was nothing these guys wouldn’t do for a bag of milky way stars (do they even still make those?) Now the stakes are a little higher. All about carrot versus stick. I can offer Domino’s for tea if they get their project finished if we’re doing the carrot. As for the stick, I may have threatened to become friends with all their mates on Facebook or put baby pics on Instagram if they don’t get their jobs done.
I must state I would never actually do these things, they are just effective threats.
6)Years of training is beginning to pay off.
Parenting is really just an attempt to raise good humans isn’t it? Send adults into the world who care and are polite and who want to do good. This really does take some doing I’m willing to guess. When the eldest asks how my day as been though, or the 14 year old washes the breakfast pots unprompted before school whilst I’m getting ready that makes me a little bit happy.
I’m not trying to make out we’re The Waltons or that raising teenagers is a dream. Come to my house on the days they all hate each other and Bickerfest is happening and you’d likely take the cute babies and no sleep any day.
It’s just that strangers telling an exhausted mum of 3 kids under 3 that it was only going to get worse, was scary to me in my sleep deprived state. If you’re that woman right now, it’ll be fine. I can’t see a point parenting will ever be easy, but at least teenagers generally enjoy sleep and incontinence isn’t such an issue.
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