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Parents of Teenagers: I Get It, Your Life Is Harder

As a parent of two small kids, ages 2 and 3, I'd like to think that my complaints about motherhood are routine. Not enough sleep. Not enough privacy. Not enough patience to endure the whining, bickering and inevitable sibling squabbles that erupt from time to time. But I’ve learned a secret that I am sharing with you: Never complain about your preschoolers in front of parents of a teenager.

In fact, I’ve written an open letter to parents of teenagers, letting them know that I am fully aware of how hard it’s going to get, and I’d like to make a simple request.

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Dear Parents of Teenagers,

I get it. I really do. I get that raising teenagers is hard work. You certainly do deserve praise for hanging in there as your children’s hormones rage, and their tempers flare while their communication skills plummet. I have no doubt you’ve endured your share of eye rolls, sighs and contemptuous “Whatever, mom" responses that have hurt your feelings and made you long for the glory days when your kids were nonverbal.

But I’ve got a favor to ask. Please stop telling me how awful it is. Stop telling me how you sleep less than I do because you are up worrying whether your 16-year-old is going to come home by her curfew time. Stop detailing how excruciating it is to worry about anorexia, pregnancy, delinquency and bullying.

Because the truth is ... you are scaring me. I’m still holding out hope that once my kids start sleeping through the night and past 5:30 a.m., I’m going to hit parenting easy street. Or, at least, I will not have to walk around feeling like a half-human/half-zombie from the fatigue that has become like a second skin to me.

I understand that there are times when you would trade with me in a heartbeat.

I promise I will stop complaining around you. I’ll stop saying how worried I am that my children can’t swim yet or how much I worry when I am walking across a parking lot with them. I will also stop saying how irritating it is that they ask me "Why?" all day long. I understand that there are times when you would trade with me in a heartbeat, because I can still hold my kids, they still think I have the answers, and I don’t have to send them on dates with other teenagers.

Can we just agree that each stage of parenting has its bliss and its burdens? I promise you don’t have to convince me that parenting older children is difficult. Just the thought of helping my children with calculus homework makes me want to get some prescription medication. It’s going to be hard—you’ve convinced me of that. But, just once, I’d like to tell you a story about a challenge I am facing—my son’s aggression or my daughter’s anarchy—without you saying, “Just wait. You think it’s bad now. Just wait until they are teenagers.”

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At this point I’ve come to believe there is nothing good about parenting teenagers. That can’t be right. How about you tell me some of those great things? Tell me about watching your high school junior’s ability to rise above peer pressure. Tell me about how your senior loves chemistry and choir. Tell me about a late night conversation you’ve had with your little adult where you learned that she was more insightful and wiser than you’d ever imagined. If you tell me that, I’ll tell you a few stories about how great it feels to hold my sick baby or help him wash his hair.

Let’s agree to tell some of the good and some of the bad. And please, please stop saying, “Just wait,” because, believe me, I am.

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