Why I Love Having Teenagers

1503975_10152126149174866_332585485_nI don’t know about you, but when our kids were little, we used to look ahead to the teenage years with much fear and trepidation.

“They are so cute,” strangers would compliment our toddlers.  Inevitably, they would then add,

“Just wait till they’re teenagers.”

If that doesn’t fill you with dread, I don’t know what will.

Well, today I am a parent of 13- and 15-year olds, and I can say with confidence that this is a really fun season around our household.  Here are some top reasons why I love my teenagers:

1.  They keep us up to date on pop culture

Honestly, if it weren’t for my kids, I’d still be listening to the BeeGees, wearing my mommy jeans with my permed hair and saying phrases like “Gag me with a spoon.” I’m grateful that they’ve helped me get a little more current in music and fashion.

2.  They are actually helpful

Remember when they were toddlers and they wanted to help, but it took too much time and effort to enlist their help, so you just did it yourself?  Well, now they are actually tall enough, strong enough, and smart enough to be of help.  Meg does wonderful makeovers on me, and Josh updates the OS on my iPhone.  They’re constantly teaching me something new.

3.  I get to relive my high school years all over again

When I walk onto the high school campus to pick Josh up in the late afternoon, the sounds and smells flood me with memories of my own high school years.  Add to the mix high school dances, student government elections, youth groups, and summer camps, and I find myself feeling like a teenager all over again…without the drama of puberty, of course.

4.  I get to have fun embarrassing my teens

It’s so easy to make my kids blush around their friends — and, better yet, strangers — these days.  Here is one example from when I was riding in the front of a trolley in Hawaii while the kids sat in the back, horrified to hear me humming along to the radio from up front:

1497538_10152147946759866_1538532171_nOr, this interaction with Josh:

1546275_10152179372414866_844975560_nMy kids really keep me laughing.  They, however, don’t find the same level of humor in my mommy antics, but that’s half the fun.

5.  We don’t have to plan, participate, and pay for expensive, themed birthday parties anymore

These days, my kids would rather just have a handful of good friends over for pizza and some games or go out to the mall for their birthday instead of a big bash at Chuckie Cheese’s, inviting the entire neighborhood and overpaying for entertainment. Glad that season is over!

6.  Vacations are much more fun with teenagers

When our kids were babies, David and I basically took turns watching the kids in the room while the other stepped out to “enjoy” the vacation.  It was physically exhausting to care for little kids while traveling, and we came home absolutely spent and needing a vacation afterwards.  Today, we can enjoy excursions together or even separately, letting the kids make their own vacation memories.

7.  Eating is much more varied and fun

For nearly a decade, our family went through a whole lot of mac-n-cheeses, pizzas, spaghetti, juice boxes, chicken nuggets, and Cheerios. Because David and I usually cleaned up the leftovers, we participated in a steady diet of kid foods for far too long.  Our teens now eat a lot more sophisticated foods such as filet mignon, haritcot vert, and pesto pasta.  We have good conversations around the table, and they also no longer throw food on the floor nor smear spaghetti all over their hair.  Eating used to be such a messy event; now, they even help with the cooking and cleanup!

8.  Best of all, we’re seeing the seeds of their own faith grow

All the years of taking them to church, reading the Bible together, and teaching them right from wrong are finally bearing fruit.  We are watching them make smart choices and choosing good friends.  Although they are still youths, we hope and pray that we have set them on the right course to a successful adulthood.

And that’s why we love having teenagers!

Year-Round School Schedule and Why We Love It So Much

Me and Meg by treeOur kids’ neighborhood K-8 public school happens to be on the year-round schedule, which means that though we only get five weeks off for summer break, we are treated with 3-week breaks spaced evenly throughout the year in the fall, winter, and spring.  Although the school year starts at the end of July (yes, that part is cruel), we finish with the other schools in our district the following June.  We have absolutely loved the year-round schedule.

Just when our kids have had enough with classes and homework, we get a few weeks off to refresh our minds.  And just when we parents are starting to go bonkers with our children being home all day, they go back to school.  Teachers say that their students retain more when they return for the new school year.  The teachers all love the year-round schedule as much as we do.

We particularly enjoy our fall breaks.  The weather is milder, the crowds thinner, and airfare cheaper than during the summer.  Many of our school families take their big trips to exotic places during the fall.  We take off to Hawaii every fall to go see their grandparents.  It alleviates the heartache we feel returning to school when other students are still enjoying their summer.  After all, while most families are going to back-to-school night, we are boarding a plane to paradise!

But, alas, no good thing lasts forever.  When Josh finished 8th grade, it was over.  No more year-round schedule in high school.  Due to sports and other inter-scholastic activities, all high schools in our area are on the traditional school calendar — long, hot summers and virtually no breaks all year except for a few days here and there.

Even worse, I would have our kids on two different schedules!  It pretty much meant that we were not going to be going anywhere for two years until Meg graduated middle school. Oh, the sadness!

What was I to do?

That’s when I took my friend Heather’s advice: enjoy spending time with one child at a time.

This August, after Meg already went back to school, I took Josh and his friend Sam to Honolulu for a week.  Yes, it was very hot, crowded, and expensive, but we had a wonderful time.  It was fun getting reacquainted with my teenage son while enjoying activities together such as snorkeling, swimming, and just hanging out.

Then this fall, I went back again to Hawaii for a mother-daughter time with Meg.  Her activity of choice was shopping, of which we did plenty in Waikiki.  The more time I spent with this girl, the more I enjoyed her.  We ate a lot of good foods together and spent much time with my parents and my sisters, her aunties, who also flew into Hawaii to be with us.  Between these two trips, my parents were also able to have individual times with each of their grandkids, which was a blessing.

(The only person in the household who hasn’t been able to go to Hawaii much this year is my husband David!  Don’t worry — he’ll be spending an extra week with Meg in Honolulu during winter break.)

Navigating the rough seas of various school calendars and breaks have taught me that, once again, parenting has a lot of unexpected surprises that could turn out better than even before.  Don’t get me wrong — we have absolutely loved year-round schedule and wish high schools had them, too, but we somehow figured out how to work with two overlapping schedules.  We are going to be entering uncharted waters once again when both of them are in high school next year, but I have a feeling that it is all going to be okay.  After all, in only a few more years, they are both going to be out of the house.  That is going to be so sad…but maybe unexpectedly good, too!

Does anyone else like the year-round schedule?  Tell me what to expect when our family enters traditional schedule.  What do you do with your long summers?