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Teens versus "Terrible Two's" - a Tossup

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Being a teenager is tough, and so is parenting one. Think about it. Moms go through pre-menopause around the same time their children go through puberty, and that means a household full of mood swings, raging hormones, sugar cravings, weight fluctuations, bad hair days, forgetfulness, exhaustion, and inability to focus due to habitual multi-tasking. Scientific studies prove that neurological changes in the brain peak at certain stages in life including the time parents are raising their teens, so I’m not making this stuff up.

All you moms with little ones, you’ve heard this before: your sweet, innocent children will grow up fast. One day, they think you’re the greatest, smartest, prettiest person who sings the best nursery rhymes in the whole world. The next day, the same baby who wore saggy diapers will be squeezing into $100 designer denim shorts and will seize control of the radio station in the car…and everything else in your life.

A typical teenager considers their ‘old lady’ clueless about everything, and the most embarrassing human being on earth; particularly when it comes to fashion, music, hair styles and the latest dance moves.

It seems like just yesterday my daughter Sari (now 13) was a sweet toddler pulling on my pant leg and crying, “Mommy, mommy!” to get my attention. Actually, it was yesterday, only this time she was begging me for cash to shop at the mall. My little girl with the honey-colored curls now spends hours straightening her hair, and wants to hang with her BFFs instead of me. Guess whose pleading for a little attention now?

And my 17-year-old son Jack is no different. I can still picture him eating soggy Cheerios with his chubby little fingers…or was that at breakfast this morning before he left for school? It’s all a blur. Anyway, these days he’s busy studying for ACTs, which stands for “Almost Crying Tears” whenever I think of him going away to college. I remember when he was a baby and kept me up all hours because he was colicky. Now I’m still wide awake in the middle of the night – only this time I worry about him driving

Worrying is what us moms do from the time our child is in-utero, all the way beyond adulthood. And if we can make it through the teenage years, we can survive anything. Depending on the personality of the teenager, of course, this volatile stage of development can be similar to the “terrible two’s.” In both cases, the brain goes through rapid-fire changes that cause temper tantrums, impulsiveness, risky behavior, sleep disturbances, and self-centeredness. Sound familiar?

Until teens grow up, moms have to maintain their cool and practice good communication skills. And if you haven’t mastered how to text and tweet, then you’d better learn fast because this age group doesn’t believe in talking – as in eye-to-eye conversation, or even over the phone. Instead, they type short messages in code, using punctuation as symbols.

Sure, texting is convenient in today’s fast-paced world, but I’m also convinced it leads to poor eyesight and stupidity. I have to squint my eyes when I try to decipher their messages, so it’s no wonder I keep a pair of readers in every drawer. And the scariest part of it all is my fear that today’s generation will forget how to spell, sign their name in cursive or verbally engage during a job interview.

Besides communication, discipline is a whole new ballgame. When my kids were younger and I’d get mad at them, I’d send them to their rooms. But that’s no punishment for a teen today, that’s a reward. Don’t be naïve, these ‘wannabe adults’ like nothing better than to lock themselves in their room for hours; especially when they have access to a laptop, television, cell phone, iPad and a bag of stale potato chips hidden under the bed.

So when my kids get in trouble, I have a different approach to teaching them a lesson. I give myself a time out. I run away to my bedroom and barricade the door with my nightstand, just in case they try to pick the lock. (They’re very capable of figuring out mechanical things like keyholes, so I don’t take any chances.) Then I light an aromatherapy candle (it’s cheaper and less addictive than Xanax), and fill the tub with hot, sudsy water. I soak in a bubble bath until my toes turn into prunes, my kids run away or my husband comes home from work and asks what’s for dinner.

The truth is, despite the challenges of the teen years, I wouldn’t go back to the toddler time for anything in the world. For one thing, I don’t have to worry about childproofing now, I just have to make sure I always have plenty of Stridex and frozen pizzas on hand.

In all honesty, I admit that I love watching my children’s metamorphosis into young adults. As they gain independence, they’re able to make more of their own decisions, learn from their mistakes, discover their identities and passions, and take on responsibilities.

When they’re in the mood to talk or spend time with me, I try to stop whatever I’m doing and give them my full attention. These are the moments that I’ll always remember, because one day (sooner than later), I’ll have an empty nest. It will be just my husband Scott and I.

I miss the “terrible two’s” already.

Ellie S. Grossman is a stay-at-home-mom who never stays home, and the author of a parenting humor book, Mishegas of Motherhood. Raising Children To Leave The Nest…As Long As They Come Home For Dinner." Her writting has been published across the country and blogosphere. Visit her at "Mishegas of Motherhood.

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