When you have a new baby, people will offer you parenting advice. Some of it will be good; some of it will be bad; and some of it will be straight up bat-shit crazy and involve burying a half a sprouted potato in the most northern corner of your yard under a full moon. (These are actually the people you want in your tribe or at the very least on your beer pong team.)
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You are going to hear things about feeding, vitamins, bedtime, play-dates, chores, whether or not your child should wear cloth diapers or disposable diapers or if you should just have them pee in a hole in the backyard (see “potato people” referenced above). People who don’t even know your last name or birthday will ask about the state of your nipples and the condition of your baby-squeezy-out-y parts. There will be discussion of public vs. private school and discipline techniques (tip: just don’t be an asshole). I once had a complete stranger ask me how I planned to “develop the soul and moral structure” of my sleeping 3-week-old son, who — bless his heathen soul — awoke at the sound of his Mama Bear’s roar to provide the distraction of some explosive below-the-waist happenings.
Most of the unsolicited advice you will receive will apply to the years 0-10, with the bulk of that strictly for the under-5 set. Anything beyond mid-elementary school is generally uncharted territory. Is this because by then no one cares if you screw up? Or have they realized that nature is perhaps as strong as nurture? Can the silence be construed as an admission that no one really knows what the hell they're doing? Parenting is a crap-shoot for the most part but I will tell you the one thing I do know for sure:
Look at your baby right now. They’re probably in your arms, so just look down. (If they're not, go get them and pick them up. Babies are for holding, so that's rule #1 right there.) So sweet, right? Like, seriously — is this not the most precious and important person in your life? (This will never change, and if you have additional children, don’t worry about not having enough love to go around. The formula uses multiplication — not division — so fret not because this kind of love is exponential.) This is a person you would literally kill for and even perceived slights against this child will raise your anger to a thick froth so BACK OFF, FUTURE MEAN PEOPLE I WILL GUT YOU LIKE A FISH.
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Then one day, something will happen. I will tell you what that thing is, but if your child is small and sweet and still has that new-car smell you will never believe this can be true, but oh, so sorry; it is true.
The day will come that — even though you will still love that child with everything you have in you — the day will come that you do not necessarily like him or her very much.
Sounds crazy, right? I KNOW. But it’s true. One day when they're...oh, I dunno, 14 or so, you will look at your child's face and you will note the outline of their soft features and they will be just as beautiful as the day you met them. They are still the same person and you will love them completely just as you did when they were babes in arms, it’s just that now they are a larger, smellier, currently meaner, smarter, sharp-witted version of themselves who sometimes inspire less than loving feelings and it’s okay. Hang in there because the feeling will pass.
Image source: WikiCommons
Read more from Jeni Marinucci about Teens:
Why I'm Glad I was a Child of the 80s
Awkward Moments in Parenting: The Teen Years
Teens are notoriously hard to talk to, because they're upright hormones fuelled by $7 iced coffee drinks and hair spray. Okay, that's not entirely true, because sometimes they're not upright. I know that when I attempt to have a discussion with my almost-16-year-old daughter, it can quickly spiral into a vortex of door slamming, eye-rolling, and what I must say are some pretty creative curse words. Sometimes she gets upset, as well.
In order to side-step these unsavory moments in communication, I tried a new technique and I'd like to share it with you, because it seems to be pretty effective so far. Instead of using coherent, linguistically recognizable sounds with my noise-making face-hole, I went straight to something more a teen's speed—the cellular telephone. Oh wait, they don't call it that? It's just a "phone" now? Okey-doke, noted.
Text messages appeal to the younger set, because they are visually appealing and along with creating a generation of people who don't know what a rotary phone dial is, we have also formed a civilization of folks who like to see things. Words are, "like, ugh," and "really just a waste of time, MOTHER." Excuse me while I pull the dagger from my writer's heart and then we'll continue.
Here are some real life examples of positive communications I've had with my daughter, and why they're worthwhile. (I have her full permission to share these, because she's generous like that and also I promised to buy her an Ice Cap when I drive her to the mall for more hair spray when she wakes up.)
Text communication is great for when you need to get a teen's attention, because thanks to high-speed internet, in the last ten years their bodies have evolved to a point where they literally cannot wait for anything, not even a second. I'm not making this shit up—read some Darwin.
I give my teenager freedom, but sometimes I like to do random check-ins. Gotta keep 'em on their toes.
. . . texting can also help when your teenager needs to reach you . . .
Teenagers often find emotionally charged situations difficult to handle, so text communication allows them a safe and non-judgmental place to say the important things.
Teenagers need to be told that it's okay to express their needs. Every human being has the right to be afforded safe living conditions, and teens are no exception. Sometimes they need to be reminded it's okay to demand respect, courtesy, and . . . Nutella.
Life brings joy and wonder and amazement. It also brings rainy days, kids who don't flush, and other assorted bullshit situations. The teen brain can find it difficult to grasp all the intricacies of these less-than-stellar moments, so we as parents sometimes need to spell it out. Texting works wonders here, because your child can go back to the conversation many times if need be. It's like a guidance manual at their fingertips, really.
Your kids are part of a family and therefore part of a team. Simply put, they should be pulling their weight and doing stuff—no matter how trivial it may be. We're all links in the same chain, folks—everyone is as important as the next and no job is too small.
And, finally, teenagers can be a great source of information. Because no matter how we laugh at their perceived stupidity ("How can you pull an A+ in Advanced Psychics and seriously not understand how to stack dishes in the dishwasher?"), they are still great for crowd-sourcing, especially when you have writer's block:
So rather than force your kids to eschew all tech inside the home, use it your advantage. It's an effective tool for communication and also a great source for gathering incriminating evidence.
Read more from Jeni Marinucci about Teens:
Why Your Teen Needs the Freedom to be an Idiot
The Modern Teenager: An Infographic