When I was 14, I gave my mother hell. For an entire year, I moped, I sulked, I whined and then I bought a Walkman (remember those?) and listened to REO Speedwagon (remember them?) while I stared out the car window without a word.
My brother did no such thing when he was a teenager. Instead, he slept, mainly because he grew eight inches in one year until he reached his final destination of 6 foot 2. (Not coincidentally, I didn’t provoke him as much after that.)
My firstborn is just 24 hours into his teen years and there’s no telling which way he’ll go. He’s much more like his uncle was at 13 than I was, so my money is on the sleeping thing. I’m actually hoping this is so, because there are many more ways teens can cause their parents grief these days. And though my son is a good kid and I’m confident that all the parenting my husband and I have done to date will help us all through the next seven years, it’s going to be harder to continue to be his filter than it was for my parents to be mine. Why? Because of the 3 Reasons Parenting Teens in the 21st Century Makes Me Want to Scream:
- Bypassing Parents Through Technology: If a boy wanted to get a hold of me at home, he’d have to call and talk first to my father, who answered the phone with a bark, as though you were annoying simply for thinking of starting a conversation with anyone in our house. It was kind of frightening, even to me. Nowadays, kids can bypass the scary dad or nosy mom by texting or IMing, effectively throwing out the Middle Mom or Dad in the exchange.
- Sexting:While I’m certain my parents probably don’t want to know what went on on stage at the Billy Idol concert at the Passaic Theater in 1984, at least none of my classmates ever shared naked photos of themselves with me, largely because that would have required getting film developed at the local Walgreen’s, who would notify the authorities. But today’s teens — young ones barely old enough to get into Rated PG-13 movies — are sending each other photos of various naked body parts or the Full Monty. And what 13-year-old boy doesn’t dream of having his own collection of boob photos?
- Teen Girls Can Be Predatory: It used to be that girls were the gatekeepers of all things sexual, but today, not so much. Case in point: Recently, a group of girls tried to lure my son’s classmate to the movies, telling him that other boys would be there. Turns out, they wanted him all to themselves — no other boys allowed. Luckily, his mother intercepted the text invitation and called other mothers to vet the information. I warned my son: “Some girls are like cats [or maybe "hyenas"], and you’re the mouse. Let’s make sure they don’t rip your tail off and kick you around the kitchen floor.” These days, boys need to be taught defense, lest they wind up with an STD and/or a baby before they leave high school or compromising photos of him posted on Facebook, where his mother hangs out.
My teenager is one of the few kids in his grade without a cell phone. So far he neither needs it, nor wants it, but that will change soon enough. He has no interest in Facebook (see: Hangs Out, Mom), and as far as I know, no catlike girls have eyed up his tail. But it’s early – he’s only been 13 since yesterday. I know I’ll have to be extra diligent and I’ll have to create rules my parents never had to think about for things they never had to think about, like privacy filters, webcams and collections of classmates’ boob photos.
But I got 100% correct on this teen slang questionnaire, and there’s no shortage of advice for parenting teens on the Internet. So I’ll take a deep breath and take it as it comes while I secretly hope he’ll sleep through his teens.
Got teens? Check out our Radical Parenting blog by Vanessa Van Petten, author of “You’re Grounded” and creator of the iCurfew app for the iPhone, and our Buzz on the Birds and Bees blog by Dr. Melanie Davis.
Share, share, that’s fair: Is parenting teens really harder these days? Share your warnings and your well wishes.