One day last month, my eldest daughter awoke with horns and fangs. She growled at her little sister, rolled over in bed and went back to sleep. Then, at about midday, she burrowed through her bedroom wall in to the bathroom and built a nest there out of cotton pads, PE kit, mild astringent, and OPI nail polish. She opens the door only to ask for mochaccinos, Kindle credit and some privacy please! She might reappear on Groundhog Day.
Yes, you are correct. We now have a teenager.
As I’m learning, having a teen in the family is exactly like that feeling you get after a Law & Order SVU marathon. Complete and utter paranoia coupled with bouts of groundless terror and a certain free-floating anxiety that takes the form of thoughts like: Holy cow! Has she chosen the right GCSE electives?
And then, oh joy, you start hearing from friends about how kids in Hong Kong get fake IDs. Fake IDs are still a thing, people! And you picture the unsettling scenario of 14-year-old boys (5’10” and shaving) buying beer from the sweet, local 7-11 clerks, who are too shy to even ask for ID, let alone a fake one. Another friend – a well meaning empty-nester who survived three teens – suggested we establish the nightlife no-go areas now, because “it’s never too early to have that conversation”. In Hong Kong, that would be Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai, Stanley waterfront, Lamma house parties, the DB plaza and pretty much anywhere near boys, a 7-11 or Circle K, or boys who are at, inside, outside or even thinking about a 7-11. It’s enough to make you curl up in a ball and hibernate until she goes off to college.
So what can a parent do? You can’t hire Detective Benson as the Nanny. She’s busy. She’s also fictional. And, as far I know, there’s no App that can serve as your child’s personal behaviour minesweeper – two clicks left, small explosive device in the form of that brazen kid whose parents are always out of town. Don’t post it, don’t text it. Retreat, retreat!
What you can do is take a deep breath, (and maybe a stiff drink), and hug your new teen. Because as much as they might not show it – being perpetually grumpy and all – they still need hugs, lots and lots of them. Unconditional hugs. Patient hugs. Yes-Mom’s-freaking-out-but-she’s-not-going-to-show-it hugs.
And if it makes you feel better, you can also take delight in the new opportunities open to you now. To wit:
1. Being late will never be your fault again. Just as the family dog gets blamed for any suspicious smells, your teen can take the fall for group delays and tardiness. A simple roll of your eyes once you reach your destination and voila! – she took forever in the bathroom.
2. Owing to your child’s recent growth spurt, your shoe wardrobe has just doubled. But don’t overreach here and think you can share jeggings too. That’s just Amy Poehler in Mean Girls. I mean, embarrassing.
3. Best of all: you can now (finally!) go to bed before your child.
Jennifer is a writer, director, video editor and Texan mum to two tweens. She loves to check out live music, harbours a small obsession with maneki-neko (Japanese lucky cats) and thinks all young people should read trench poetry and watch the films of Peter Weir and Billy Wilder. You can find her awesome blog here. Contact Jennifer at [email protected].