Certain ages come with new expectations.
I cried on my 10th birthday because I realized I would never be “single digits” again.
Some people tried to tell me that I could be triple digits one day.
“Hey, wouldn’t that be cool? Your generation could live to be 200 years old.”
Still, the promise of advanced biotechnology did not appeal to my 10-year-old psyche. My 10th birthday got a lot better once my mother reminded me there would be ice cream.
After my 10th birthday, the next milestone was 13. The same thing happened as it had on my 10th birthday.
“I don’t want to be a teenager,” I cried.
“It’s your birthday. There’s ice cream,” my parents replied.
I felt a little bit better, but the anxiety was still in the back of my mind.
Social media makes it seem as though there’s a big difference between 12 and 13.
It seems that nothing could ever be the same once I crossed the boundary between childhood and young adulthood.
Being a teenager is presented as exciting, but equally scary.
How many TV shows glorify personal drama and strained relationships between parents and their teen kids?
Almost every modern TV show involving teenagers has acted out the following scene at some point.
The over-exaggerated teenager sighs, obviously annoyed or upset.
The stereotypical parents hear their daughter sigh dramatically, and instead of asking what’s wrong, they exchange a ‘knowing look’ and remember that their teen’s frustration is a phase and that it will pass.
Maybe they even laugh.
This infuriates their daughter, who then pulls out the timeworn but still laugh-worthy line, ‘No one understands me,’ as she stomps away upstairs.
What kind of message does that send to teens?
That they should bottle up their feelings and concerns and hide them from their parents for fear of being told that what they feel is just a phase and is of no concern?
I don’t the think the message sent to parents is much better.
The parents seen as ‘cool’ on TV and in social media are the ones who don’t pay any real attention to their kids.
There’s definitely balance to be had.
At 17 years old, I don’t need a parent to ask me what’s wrong with every 10 minutes,
But at that ripe age of 13, when even the rest of the teen community just sighed at my opinions and scoffed, “What are you, 13” whenever I opened my mouth, that’s the time that maybe I needed that extra support I got from my parents.
Maybe sometimes I was the one who scoffed and said, “I can do it myself,” or, “No, I don’t need to put on an extra coat.”
But I would never have known how to do things myself if my parents hadn’t taught me.
I wouldn’t know how to judge the weather and pick the right coat and scarf.
I wouldn’t know how to cook my own food (maybe I still don’t, but hey they tried to teach me, it’s not their fault I almost blew up the microwave).
It’s almost as hard to be a teenager as it is to raise one.
Parenting books I’ve seen talk about “How to Raise a Teen,” but let’s face it – everyone is a teen at some point.
You’re not just raising a teenager, you’re raising a human being, and the reason it’s hardest to raise them when their teens is because they’re finally starting to be your equal.
Teenagers aren’t one big hormonal, homogeneous group of people.
It’s hard to say, “No you can’t go to that party, you need to earn some trust,” and even harder to say, “Yes, you can go to that party, I trust you.”
Some teens need more support than others, but the best way to find out?
Ask teens what they want, what they need.
Sometimes we’ll say nothing and we won’t mean it.
Even when I really don’t need anything, that quick little, “Are you sure?” from my mom reminds me that she actually does care. That she would sit down and listen for a minute if I was having a problem.
It’s important to know that my parents care about me.
I think what really consoled me when I was newly 13, the ‘Big One Three,’ was realizing that my parents still loved me even if I was a teenager, a new strange breed of person.
My parents told that to me by taking my hand and pulling out the birthday ice cream because, of course, ice cream is a go to for any situation involving a teen. They’re mad? Ice cream. You’re mad? Ice cream. Sad? Ice cream. Happy? Ice cream. Solves every problem known to teen kind.
Sometimes being a parent is hard, and sometimes being a teenager is hard.
Either way, we’re all in it together.
Marlowe Evans is a senior student at Thomas Haney and head delegate of the Model UN
Delegation who writes about youth issues.