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!

When Moms are No Longer Cool

“Okay, mom, please stop,” begged my preteen daughter Meg.  I was simply trying to bust some moves I learned in my hip hop class at the gym.  I thought I looked magnificent.  She, on the other hand, was mortified.  She rolled her eyes as if to say, “You are so not cool, mother!”

Oh, how I long for the days when I could do no wrong!  I used to be their hero.  Their faces used to light up when I walked in the room. They used to be wiling to hold my hand as we approached their group of friends.  They wore outfits I chose for them and put on shoes I purchased for them without any hesitation. They would beg me to come volunteer in their classrooms.

If I liked a song, they liked that song.  Today, if I like a song, then that would be reason enough render it unacceptable and in bad taste.  It would take repeated listening of that tune on the Top 40 radio station to change their minds.

Basically, I’m sensing my power of influence slowly slipping away.

As much as I wish for our kids to become independent and to fully embrace adulthood, I wish that we parents wouldn’t have to be relegated to the “Completely Irrelevant and Dorky” pile along with their discarded books, shoes, and fashion.  Can’t we remain cool, even just for a few more years?

Okay, I admit that I didn’t think my parents were very cool when I was a teenager.  My dad used to listen to AM news radio in the car!  Add to that the fact that my parents were immigrants and didn’t know a thing about American high school culture.  This teenager hoped everyday to wake up and find Mr. and Mrs. Brady as parents.

I now take back every sinister thought I had about my own parents during my own teenage years.  Maybe they actually were quite with it, as my friend Carol used to tell me. “I just love talking to your dad; he’s so interesting.  And your mom is so stylish!”  I thought she was talking about someone else. Perhaps we all view others’ parents as being much cooler than our own, and maybe that’s just a part of growing up.  I think of moms like Gwen, Reese, Madonna, Pink, and other celebrities who are the epitome of cool.  Will even their kids think their mom is a geek once they’re teens?

This past summer, our family headed up once again to a camp in Northern California as we have each summer for the past 10 years — only this year, Josh and Meg each went off to their own youth camps while David and I spent the whole week alone at the main camp for the first time.  On the assigned visitation day, we walked up to Meg in the giggling gaggle of junior high girls.  “Junko!” several of them squealed as they came running over to me.  Many of these girls grew up attending the camp and had become fans of my music as I sang for the children each year.  It took Meg a few moments to get past my groupies, but when she did, she gave me a big hug.  She showed me around her camp and we enjoyed a nice, hour-long visit.

Meg later told me that some of the girls asked her after I left, “How do you know Junko?”

“Um, she’s my mother,” she replied.

“Oh my gosh!  Meg is Junko’s daughter!” they screamed, as Meg stood there wide-eyed.  Just for a moment, I might have regained my coolness.

Actually, I am okay with our teenagers questioning our taste in music and fashion, because I’m now a grownup and am strong enough to withstand their (low) opinion of me.  Besides, when they’re going through a tough time, they still come running back to me for comfort. At that point, the only thing that matters is that I am still their mommy.

And I think that’s pretty cool.

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What do your teens or preteens think of you as parents?  Were your parents cool when you were a teenager?  Let me know in the comments below!