14 Steps to the Perfect Teen

If, perchance, you have run across a blog in the burbling trenches of social media on the subject of raising happy teens, and when you read it wanted to:

a) Cry
b) Throw your computer / phone across the room
c) Laugh in a superior, snarky, and derisive manner
d) Take a month-long nap

I’m your girl today.

I read this blog last week. And wanted to do all of the above. Because it was JUST SO OBNOXIOUS. Absolutely infuriating.

Listen. Coming from someone who has blogged her share of stupid, worthless and yes, perhaps, insensitive stuff, let me say — this was one of the stupidest, most worthless and insensitive pieces I’ve ever read.

A humblebrag to end all humblebrags.

The post starts with the blogger claiming that, although she is swamped with requests for guidance on raising happy teens, she had very little, if nothing, to do with the way her incredibly joyous teens turned out.

Deep breath.

For starters, can we just dispense with the false modesty? It’s so disingenuous. Anyone who’s had babies/toddlers/kids/teens/young adults knows, it’s hard to raise them, much less ones who are well-adjusted human beings who know they are loved and are able to operate in this nutball world with a modicum of healthy self-esteem. So her whole, “Oh, I don’t know, I’m just little old me, and they came out that way,” rings incredibly false.

Or maybe she just really did hit the Happy Kid Lottery. In which case, she shouldn’t immediately follow all that self-deprecation with “….so here are the seven steps for duplicating my success!”

And, look, it’s not that what she said isn’t valid. It was just inadequate, I think. And, frankly, kind of tone deaf.

I have three teens (well, two, almost three), and I will tell you I have poured many hours of blood, sweat and tears into raising these guys. It ain’t easy. It’s not a horror show either. It falls somewhere in between the two, depending on the day and the fullness of the moon. I don’t fetishize motherhood, and it bugs me when people do. I’m not sitting on the mommy throne, wearing a crown of flowers people have thrown at my feet. Parenthood is not a job (VP of Marketing is a job) – it’s a role that a ton of people on the planet do. Like, almost everybody who is an adult. I’m not a special snowflake because I’m a mother.

Bottom line, I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing. Or if what I’m doing is what’s making my kids happy or not.

I’ll tell you this. Lots of self-doubt is involved. Lots of going to bed at night, banking on that whole “tomorrow’s another day” thing. I can’t read the future. I don’t know what these people, my kids, are going to end up doing or being.

Are my kids happy? Some days they are. Some days they’re not. Some days they’re miserable: either because I’ve screwed up or they’ve screwed up or life is just screwed up in general, and that’s the way the Flavor Blasted Goldfish crumble.

Sometimes they are unhappy because life is cruel and difficult, not because I did something wrong as a parent. Sometimes they are miserable because their brain chemistry is out of whack. Sometimes they are sad because they want something or someone they can’t have. Sometimes they are overwhelmed with the vast questions of God and the universe and suffering and because they are real people and they think about these things, they wind up feeling confused and depressed.

Is this bad?

Not always. I have the sneaking suspicion this is what actually proves they are human, real, deep thinkers and connected to the reality of this world. This is what teaches them empathy, I hope.

God, I hope.

Here’s a real-life listicle for you. I know kids who struggle with addiction, depression, anxiety, chronic sickness, repeated failures in academics and sports, devastating injuries, developmental disorders, autism, cancer, diabetes, suicidal compulsion, and every kind of learning disorder under the sun. And guess what….. These kids are happy and unhappy, and happy and unhappy, depending on the day.

And I can SWEAR to you, it’s not because their parents didn’t follow some lame seven step plan. It is not because their moms and dads are doing something wrong or they are doing something wrong. It’s just because…life.

So, respectfully, blogger-lady?

I wish you would have told those people desperately looking for a magical recipe for producing happy teens, that there is no list than can produce their happy robot kid. I wish you would have said that happiness is elusive and nothing in life is easy or promised to us and that believing listicles are the answer is a sure path to disappointment.

I’m going to turn this thing on its head now. As a special gift, I will now bestow upon you my own, highly secret steps to producing occasionally unhappy teens:

1. Exist
2. Ask them to do things.
3. Don’t ask them to do things.
4. Ask them how their day was.
5. Sing along with rap songs in the car.
6. Suggest they eat something other than Funyons and Coke.
7. Ask them to accompany you to church.
8. Tell them to go to bed.
9. Wake them up.
10. Suggest they comb hair.
11. Suggest they shower.
12. Ask them to not to play video games all day.
13. Teach them tennis.
14. Invite them to go for a run with you.

Let me know how everything works out!

7 thoughts on “14 Steps to the Perfect Teen”

  1. Christine ForresterChristine Forrester

    I puffy heart you, Emily.

  2. JeanneJeanne

    You are a good Mom!! Just keep on Keeping on!


    In addition, when your husband walks out on you after 20+ years of marriage, this also changes your parenting style. I pray every day that the Lord uses this situation for His glory and their sanctification process.

  4. AnnaAnna

    Yes! Thank you, Emily!

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