Why aren’t we talking about parenting teenagers? I’m lost AF.

by renegademama

Can somebody please explain to me why we aren’t supporting the hell out of parents of teenagers?

We have pregnancy groups, newborn groups, baby groups, toddler groups. All the mommy groups. Of course, who knows if those are good for much beyond increasing insecurity and vague shame, but whatever. At least there’s a place to go to meet other parents sitting on the outside of the group wondering what the hell is going on.

There are endless articles and forums – again, most of which are useless – but still, they offer a sense of everyone going through the same shit.

I have a teenager and a near-teenager and I’m going to say something really loud so it’s really clear: Parenting a teenager is the hardest, loneliest, most emotionally trying phase I’ve ever experienced as a mother, and by far puts the biggest strain on my marriage, and our family as a whole.

There. I said it.

And it’s LONELY. Did I mention that? Because there seems to be an expectation or idea that the kid is “already raised,” that they’re “done.” That since they can bathe and dress and feed themselves, parenting them isn’t as difficult as caring for a newborn.

Of course this isn’t Parenting Struggle Olympics, but I have to say, in my experience, newborns don’t have shit on teenagers. Okay, they may literally have shit, and newborns are physically more exhausting, but when it comes to emotional and mental toil, teenagers have proven significantly more trying than those tiny bundles of squishy milk breath.

And here’s why: Setting aside postpartum depression and anxiety, newborns are relatively simple. They’re difficult, but overall, kind of simple. They need clothing, holding, feeding, changing, bathing. It’s an incredible amount of work, but it’s a clean difficulty, a straightforward work, and if we surrender, and stop trying to control the little monsters every waking moment to FIT INTO OUR EXCEL SPREADSHEET OF BABY, we settle into a little groove.

And oh, they offer so much in return, and so immediately: Smiles, coos, new developments every damn week. Baby breath. Chubby thighs. Their little bottoms in the air when they sleep. Omg I want another baby.

And babies, well, they tend to not go for the jugular.

I can’t recall a single time my infant said a thing that touched my deepest insecurity as a parent, a personality trait I’m ashamed of, a real flaw I have that is suddenly being held against me by a human whose cell phone bill I pay for.

I can’t remember a time when my newborn pushed my button so hard I texted her father and said, “I’m kicking your child out of the house today, so say goodbye.”

They are complicated, these teens. They are mercurial things with a sense of what about me that defies all reason. Your whole day can revolve around a teenager’s activities, needs, and wants, and at the end of it, if somebody does something that doesn’t align perfectly with the teen’s idea of what he’s owed, he’ll look at you and scream: YOU DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT ME and slam the bedroom door.

Leaving you wondering what, exactly, you just did all day if not demonstrating my care for you.


Even when they’re in a good mood, they’re a lot. Talking constantly about themselves, or not at all. The former is exhausting. The latter causes great worry that they’re smoking meth under a bridge while selling illegal porn to minors.


Teenagers can clear a room in 30 seconds with their attitudes. And about the most immature shit. They look so much like regular humans, but then you see them entitled and arguing with a 7-year-old or toddler or getting pissed because the family movie isn’t the one they wanted and you’re like: Would you please make a decision: Are you 16 or five?

Yes, these teenagers are going to need you like no kid has ever needed you, and they’re going to need you no matter what else you have going on that day, or how badly you need to get out the door, or how many other kids need you.

Sometimes, I spend so much on my teenagers, I have nothing left for my other kids. My husband and I fight. The little kids get forgotten. There’s a lot of guilt there, for me. The teenager tantrums fill the house with a gray, heavy angst. We all feel it.

And then, when you try to point this out to said teenager, they defend themselves with their last breath and just can’t see their own attitude while they roll their eyes and talk to you like a rat the cat just dragged in. It’s dizzying, and you wonder if you seriously fucked up somewhere.


But that’s not all, and this is the part that makes the whole thing so excruciating: They are these soaring, powerful creatures who you look at sometimes and cannot believe they’ve grown so strong, so whole, so complete in themselves. You see them standing against a wall, doing nothing, and the way their body holds their fire – you can feel it, the way it fills space in the room, pushes against the world with all the hope and newness and life you once had.

They are your past, and they are your future, and the days are so numbered. A glimpse of your own mortality. A glimpse of what you could have done at their age, when the world was yours to conquer.

The pain I feel looking at my child and knowing she’ll be gone in a couple of years, that the magical “eighteen” is right around the corner, the one I saw when she was a newborn as a distant fantasy that could never possibly come – when I held her in the crook of my arm and she seemed she’d always be mine – yeah, well, it’s almost here.

She’s pulling away, and walking away, and the end is right there.

We text. We talk shit. We send messages to each other on Instagram. She legitimately makes me roar in laughter and beam in pride. These kids are remaking the world. They’re loud, critical, politically informed, and know how to use the motherfucking internet. Their voices are roaring and they will be heard.

And…one of them just screamed at me for requesting they do the dishes.

I don’t know how to parent teenagers. I don’t know how to hold myself up in the face of their scorn – some of which, let’s be real, is valid. It’s a swallowing of my pride when I know they’re right, when they point out my own hypocrisy or irrationality, and I owe it to them to say, alright, you’re right. And I owe it to them to stand my fucking ground when they are wrong, and to try again and again and again and again to address the character flaws in them I know will cause them pain, to smash the entitlement, to teach them to work. To teach them to love. To teach them never to leave the house without saying “I love you.”

This is the complexity that sits in me and I feel alone. To shift from a rage I never knew was possible toward one’s own kid to a sadness so deep my bones ache at the thought of her leaving – once again, nobody prepared me for this shit.

And I suppose that’s really it, what feels so different about this stage: That when they’re newborns, we look ahead and we see so much to come. We see toddlers and preschool and grammar school. We see so much time.

But now, I look ahead and I see an end I never want to arrive. I wonder if it’s already here. I wonder where the time went, beg for it back, and watch her move through the world with a power I recall from when it was mine.

I suppose the answer, again, is in the surrender, and I suppose I’ll find it, again, because there is no choice, and ultimately the mother’s job is in the letting go.


a scratched-up photo of my first kid and me, when there was more time




Super-top-secret content coming soon. We’re gettin’ fancy over here.

Get into it.

  • Catherine Uretsky

    I feel your pain right now, but hold on to something solid because once you get through the teenage years of hell, here comes adulthood! This is the time when they still make stupid decisions and you can do nothing about it.

  • Meghann

    Goddammit, you’ve done it again. Sitting at my desk with tears rolling down my face. I also have a teenager and a near teenager (no littles though) and it is without a doubt the worst. And the best. And then the worst again. Plus I’m a librarian in a high school so I have about a hundred extra teenagers who rely on me also. Thanks for the post this week, I really really needed to read it today. I changed the Wi-Fi password last night so who know what I’ll be coming home to, at least they will be going to see their dad this weekend!

    Yours in solidarity,


  • MaryEl

    Shoulder shrug. Do you get the shoulder shrug?
    Me: “Hey sweetie, how was —?”
    Her: (shrug)

    But yes she is brilliant and wonderful. Most days she’s a better human than I.

  • Annette

    Oh, I love you so. Your writing is exquisite and I completely understand every single word you say. My children’s teenage years were the most emotionally exhausting years of my life. I was a scared single mother and truly terrified 99.9% of the time. I wouldn’t go back there for anything, yet at the same time, I remember counting how many minutes I had left before they walked out the door and suffering from anticipatory grief years in advance.
    You have such an incredible gift of taking your emotions and expressing them in such a way that we all can relate to. Thank you for that.

  • Mary

    I think parents don’t feel the support because it’s not “cute” or pretty anymore. It’s a crap shoot, and we all majorly fuck up with regularity: kids, parents…it’s embarrassing. My kids are adults now, one with a kid of his own, and the book “Get out of My Life, (but first will you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?”) by Anthony Wolf, really helped me gain perspective while they were teenagers. Who they really are as people is very different than who they are in the parent child relationship. The world at large gets the best version of them. We get them ONLY as parents..it’s special, no doubt, but it’s not a very good indication of them as people.
    I’m also in an interesting position as a high school teacher. I get the kid’s perspective as my own experience as a mom starts to fade and look all “hallmark card fuzzy”. My students tell me everything (art teacher, not counselor), and you would be surprised: MOST kids absolutely adore their parents and don’t want to disappoint them. That drives a lot of their choices. It’s also where their guilt and remorse come from, because they can’t help but do stupid shit, but hey, everybody needs something to talk about in therapy when they grow up.

  • Tamara

    I wasn’t even going to say anything. Because let me tell you, boy teenagers have NOTHING, and I mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on girl teenagers. My oldest is 20 with no clue or direction of where or what he wants to do with his life but that’s a whole nother story. #2 graduates HS in May and is off to college right after but I’m excited for that. #3 is 16 and literally the spawn of I don’t even know what. I’ve told her that she doesn’t even know how close she’s come to me smothering her in her sleep. I think she hates my life just because I wake up and am still breathing. She gets mad because I don’t congratulate her on every single positive thing she does (um, you’re supposed to get good grades) or if I ask her to do her laundry or just…honestly the list is endless. But then I look at her and remember the tiny girl that walked at 9 months. Or the baby that cried because she just had to do what her brothers were doing. She’s fierce in life and talks to me in a way that at 41 I would never even think of talking to my own mother. And I don’t want to break that spirit with tons of discipline but sometimes…I want to fight her like a stranger. Don’t judge me. It gets better though. Remember I have a 20 year old.

    • Tina

      I feel your pain! I’ve got the unmotivated 20 year old, the high school senior, the tenth grade drama queen (that’s a boy!), PLUS the seventh grade prankster. They all four have ADHD along with my husband, and two of them have argumentative disassociate disorder or they just love to get the last word in and always believe they are right and your a dumb ass for not succumbing to their desires. This article made me happy to know it isn’t just me going through this crazy madness. My friends will post their kids report cards or awards on Facebook and I just hang my head in shame thinking damn at this point I thought I was doing good because they were actually going to be on time to school.

      • Mom

        Oh Tina I hear you loud and clear. My sentiments exactly. I thought I was the only one.

    • Momma D

      Thank you Tamara!!! I needed to hear that there is another mom struggling with the girl teenager and the boy who is legit normal!!! You spoke my entire situation currently.

    • Nancy

      So, go back a couple years when I had 2 teen daughters and one preteen daughter and i always wondered why people said teens were hard. Everything was going pretty good and easy. No real mood swings, responsible kids. Now fast forward to today and …Oh my goodness! I needed this today! I am currently struggling, and loving having 3 teen girls all under my roof while my husband is working/living in a neighboring state. Oy! Just when I figure out one hurdle, they find another I am suppose to conquer! And the mood swings, where did those come from?? One day my daughter was struggling, so I gave her a hug. She cuddled into my shoulder, crying and hugged me back for a few minutes, then without either one saying anything immediately yanked away, went into her room and slammed the door on my face. She is my oldest, and I think that was my first time i was utterly confused by these moods which make no sense. Now she is doing better but my middle one is going through the ‘I hate you because the world exist stage’ complete with her actually calling the police every time she gets grounded from her cell phone! So much fun! Followed by a few weeks of the sly ‘if I am acting my nicest will my mom end my grounding??’ Oy!! So exhausting! And you still love them, regardless of your desires to have something happen where they figure it out!!!
      Not sure what I was thinking having them so close together (3 in 3 years) but the good news is at least I soon will be through the teen years! Only about 3 more to go! And if there ever is a support group I will always be there telling you all to hang on, and how wonderful you are as moms!!!

    • elisabeth

      Nancy, oh yes, that’s mine too… hell on earth. Needing confirmation for every good thing she does. Just putting laundry in the basket deserves a gold medal? Please! I just hope it goes by quickly. And someone else talked of guilt of what we could have done better when they were younger. So glad I’m not alone. And I only have one girl, teen, adopted… ARGH.

  • Jo

    I found your blog, just before I had my fourth child and you had just given birth to Arlo. I live in the UK, in a parallel life to yours (only I can’t write as eloquently). With four children the same ages as yours. Every time you write a blog it is although you heard my cries, you put my thoughts into beautiful prose and I cry reading it, but always feel better afterwards, knowing I am not alone. Thanks you for putting yourself out there.

  • Shelly

    I feel you and am so grateful for this heads up and I just want to share that my mom says that having friendships with her adult kids is one of the unexpected joys in her life. Grandkids are awesome of course, but genuinely liking the adults we’ve become was something she never expected and it brings her joy on a daily basis.

    I want that for you. After the letting go and the distance that young adults need to put between themselves and their parents, once they really feel comfortable in their own skin as adults, I want them to come back to you with a new appreciation for just how fucking cool their mom is and a gratitude for how you pour yourself into them and would do anything for them. I want them to genuinely like you and vice versa for many, many, many years to come.

    • Lorain

      Perfect. It’s amazing to have adult relationships with your kids.

  • Julie

    I so needed to read this today!! Just when my 13 year old called me f***ing stupid for about the 10th time, I opened my email to find your article. and yes, how the pendulum swings between rage, and sadness and love….uggh. I think our support group is right here. thanks for creating it Janelle

  • Christina Mulukin

    Hmm I was just thinking about all the times as an ‘adult’ that I ended up back at my parents’ place… You may end up with more time than you think! 😉

  • Sandi

    So much this. And my dear, YOU are the beginning of that support group. Know it. For every momma out here who says, yeah, I get that. I FEEL that….you are there for us. Thank you.

  • Anita

    As a mother and step mother of 4 . (Ages 11,21,26,27) teens, early adulthood and the rest has been truly lonely.

    The mommies that put their attachment parenting, green smoothie drinking kids all over social media. They discuss stretch marks and lack of sleep. (Just to keep it real) I’m looking at these mommies thinking: honey, that’s the least of your problems. Because my oldest just totalled his first car I think he’s smoking too much weed and yes, the look that clears the room. Yikes.

    What I have found about this parenting gig is that we have been sold the illusion that we have some sort of control. We have all this information and brain scans and there is a way to get parenting right. That IS A LIE. It makes me want to scream. So those of us that do not have the ‘perfect’ teen we hide or pretend that everything is perfect and ok. Because If our children are not perfect we will be judged harshly. And I have been judged horribly. By the precious mommies with their precious small children. Eventually, I found my small tribe of teen mamas. It wasn’t easy. We are good at hiding.

    High five. I got you, I get you and will eat Thai food and chocolate in solidarity.

    • Alyson

      Anita, I think I love you! My three are 23, 20 and 17. The 20 year old has been a nightmare since 12, and alternately needs me to support him like he’s ten or reviles me for the minutes of poor parenting in my worst moments from 5 years ago. Now we find out hes schizophrenic after losing extended family along the way who were embarrassed by his failures. It is lonely. I think people are frightened to be close because they’re scared of seeing a reality that could knock on their own door. And I wonder what we do next -he’s regressed, and is younger in his thinking than his 17 yr old sister. How much longer can I do it?

      • Ishvari

        Alyson, my now 17 y.o. daughter went through the same as your son. Her symptoms started at 10. Watching our children suffer from these mental disorders is painful and scary, but the options and guidance available from medical professionals are scarier. Through extensive research I found this non profit company out of Canada that is strictly dedicated to healing mental disorders. http://www.truehope
        My daughter is now stable, whole and attending college going for a Physics major. Sending massive amounts of loving, healing energy.

    • Mom

      Oh Anita thank you. Couldn’t say it any better.

  • Susan

    Everything you said is TRUE! The dirty rotten truth. My take is the teen years are there to harden you, to make it possible to let them go when the time is right. You might be surprised to find yourself slightly relieved when they waltz out the door taking their drama with them. It’s just all the sweeter when they come back to visit wanting your arms, your mac n cheese and your bed. You’re doin’ great, mama-and your teens are doing their job, too.

    • Heather

      Yessss! My oldest daughter just turned 19 and has moved out. I still have a 15 year old daughter at home. People ask me all the time if I miss her being at home. And I feel like they judge me when I answer honestly. I miss her but I don’t miss living with her. I don’t miss her and her sister fighting and arguing over every little freaking thing. I enjoy the time I spend with her a little more now. Life is a lot more peaceful.

  • Rosanne C

    I wrote a blog four years ago, to my ten year old daughter, anticipating the coming teen years. I wasn’t wrong. In fact, I was totally right…in that romantic way that we always see approaching stages of life. (Maybe we wouldn’t head into them otherwise?!?) I read it now and again just to remind myself that there it’s theoretically possible to take romantic view of all this.
    Anyway, solidarity!

  • Leanne


  • Jen

    I have two teenagers some days the oldest teen is an amazing person other days I wind up crying because of her attitude and wishing I could kick her out. My second teenager is amazing but does not have the nasty attitude of the older teenager. I have a four year old as well so I have days that I feel like I sometimes don’t have the energy for. It’s a struggle and we’re all flying by the seat if our pants because there are no teenage raising instructions.

  • Melissa

    You did it again, Janelle. O. M. G. I laughed, I cried, all my thoughts right here in your words. THANK YOU for saying it, saying it ALL. My teenager has been kicking my ass (not literally although at times it might as well be) lately and I’m at such a loss as to what to do. I recently threw out the white flag on Facebook, asking for advice or suggestions. And now this, your words. I am so thankful for you! You get it. You get me. I can’t wait to hear more!

  • Mel

    As a mother of two girls ages 14 and 15, this is EXACTLY how I feel! The worries about boys, drugs, social media… yikes, I’d take toddlers any day! Trying not to take their attitudes personally, and wondering what happened to my sweet little girls. Is there a light at the end of this tunnel?

  • Gloria

    Ok, now I feel strange because, nope, I actually love this phase. I was always a baby/toddler kind of person and quite frankly dreaded the teen years. Now they’re here and I love it way more than I expected. Yes, there are moments when I feel like I’m losing my mind, but overall, these kids are damn cool. I love being able to engage with them about serious topics and being able to laugh with them about stupid stuff (US politics enters both those categories).

    • Liz

      That would be me too. I am at the early end of the teen years with my two but I am enjoying it! It may change.. and I know others struggle. I was the one who suffered terribly with babies who never slept and I was so burned out and over the toddler bit! I am in a good spot right now.

  • Alison hlady


  • Sue

    Until my kids hit their teens, I had no idea they were capable of breaking my heart
    over and over. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. Thanks for the real talk, always.

  • Madelief

    OH MY! Yes……So much yes! They are killing me, slowly and painfully. When people said “just wait until they are teenagers” I rolled my eyes and thought, “no way, my kids will be awesome”. And they are, they are not doing drugs, lying and being “bad” kids in the way I imagined these well doing parents were suggesting. Well I was wrong, this is the worst, hardest, most exhausting phase of parenting………even though my kids are amazing. WTF! How can that co-exist. I didn’t anticipate the heartache I would feel for them, for myself, for the world changing under their feet as they realize they are in it, not protected in the bubble of our home.

    Enough ranting here. You said it sister. I’ll join that support group.

  • Corey

    It’s like you’re in my head, except you express it all better than I do!

  • Tiffoos

    Ah, there is nothing like the day I say “Go f**k yourself to my 14 year old”. Amen to all you said and more!

  • Jena

    All the gratitude for this beautiful post. My teenager is going through so, so much, and yet I don’t write about our relationship except in the most peripheral way to respect her privacy. It leaves a hole in terms of connection, though, that reading your post made me realize I’m so hungry for. xoxo

  • Sue

    I was a great parent of teenagers, until I actually had some. They are delightful and maddening and humbling and I get my ass handed to me on a regular basis. There is a loneliness to this stage that I did not anticipate, I never thought I would miss my 9 year old talking my ear off about Pokemon and Star Wars but I do, because at least then he was talking to me in full sentences – not single word answers and grunts, all while avoiding eye contact. I was pretty good at meeting their needs when they were little, now I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. Thanks for your words and your honesty, it helps to feel a little less alone.

  • alexandra

    Here’s the stunner: what we wish for, having them forever, would stunt them. We can hold nothing for ourselves, that would hold everything back for them. To wish for something you know would be emotional crippling for them, guts you in a way where you can’t even face yourself in a mirror. Your entire day is spent walking through a mentally scribbled diary, you journal your wish and the deal you’d make for one afternoon spent blowing across their forehead while they sleep and then you stop yourself because you know that to keep them this way is the most selfish part of you that leaves you red faced. I can’t even walk into a store alone because I remember how my babies would pull me by the hand, one in each direction “this, mama! this! can I have this?” and I only wanted to get my shopping done, and back home and them napping and time alone and NOW? Now I have all the time in the world to nap and I don’t dare close my eyes and be still because I almost choke from the quiet. So yeah: parenting teens? What I want more for them than anything is for them to never need me as sickly as I.need.them.

  • NicoleM

    Yep. I have a 15 year old and an almost 13 year old. When my oldest was a toddler he had a perpetual smile that could light up a room. He was always sweet and happy and just a really nice kid with an open heart. He’s still amazing, but damn do I miss him (and he’s right here). The gorgeous smile makes guest appearances- mostly for his girlfriend. The look of open love I used to get every day has morphed into a look like he can’t believe how dumb I am most of the time (did i mention that I am the dumbest person ever who has no life experience and can’t possibly understand anything?). When I see him shining through the “teenager” it simultaneously lifts my soul and breaks my heart that it is the exception and not the rule. It’s funny that you say “I want another baby”- for me, I want MY babies back. I want to go back and play with them and hug them and see that smile again and drink it in. Thankfully my younger son still thinks I’m cool- so I’m Just gonna enjoy the shit out of that till it ends too.

  • Carolyn

    Once again Janelle, you descibe so well what I have felt. My “teenagers” are now 27 and 31 and I remember the stage you are describing so very well. Your baby girl shutting the door and shutting you out as well, simply saying “I shut the door because I don’t want to talk to you and want to be alone” How can you counter that? My son was always kinda quiet but moreso as a teen. And when they left for college the emptiness and sadness was overwhelming, so don’t feel alone, you are feeling what alot of us feel. We love them so much and they have been our lives and now we have to let them have theirs. And then one day your daughter tells you that she gives the advice to her friends that you gave her and you are aware that she was listening afterall and it did help her. Just keep loving them and please don’t throw them out…hugs

    • Rose Gilbert

      How are you in my head and able to articulate all the thoughts , angst , feelings that I never could!? THIS! THIS IS THE DEFINITION OF A WRITER! As always. Thank you

  • Kel

    Ah yeah, the teenaged years are tough ones.

    I only have one piece of advice in this: try, and yes, I know it’s hard as hell, but TRY, to remain absolutely calm in any discussion you have with your teens. They are all the fuck over the place, and you are the safe harbor even when you think they want to set sail in the other direction. If they tell you they tried weed, you can scream inside, but keep your voice steady. Invite conversation and information but asking quiet, open ended questions. NO judging. Just don’t. You’d be amazed at how well this works if you can manage it. I wasn’t perfect – oh hell no. But I did my damndest to stick to it, and my kids did mostly talk to me about stuff, and they still do.

    Now for the Bad News.

    This is NOT the hardest stage of parenting. Not be a long fucking shot. The worst is when they are over 18, but under 25. They are still finding their way, and they are going to make some of the stupidest decisions imaginable. They are going to fuck up, defy all logic, imperil their lives and potential careers, and there is not one good goddamned thing you can do about it. Nothing. Nada. They’re legally adults. You’ve got jack shit to say.

    All you can do is cry when they don’t see you, cuss and yell when you’re done crying, and then help them pick up the pieces when everything implodes on them.

    Just know you’ve got people who have been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and survived the process. And we will be there for you, too.

    With love from NC.

    • Bek

      My friend calls this stage the Adult Learning Curve. My son graduated last year and this year he has made some of the most the most wonderful mature decisions and the next minute the dumbest decisions possible! Just hoping we make it through this phase!

  • Tiffany

    Janelle – whatever you do, PLEASE keep writing! This post, like pretty much all of your posts, is exactly what I needed today! I can’t even put it into words at this moment but it’s been a hard day with my teenager, preteen and preschooler! I just want to say thank you!

  • Helen

    Oh my, this just made me cry. This is how I feel – so lonely, so out of control. The hardest stage of parenting xx

  • Anne-Cathrine Nyberg

    As a amom of two teenage girls – Oh My God do I feel this

  • Janet

    I hear you. I’m there. No advice though. I’m floundering too.

  • Nicole

    I bow to you! THANK YOU for saying the things I’ve been too afraid to say out loud. Having 2 right now is pushing my already tenuous mental stability. My son does the quiet, moody, snippy ‘huff’ at every turn. My daughter, on the other hand, is on the hormone roller coaster – I don’t know if I’m going to get a hug, indifference, tears, total meltdown, or utter bitch.

    As an 8th grade teacher, I deal with it at school, but I can’t send my own kids home at the end of the day!!! I go from riding the roller coaster day with 60 to the roller coaster with 2. I’m contemplating running away and becoming a hermit.

  • Kelly

    This is so beautifully raw. Speaking as one with a newborn, I can definitely attest to the relative simplicity of parenting a baby, though at times it feels like the hardest, most lonely job in the world. It has never occurred to me that the teen years could be lonelier, but it makes so much sense – everything you describe. Please write a piece on what you do to ‘smash entitlement’! Thank you for writing this…and good luck Mama.

  • Cheryl Soler


    For me, the hardest thing is that when they are being the worst, meanest, most critical little shits is usually when they need you the most. Trying to parent someone with love and understanding when really you want to punch them in the face is really, really hard.

  • Betsy Shaw

    “This is the complexity that sits in me and I feel alone. To shift from a rage I never knew was possible toward one’s own kid to a sadness so deep my bones ache at the thought of her leaving – once again, nobody prepared me for this shit.”
    Exactly. And it does feel as if we’ve all been thrown into the deep end of the pool, realizing all that time in the shallow, cute and cuddly end, where you chatter with other moms and splash happily around, did NOTHING to prepare us, did nothing for our confidence, did nothing to deem us ready for the ensuing constant struggle to just stay afloat, with heads above water, rather than succumbing, and sucking the cold water all around us into our lungs and sinking, sad and dejected to the bottom where we find the lonely, subterranean wasteland of moms of teens. I just recently wrote about this, rather sheepishly, because telling my story of parenting a teen without invading the teen’s privacy, is ever so tricky. https://blogs.babycenter.com/parenting/whats-eating-all-moms-of-teens-where-do-i-start/

  • Sharon

    I have a 13 yo girl and three young boys. As I read I laughed because it was SO TRUE and then I cried because it was so true. I started following you because of something you wrote about your young teenager a few years ago and I’m glad I did because you’re one of the only ones talking about it 🖤

  • Sandi

    Brilliantly stated.
    Add mental illness to your child’s life and it all gets just that much harder.
    And in return, the pride you feel, the love, the pain, the tears and the constant worrying – it all gets that much more intense as well.
    Yet, you keep on keeping on because regardless, you love that crazy ‘no-longer-a-child-but-not-yet-an-adult’ that walks outside your body but owns your heart.💚

  • Mimi

    Thank you! Some days are so hard parenting a teen especially girls! You can feel alone, stressed and honsestly that mayhe there is something wrong with them. This helped me realize the struggles are probably normal and most experience them with their teen.

  • Gretchen

    I just told someone the other day that I missed my 8 year old son….because he’s 15 now.

    Loud and clear, Janelle – right there with you.

  • Erin

    I follow you and read you religiously because you always know what to say about motherhood. There’s no judgement, just your perspective on what’s happening in your life, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you share that with us. My daughter turns 13 on Monday and I’m terrified to have a teenager. It seems like once they hit the teenage years, there is nothing out there. But you. Like a shining beacon. Thanks again, again, again, for hitting this right on the head. It’s all about letting go and the last part hurts the most.

  • Dee

    New reader here, and am dealing with my youngest of 4. My oldest is 32 and a mom to two, a going to be 30 year old happily married son, a 27 year old this month in a committed relationship with a wonderful young woman, and my 9 year old daughter.
    I know from experience that I will survive the teen years because I have proven track record… we survived an alcoholic ex, my daughter effectively not talking to me or doing the opposite from 11 to 13, a nasty divorce, my mama’s boy being mad at me for the first time in his life, 14 year old son just sure he knew more than me on every topic including my career choices. I remarried with the blessings of my three.
    My parenting goal has always been If I do my job right, my children won’t need me but will always want me. And I am happy to say we have gotten there so there is hope!
    Now my 9 year old is a unique blend of my husband and I. Having a baby at 45 was a suprise to my other children…. now they can’t imagine life without her. I was so happy to see her beautiful little round head befor they whisked her away for her bath, I was just sure she would have a cinderblock!
    She is more hardheaded and opinionated than all three of my other kids were at this age. When I say “I never had this problem with the other kids” hubby reminds me that she has different genes. There are times she makes me laugh so hard I cry, and times she makes scream so loud I cry. This last two weeks we have locker drama, missing books and bullies! She is learning responsibly, that is ok to ask for help and it is OK to tell someone when things are not OK. Because she spoke up about some bullies she had other kids come up to her and thank her for saying something. It opened the door at school for discussion on what is acceptable behavior, and what won’t be tolerated.
    When they are little they don’t have vocabulary to tell you what is going on, now that they are readers and comprehension they have opinions. Thank god for Steven Covey and his books as well as the Chicken Soup for the Soul as well. They got my first borne thru a lot! Time to hit some usd bookstores and pick up a few of those timely gems and toss one in the back seat of the Jeep and maybe one in each bathroom. Thanks lasdies! I needed someone to relate to!

  • Jen

    Absolutely every part of parenting has been lonely. Getting divorced when my kid was 8 mo was horrible because the married friends don’t want anything to do with you and the single ones w/o kids don’t either. That said, the teen years have been much easier – probably because there was a sense of “we’re in this together”. But yeah, it’d be great to have a support network for all parents. And it doesn’t end when they become legal adults. That 8mo old is now 25 and still needs guidance and support and some days acts like a 5 year old – probably because he’s human. Parenting is hard.

  • Paul

    I loved the teen years as much as the rest. It’s the grown and gone years that suck the most

  • Jen

    This is everything in my heart. I’m a portrait photographer, and I’m changing my entire business direction to serve moms of teens, particularly teen girls. I JUST blogged about this a few days ago! We moms need community and connection so we don’t feel like we’re the only ones living with these strangers who love us, then hate us!
    I LOVE this! I would LOVE to connect with you. Our thinking seems so aligned.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Faith

    Honestly, I think a lot of people are scared of teenagers. But as someone who has worked with teens for the last decade, lemme tell ya, they need parenting more than ever.

    Honestly one of my favorite resources for all things parenting, family, and marriage is Hoe McGee Ministries. He has a daily, usually hilarious m, podcast called “Fighting for families”

    His website is joemcgeeministries.com.

    • Faith

      *JOE McGee Ministries. Sheesh 🤦🏼‍♀️typos

  • Marnie

    Parenting teenagers is like going through puberty all over again. You’re on a roller coaster of emotions. You’re tired. You have antagonistic feelings, side by side, co-existing- so dichotomous, it seems surreal they could be sharing space in your heart.

  • Suzanne

    Been there. Done that. Don’t worry. You’ve done a helluva job raising your kids. We lose them for a few years and then they come back. And they realize how smart you really are and that they need you. Wait till sometime in their freshman year of college. Stop by and offer to take them to lunch, or dinner. The relationship will be different but it will be whole again. You’ll both see one another in a new light and you can be proud of the humans you’ve sent off to the world.

  • Christina

    I raised 4 teenagers, 3 boys and a girl (all grown and out of the nest). Everything you said is absolutely true! but I will say this much, once they get out on their own and experience the great big world and all of the triumphs and disappointments, they learn to appreciate what you tried to do for them, hopefully.
    Sometimes they even admit that they were unmerciful and tiring at times.
    It makes it all worth it when they come to you and tell you they love you and that you’re the best mom a kid could ever have!
    Its a bittersweet thought, but one day you will get to watch them raise teenagers of their own and they will understand that “deer in the headlights look” you walked around with!

  • Tina

    Yes a group for parents of teenagers in definitely needed !
    I have three teenagers, all adopted which comes with more extra baggage and one of them has ‘middle child syndrome’ In my opinion ….. we were told it would be a rollercoaster – it’s a bloody white knuckle ride !

  • Jen

    I see you have a lot of comments here: But letting go isnt necessarily the answer. There are resouces available out there!!

    Here is a great video series:


    Its a program that you have to pay to watch, but some libraries might have access to the videos or might find them somewhere else online.

    “One of the true dangers in how we approach our adolescent children is abandoning the parenting and guidance role prematurely; the teenager is marooned at a time when rich attachment is just as important as it ever was. It may seem, within the day-to-day tensions that inevitably erupt in this place of development, that the adolescent neither wants nor needs anchored attachment to parents and significant adults, but nothing could be further from the truth. ”


  • Jessi

    Thank you so much for this. God it puts things in perspective. I have a wonderful 2 year old and have been in sort of a funk lately. It is all so fleeting and grateful for this grounding reminder to slow down and have a bit more gratitude for their childhood.

  • Jeanette

    Sounds like you’re doing an awesome job! I was warned when I was pregnant that if I did my job… I’d be working myself out of a job. I have a 17 year old son… the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life… is be his Mom.

    Some days are so hard… the pure emotion that pours out of him is over whelming…and I feel like I’m walking a thin line between him and his Dad, my husband, as they don’t understand each other. Then there are days they sit and watch goofy shows and laugh… and I let them because those are bonding times they both need.

    I had a friend tell me raising a teenager is like trying to nail jello to a tree… lol… that sums it up!

    Keep the lines of communication open… breathe… find a friend to laugh and cry with.. that’s how you raise a teenager…

  • Jenny

    Fellow lady writer/blogger here. I’ve been writing about it for years 😉. There are a lot of us out here. It’s just not something people seek out until they’re up to their chin hairs in it.

    I’m almost done (my youngest is almost 18) but I swear I lost my mind raising four of them.

    You’ll be okay. So will they. Sometimes it takes time.



  • Bryce Warden

    My 13 year old daughter has side eye so strong I can feel it graze my cheek from 10 feet out. It’s hard. I still lean on the same friends that I leaned on when they were babies. I still struggle with self doubt as a parent and I put it out into the light so it can’t fester in the dark. I apologize when I’m wrong and refuse to back down when I’m right. I do not yield on the important things but am flexible in the day-to-day. It’s like juggling kittens and chainsaws while hula hooping a ring of fire. Good times.

  • Jenny Johnson

    Yes. My oldest is 19 and continues to take the hard road, his own road. We have no control, we have only love. And that is a painful realization because it means we have to watch them fail. The weight on the marriage is huge, the weight on the family (why do we always talk about him?), the feelings of failure parenting him (this isn’t what we taught him to be!)… it’s so much. I’m tired of people shrugging it off as “ah, those teenagers, they give you hell.” To travel so far with them and to still be waiting for respect, that sucks.
    Thanks Janelle, you are right it’s not talked about or supported, we are all too damn busy to reach out much.

  • Diana

    You can either surrender or move to Spain, where your kids won’t leave the house ti they’re 30+ !

  • Mary Channell

    I remember every moment of this from my own two teenager’s years. Now I am feeling much of the same with the “grands”. The difference between being a long-distance grandparent and a next-door granny nanny grandparent is a huge chasm. And talk about lonely; grandparents are “supposed” to always be supportive, loving, and passing out cookies. When I have spent ten + years sharing many of the jobs of parenting, it can send me into tears of rage and sadness when I get the side-eye, snake-eye, “you are so stupid” communications. Add to that being in one’s mid-seventies, trying to deal with my own aging, recognizing the waning of physical and emotional energy, and having NO ONE with whom to share those feelings—drove me into therapy. Smartest move I ever made. For an hour a week, I can just blither and there is someone to listen. Hang in there, parents. Support each other. Remember to hug your own parent and tell them specifically when they did, and are doing, well.

  • Rebecca

    I’ve been feeling all these things, yet couldn’t figure out how to put them into words, without sounding bat-shit crazy. Thank you! I needed this SO much and it feels a little less lonely, knowing that I am not alone in these feelings. <3

  • Mary

    I remember every moment of this from my own two teenager’s years. Now I am feeling much of the same with the “grands”. The difference between being a long-distance grandparent and a next-door granny nanny grandparent is a huge chasm. And talk about lonely; grandparents are “supposed” to always be supportive, loving, and passing out cookies. When I have spent ten + years sharing many of the jobs of parenting, it can send me into tears of rage and sadness when I get the side-eye, snake-eye, “you are so stupid” communications. Add to that being in one’s mid-seventies, trying to deal with my own aging, recognizing the waning of physical and emotional energy, and having NO ONE with whom to share those feelings—drove me into therapy. Smartest move I ever made. For an hour a week, I can just blither and there is someone to listen. Hang in there, parents. Support each other. Remember to hug your own parent and tell them specifically when they did, and are doing, well.

  • Karell

    My husband & I did not speak for weeks because he could not understand why I was so angry with our teens! I’m like if you had to deal with most of the crap they do you would get it, they give me a battle with everything. If it’s not one it’s another, and let me tell you it isn’t guaranteed to change when they’re grown either! I have three that are grown & my goodness, I feel it’s a miracle I’m not in a psych ward. I sometimes wish I was just to get away!! Thanks for this.

  • Loretta

    So much truth! Terrible twos? Bring it on. Troublesome threes? Yes, please. Teenagers …. EEEK! It’s hard, it’s confusing, it’s sensitive, and it’s downright terrifying sometimes. The trouble a toddler can get into is nothing compared to the trouble a 16 year old can get into 😮

    I’m still sort of navigating this area (my kids are currently 20, 19, 18, and 17) and we’ve had some rocky moments where I thought we were all done for and the world was going to end because one of us was going to self-destruct and explode. But it’s all working out and we’re learning and growing together. Most days we even like each other. Most….

  • De Jackson

    God bless you for this.
    In it with you,

  • De Jackson

    PS: Ours are 16 months apart. So basically, we had two in diapers. Now we have two of what my husband calls “Terrible Roommates.”

  • Suzanne Deleanu

    Because it’s a topic that is too diverse and too difficult for us to deal with…apparently. That and it makes us regress into our teenage years and most people don’t want to relive them, especially through our children’s eyes. And believe me, doing this without the support or understanding of your spouse (even though we were living under the same roof) is even more difficult. There is minimal mental health support for this age bracket and it honestly feels like a “Good luck, we’ll see you on the other side” scenario if you’re dealing with not just the ego and self-image problems but mental health issues too!

  • Roxy

    OMFG I am so glad that I am not the only that feels that way!! We have two teenagers and one that will officially turn into one in just a couple of weeks. We just keep reminding ourselves that “its only a phase, its only a phase, its only a phase” and sometimes that helps and sometimes that doesn’t LOL. I just hope that we are doing something right, and after all is said and done they are good humans in this world. Fingers crossed…..Lover reading your stuff.

  • Brandi

    My God. You nailed it. I have a 14 year old and she is simultaneously my favorite person and the bane of my existence. One moment I get this glimpse of her soul and I’m like, “Oh! There you are you incredible human!” and the next minute she’s making us all miserable because I’ve had the audacity to ask her to deal with her fucking laundry

  • Jamie

    Start your own group! I am about to.

  • JanellB

    Hell yeah girl!!! 110% and hey, if you want to be friends and be lonely together you just shoot me an email and let’s do it!!!! It’s lonely as hell, even lonelier on a Friday night and even lonelier as they let go and you start to see that you really have done it… you’ve raised them to do the right things… they’ll throw in a bad decision here and there just to keep you on your toes, but there’s that glimmer of you in them and it’s a hard freaking day!!! I’m with you. My most favorite thing right now is making sure that people know – YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!! Even when you think you are, even when you can’t muster up the energy to ask for help or a friend, you still aren’t alone – EVER. The only part that I want to challenge is your last sentence…. your job isn’t in the letting go, it’s in the standing strong and being there even when you think they’ve left. They never leave, they will never let go of you and as hard as they push and hate you at time, they never want you to let go. They will always need you and our job isn’t in letting go, it’s finding the way to hold on strong but give them those wings to fly (even when it’s right into that brick wall called life). Stay strong moms!!! We got this – email me when you need a friend!!!!

  • Dana

    All I do to deal with all of it is remember what it was like when I was a teenager. Then I realize it’s just pay back for the shit I put my parents (and community) through. I’m sure most of the folks reading this forget how horrible they were as teenagers. Just call your parents up and ask them because we all likely forget about the torture we put our parents through. They likely have some favourite (or not so favourite) memories of us in our teens.

    Best part is that they eventually leave home and grow out of it. A friend of mine said the teen phase exists so when it comes time to kick them out of the house, it is that much easier. 🙂 My philosophy is If they make it to adulthood without going to jail, getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant then I would say mission accomplished.

  • Kathrin Schoenberg

    This is exactly how I feel lately. Babies were so simple. They eat, poop, sleep, repeat. I loved this time. And we thought that we had all this time, and now we can see the end. My oldest will start high school soon and I will start freaking out soon. She is so sensitive and emotional at times and I really hate the eye rolling, but then she’s smart, strong and tells me what I’m all doing wrong. And I agree, that is tough but makes me so proud at the same time. Great read again! Hello from your cousin’s friend 😉

  • Conny

    I don’t have a teenager (yet) but I see glimpses of the possible attitude and world coming for me and I’m terrified. I did teach teenagers for 15 years though, and went to seminars and read books on puberty and adolescent development. Neurologically, a teenager is going through growth equivalent to that of a two or three year old. Physically they can grow an inch overnight and it’s exhausting for them and their brain to be doing so much. They are equally as emotional and irrational as a toddler but we expect so much more from them because they’re “smarter.”, but the frontal lobe (which controls impulses and delivers the “common sense” we all depend on is t fully developed until the later stages of puberty which can last beyond the age of 20! Whatever we do, we must have patience and be consistent, just like we tried to be when they were a toddler. I remember the toddler years as being much more trying than the infant stage, so although this article is relevant it should compare toddler development to teen development as they are more related. I only hope I can muster the patience needed to survive my child’s adolescence.

  • Christine Prince

    Thank you so much for this it’s like someone went in my mind and pulled out my secret thoughts but there is something incredibly freeing to hear I’m not the only one we just don’t talk about it like you said.

  • Neha Gupta

    If I could only tell you how many times I talk with moms that feel completely isolated with teenagers – I would be a billionaire. As someone who actually works with parents and coaches them through this process – I will tell you it is hands down the hardest part of parenting.

    So many times we forget that it takes a VILLAGE to raise a child – and teenage years are the one time where parents need to lean MORE than ever before.

    It’s like having a kid who adores you turn into a villain and hate your guts – and there are actually ways to avoid this through mentorship. Can I please tell you THANK YOU FOR THIS POST – I am going to be sharing it with over 24,000 moms because it is SO relevant. You rock!

    • Janell Besa

      Hi!!! I’d love to hear more about your coaching and services you provide to moms.

      Please shoot me an email to share more!!!


  • Another Tamara

    Thank you for this. Just. Thank you.

  • kimmers

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you for this. <3

    • Sandra

      It depends on the child really – I’ve had 10 of them and they are all really different and how I raised them is different too – but if you subconsciously or consciously raise them to be independent thinkers – that’s what you get in teenage years. As one book White.water rafting or something like that put it – hang on and enjoy the ride – you will come out the other side. In the meantime these few things might help – try not to take things personally – as they like to tell us – its not all about us ☺ and make sure that your filling your own basket too with things you like to do and as my sister likes to say choices and consequences. Either self inflicted by them or parent inflicted by us is the best method for trying to keep them on track – good luck – I still have the 4 youngest to get through – the wild years ☺

  • Dawn

    As usual, you are fabulous !!

  • Linda Xochitl Avalos 🌸

    I have been saying this for so long! Teenagers need just as much attention as children when they are younger! Different kinds of Stanton, nonetheless attention. They are learning how to make decisions, which actions to take, impulsive v instinct, and their perceptions are shifting, creating habits… And practicing what they see adults doing.
    💓 Linda

  • Victoria

    Yep. Scrolling through blogs looking for this subject and never finding it..until now. (thank you) My teenagers are detaching from me and yet are more dependent on me now more than ever in some ways. I don’t freaking now, it’s bizarre and I’m still looking for that instruction manual.

  • Victoria

    I don’t freaking know..not now.. ugh

  • Frances

    Interesting article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    My teenagers are grown now – 29 and 27, so – been there, done that.
    I have to disagree with you on one point though – you say these kids are “politically informed”. I can’t agree with that one. In many cases these kids are being manipulated by the media. They really don’t have a clue what’s going on and don’t understand the background of the immediate story that may have caught their attention.
    But that’s my opinion.
    Everyone has theirs.

    And oh – it’s never a good idea to try and be your teenager’s friend. You still need to parent them by setting boundaries.

  • Ingrid

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! It is so nice to know I am not alone any more. I have an 18 year old daughter who just has to do everything her way. The decisions she makes I simply cringe at especially when it concerns her boyfriend. Yesterday, I was so upset I cried all day, wondering what have I done so wrong in raising her. Feeling like the worlds worst parent. It is so nice to know I am not the only one going through this horrible stage with their kids. It is the toughest thing me and my husband have ever had to go through. I keep saying to myself everyday…this too shall pass.

  • Shannon Mika

    TRUTH! And exactly why I started blogging – parenting is tough at any age, but the bigger the kid, the bigger the problem. Teenagers are seriously f’ing crazy andany days, I’m just hanging by a thread! Thankfully most of them seem to come out (eventually) okay on the other side!

  • Meesh


    the end of your article touches on the after, and I have to say things will look up. Adulthood is when they make their own decisions, and realize what arses they’ve been to their mom. It is when a real true friendship grows between mother and child, where you no longer have the ability to tell them what to do, but to advise them in their lives, or even ask them for their advise. It is to reminisce on past events growing up for the child, or mothering the child, and to create new memories as adults. There will still be fights, disagreements, and arguments… but there is no longer a hierarchy (but should be RESPECT), and you both have to find common ground. It will be an adventure, but an exciting one.. and BY FAR easier than the teenage years.

    After that is them “parenting” you in your old age! Look out!

  • Terra Heck

    Yes, yes, and yes! I have three kids – ages 23, 19, and 18. My boys weren’t too awful hard in their teenage years but my daughter caused me to pull a few hairs out. She was (and still is) full of drama. But I love her to death and cried like a little baby when she moved out.

  • Ace

    SPOILER ALERT: 18 ain’t that magical. Just wait when your grown daughter (who lives on her own) calls you in tears over a workplace meltdown. Or her taxes. Or her romance issues. Or or or… If you do your “job” right, they never stop needing you on some level. But, yeah, so much of this so honest and real. I’ve got one more to get through these teen years (happily, high school has been a way better journey so far than the horrors of MS).

  • Sheila Singer

    Please add me to the mailing list

  • Nas

    As the single mom of a teenage boy, this truly hit home! Parents of teenagers definitely seem to be the forgotten ones and it’s the hardest phase in parenting. Great post! Thank you

  • Erin

    I agree with so much in the article except that the F bomb and other “choices” are thrown in throughout the article leaving one to wonder about the lessons being taught.

  • Elaine

    I am in the trenches with you. Big ole convo with the teenager yesterday, in which he claimed to know more than me on several life things. That’s always fun. Yet a wonderful day as a family on Saturday. I feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster. And you’re right, why do we get so little support during this stage? We need it!!!

  • Another place in Time

    Oh my gosh. My three are in their late 30s and mid 40s. I still remember those teen years very well. My oldest was nearly the death and ruin of our family. I did not know what I did to cause this angry child. I did not know at the time that he was bipolar and severely ADHD. He was never diagnosed. After two admissions into a treatment center, he came out and lasted about a year and then left at nineteen. There was finally peace in our family but a deep heartache for me because I knew he was struggling to find his way. I so wanted to protect him and make it easy for him but I had to let him make his mistakes. Today he is a wonderful man, husband and father. I am so proud of him and the man he has struggled to become. He still has his bipolar disease and always will but he knows how to deal with the ups and downs. My other two were typical teens but so easy compared to what we had already gone through.
    Oh how I wish I had the resources that are available now through the internet. I might not have stumbled so many times. I tell him now that he was my guinny pig. I had to learn on him. He understands because he had two teenage daughters and one of those is also bipolar

  • Christina

    Brilliant and rather unbelievable how bang on you are. I rotate between thinking I have screwed them up so badly and it’s all my fault to believing they are mental masterminds and wondering how they could possibly know I am such a parenting fake. I hate these years and then a moment later I am loving who they are becoming and can’t wait to be with them……until they are mad again or rude or whatever. You are so right in every single thing you said.

  • Ia Enstera

    All of this….and the GUILT. Holy Hannah, I didn’t realize there would be such guilt about all the things I wish I had done for him, his education, his self-esteem, etc when he was younger…that would have aided him better as a teenager and adult. Rationally thinking, I know we did our best and have a fantastic young man (who just turned 18 a few days ago), but there are still so many things that pop up with ideas of “I wish I had done…”, “We should’ve enrolled him in….”, “We should’ve tested him for…..”, “We should’ve taken more time for….”. The baby years were a breeze compared to the teenage years. And give me the toddler years any day over the teen years.
    Thank you for writing this article. It makes me feel slightl6 less alone.

  • Mary L

    I read a book, a pretty good book too, with the perfect title: “Get Out of My LIfe But First Will You Take Me and Cheryl to the Mall” f that doesn’t sum up life with a teenager, I don’t know what does. My teens are in their early 30s now. And definitely having adult children is another painful challenge because as a previous commenter said, they make dumb mistakes and you can’t do a thing. My own journey has included my son living out of his car and being completely out of touch for a while, but we are back in touch now; things are looking up. And the reward for the pain is that they go away from your home out into the world to live their own lives, but they come back as newly fledged adults and it is wonderful to know them in a whole different way. There are things we share and things we don’t but this new part of my life with them is a blessing.

  • Michele forrester

    I am new to your column, but it feels like you are telling my story. My husband and I have 10 kids between us 7 girls, 3 boys. While most are grown and gone we still have 4 under 18. My son, who has Asbergers and is 15, is proving to be a mucb different challenge than the other 2 olded boys. As for the girls, that is a whole nother post. Currently i am dealing with a very normal highly intelligent kid who doesnt see all the possibilities of evil lurkimg around every chat room on the internet. And the look i get if i try to say anything that he disagrees with. And the repeating of requests or reminders of how to do something correctly. Omg! And now he has found a girlfriend who lives on the otherside of the country. Hey on one hand I think hey thanks a bad I don’t have to worry about him getting her pregnant and then the reality sets in because she’s 13 and she’s emotional and she can tell some big old whopping lies and has him Head Over Heels and struggling with his need to go and rescue her. So my thoughts go from concern about me not having to worry about getting her pregnant oh my God is it going to take off in the middle of the night and then go travel across the country to try to rescue this girl and when I bring up my concerns to him he just simply looks at me sure to shoulder and says with me and my husband and everyday it seems like something’s wrong his head hurts his stomach hurts he’s throwing up he doesn’t feel good he’s cold he’s tired and I’m thinking this is just life but you can’t tell him that and to watch his grades drop and just a matter of a couple weeks from all A’s and B’s to all B’s and D’s is heart wrenching knowing that he is more than intelligent enough to have good grades and knowing that his heart is hurting is enough to make even the most experienced of parents want to throw in the white flag cry for time to stop long enough to reverse the clock back to a time where his and your greatest worries was trying to find his favorite pjs that matched his favorite toy car that all matched his favorite tv show all so he could put on his pjs grab his toy car crawl up into your lap to watch his favorite tv show for the elevethy hundred time that day, and snuggle until you couldsee his eyelashes slowly droop closed as he falls asleep in your arms while you play with tjose golden curls just 1 last time . Why cant we just go back to that time. I love you son, more now than ever. Dont ever doubt that for one second.

  • Kristy J

    I love this article! Thank you! We have an almost 17 yo, an almost 5 yo, and a newborn coming in August. We’re reached our threshold of tolerance with attitudes around here! And the teenager is our worst with attitude, and queen of KIA (know it all)! One big drama show about everything, and most unimportant (to us). There totally needs to be a teenage support group. Times have changed from when we were their age, and the pressures, social media, etc.. I’ll be grateful if we and she survive these years!

  • Sandra

    Thank you so much for writing this article. Raising a teenager is not easy.

  • Ray

    I feel you SO hard. It helps me to remember that, developmentally speaking, adolescence is the last major brain “re-org” of our lives.

    It’s kind of like if our brains were files cabinets. 0-3 age range kids are filling it for the 1st time (That’s some of why the twos can be so terrible). At around age 4, a re-org begins which is akin to dumping every file from that cabinet out and then re-organizing it with currently relevant info.

    The next and last time our brains do this is during adolescence and, just to make it fun, our bodies also undergo puberty at the same damned time, with all its body changes, selfconsciousness, and hormone surges. I remind myself that our 13 yo darling (smell that? That’s sarcasm.) really IS a woman child in so many ways; sometimes she’s 30 and sometimes she’s 4, and many times she is as perplexed by her thoughts, feelings and behavior as we, The Mammas, are.

    Sometimes this helps me re-frame our interactions. Other times…not so much. LOL

    Also, I’m in early stage menopause so I’m getting some measure of revenge now.
    Thanks for an awesome blog.

  • Shannan

    OMG. This made me laugh and laugh, and then get a little weepy. It is so very true, and so very real. My oldest is turning 18 in a couple weeks, and heading off to college in August. I can’t believe how perceptive she is, how rational she is, how smart she is. And then, and then she tells her younger brother to fuck off. Lol but I can’t imagine a moment without or, and if I close my eyes I can still feel her in my arms, sitting on my hip, smelling like baby shampoo…

  • Pam Gibson

    Reading “Get Out Of My Life; but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?” Saved me and my husband’s souls during our teens years. I highly recommend it.

    An earlier book I read likened being two to the first adolescence. Teens are very much like two year olds, just even harder to reason with, perhaps. Two year olds can take a lot of physical energy to raise; with teens it’s mental, emotional energy.

    I feel for you. Just remember (eventually) grandchildren are your reward for not killing your teenagers!

  • elisabeth

    I just bought the book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel J. Siegel MD. I can’t wait to start on it. I am going through hell. But apparently so is she… The brain just isn’t formed completely and empathy and certain concepts are just foreign. They are self-absorbed pricks if you ask me. I love her to death, but it’s really tough. Add that she’s adopted and I am a single mom. HELL on earth. But we’re getting help of a therapist. I have family support and well, this too shall pass, but it’s hard as hell. We do have some nice moments, but right now they are rare. Hang in there and let us know if you find a good site for teen parenting support. 🙂

  • sarah

    This is the only real, honest thing ever written about parenthood. I have two teenagers back to back. We always heard it was hard but in reality, it is emotionally brutal.
    I would kill for sleepless nights with a baby in exchange for sleepless nights worrying about every aspect of my teenagers lives.

  • Paisley

    Hm. I actually like these years. I struggled so as a single parent with all the labor of raising a child and now I feel like I have my life back. My daughter and I have a really good relationship and I think it’s because I did all the investment early on. I was Very specific about a lot of things I did and boy my family was not supportive about my choices but I am glad I stuck to my guns. This is one of the best chapters of my life.

  • Andrea

    I support families of teenagers. You’re right. It’s hard, lonely and scary AF. We are the first generation of parents in the technology age and this only adds the the mess. Let me know how I can help.
    Load of love,
    ~Andrea – Family Coach.

  • Numila Parker

    Beautifully and honestly written. You have expressed all the feelings and angsts that parents of teenagers go through. You, Mama are raising kids that will take on life, and all it holds.
    Their whole purpose/wiring/hormones are set to have them push against authority to become their own people….you were a teenager once… it’s easy to forget the intense emotions we felt about everything, the angst, the confusion . The key is to have conversations over and over again, through the eye rolling, ignoring, and slamming doors. These conversations need to be rational, calm, and let them know that you are there so that when they make mistakes, they feel safe in bouncing back
    without judgement and rejection.
    I have been there, practicing showing up, through the good stuff and the tough stuff. I have been here loving them, shaping them. modeling adulthood for them, praying that they will grow up to be loving, capable and kind.
    I wish though that we can talk more about how we tend to ourselves as parents. The overwhelming list of demands put upon us as parents, many of us solo parents. Practicing self care is paramount. I draw strength from support groups, on line and a moms group I call upon to meet for coffee or wine, where we can vent, cry with, bitch too, and cheer our kiddos and feel heard and understood. There is great value in peer/ caregiver support groups.
    Awesome support and insight shared on this page too. Thank you.

  • MLB

    I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but magical 18 ain’t so magical. I have to say I had it pretty easy with my teen up to this point, and even her 15 year old sister so far has been relatively okay, so maybe I’m in for it with her when she hits 18. 18 started out fine, but as she inches closer and closer to 19 I swear her temper tantrums way rival those of a 2 year old. Just today, I was talking to her all fine, simply reminded her that I was taking her car tomorrow to get the brakes done and she has to drive my van and I probably won’t have her car back to her after work, and switch was instantly switched and I was being yelled at about that’s not what you said and blah, blah, blah. Then her girlfriend called, and I kid you not she was mid yelling at me, stops, answers her phone all sweet and cheerful to her friend and was out the door. I’m constantly getting the I’m an adult give me freedom, but notice who’s taking care of her car’s brakes. Not entirely by choice mind you. I’m all for a little tough love here and you want to be an adult, have at it, but the thing is she keeps putting this off and at the rate she’s going it’s looking more and more like it won’t be happening for at best the next 8 months if I leave it to her, and with her on my insurance policy and still living in my home and the car actually being in my name I’m like nope, the consequences of her not taking care of this are most likely all going to fall on me. But then again, this attitude that she has to be without her car for a day being the end of the world just proves how not ready for adulthood she is, because as you know this is all part of life. Lucky for her there’s another vehicle she can drive and she doesn’t have to walk, get a bus, taxi, or Uber.

    Now, as for your why are there no support groups? Well, I think it’s a combination of things. I’m actually still in touch with one of the groups I joined when my oldest was a baby. So I can vent to them about stuff, although I find I don’t. Which brings me to the second reason, time. With all the running around, and the addition of more children, I think our time to spend in support groups is much more diminished. So that’s my theory. I have a group of IRL mom friends who can sympathize with me too now though. Something I was seeking when they were little. I found my peeps. I don’t think we’re really flying blind so much as trying to respect our teens privacy along with just being so emotionally exhausted by everything you have mentioned. Because you’re right, teens can be a royal pain and the worry never goes away, sleep is still non existent, and now with every eye roll, every yell, and every I hate you moms of teens are just wiped out. I used to blog, I stopped because life. I often think about getting back into it because it’s therapeutic, but it’s harder to do because I want to respect my children and not air all their dirty laundry.

  • Sheva Bree

    My parenting of teenagers is this. Look at everything my maternal family did, and do the opposite.

    I encourage their passions, even when I don’t understand them.

    I listen to them ramble even though my eyes want to roll up in my head and fall right out.

    I explain the boundaries, the why they are there. The what will happen if the boundary is crossed.

    I respect their personal space and personal lives. They still have to friend me on various social medias, but they already know they can tell me about any drama I might see anyways.

    I knock and wait for them to acknowledge before I enter their rooms. Try not to go into their rooms when they aren’t there… unless I’m hunting cutlery and dishes. That’s a whole different issue!

    Teenagers are mirrors. They reflect and magnify whatever you send at them. Sometimes those mirrors can have distortions and you have to deal with the reality that what is reflected back isn’t perfect.

    I had more problems with behavior with my son at 8-10 than I do now that he’s just a month shy from turning 16. And my eldest, 19, is off to college next year with mad art skills. My approach isn’t perfect, and won’t work with all families. And we aren’t completely without conflict. But I try my damnedest to give them the safe space to learn how to deal with all that complex hormonal shit going on in their heads without judgement.

    Good luck fellow parents of teenagers. Just remember, they aren’t the enemy.

  • Betsy Shaw

    “The key is to have conversations over and over again, through the eye rolling, ignoring, and slamming doors. These conversations need to be rational, calm, and let them know that you are there so that when they make mistakes, they feel safe in bouncing back without judgement and rejection.” I think you really touched on a major artery here. My mom wasn’t the greatest communicator or even all that demonstrative, but I always knew she loved me, somehow, despite all the ridiculously asinine things I did as a teen. She never stopped loving me. And thank goodness for that. I am trying to be like her, it’s not always easy.

  • Laura

    Amen! You nailed it. It is about letting go and you are 100% right about the loneliness of the journey. I turned the tables in my book, How to Raise Respectful Parents. Grateful to connect with you and not pretending to be anyone other than a fellow pilgrim to this land….

  • Siv Ricketts

    Clearly, by the # of responses, you have struck a chord! A friend posted the link to your post; I have since written a post in response: https://wp.me/p507SU-Q2
    My kids are now 19 & (almost) 14yo. They light up my life & drive me nutso, varying moments, most days. Lonely days, as my friends either don’t get it or won’t go there with us. As mamas, as parents, we need each other and, ridiculously, shy away from the conversations. Let’s stop that nonsense and get on with the truth-telling!