Parenting and The Teenage Brain

Here’s what I probably think I should do when it comes to parenting teenagers (now that I have two of them, plus one eleven year-old):

Talk less

Listen more

Shrug often

Put another way, as much as there are parallels between toddlers and teenagers (“I do it myself” “Gimme NOW”) there aren’t nearly so many parallels between the parenting of toddlers and teenagers. You can’t pick up a teenager for a timeout. You can’t put them to bed every night; they fall asleep after you and wake up after you. Apropos of nothing, they know how to text much better than you ever will. Unlike those bitty people you can pretend even with the independence of steps and signs and words and “NO” will never leave you, the teens will (G*d willing). And so the point of the exercise is stark, even when, like with tots, conflicted.

Adorbs, blurry, and didn’t want their picture taken whilst brother-bonding

Also, about teens and about parenting teens, they watch much better stuff on television that you like to watch with them. I know this because Saturday night I looked Laura Marano on IMDB—Ally on Austin and Ally—only to learn that she has played young Sarah Silverman. That was as cool, and as terrible, as my Saturday night got. The next night, I got to stay up with my teens to watch The Good Wife, which is arguably having its best season yet. That, my friends, falls under the category of as good as it gets.

Three to share, teenagers’ edition: I literally read this essay about how you should not help your teenager write the college essay as I was going back and forth with last-minute edits to a college essay (not my teenager’s). I love the fact that the author of this essay reminds us the college application is a chance for teens to begin to find their voices, which is the point of the (terribly difficult and pressured) exercise, made more pressured when we bear down upon them, rather than trust their emerging voices and selves. Talk less, listen more, shrug often.

How beautifully Kirstin Kovacic brings this struggle, this dance, well, this process to the light in her essay for Fulll Grown People entitled Comma Momma. I would have to say this is your must-read for the week.

Finally locals there’s a very interesting-sounding (and I am promised fantastic) event on the teenage brain coming up at the beginning of December, with a presentation in Northampton and another in Greenfield.

Three to feel grateful for, teenager edition: one is my teens—complicated, interesting, lovely, engaging PEOPLE, with the same caps I remember feeling back when they were small, like hey, you’re so much a person and you’re cool. Actually, I still feel giddy about that—and awed. Two is their friends. I really like their friends and although I am not surprised by this fact I’m very glad when they come around. I am not sure I expected to like when they came around before there were real teenagers to get to know as my kids’ friends during adolescence. Three is the friends able to remind me that they grow up and all will be forgiven (after some therapy or time or whatever, maybe more shrugging and maybe on everybody’s parts).

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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