Serendipity | Teenagers, suddenly



Announcing the arrival of teenagers in our family! Not since 1997 when our youngest of three turned 20, have teens been part of the mix. On Dec. 27 Jules, our oldest grandchild turned 13; Emma following on Jan. 25; and Liliana’s birthday is March 1.

For this Grandma whose sense of time is often skewed, especially with regard to her grandchildren, the news is dramatic as it happened so quickly. Or so it seems.

When I was prematurely planning my family while still a child myself, I only thought about babies, my favorites. My plans never advanced beyond the toddler stage for strategizing how to care for older children. Teenagers were not on my drawing board. It was easier that way and maybe we deserve to spend some time in blissful unawareness of what’s ahead.

Unpleasant stories abound about teenage angst. While I didn’t see it as an advantage when it happened, our son at 11 was more challenging than through his teen years. Maybe it was more difficult because I wasn’t prepared. Eleven seemed like an easy age so I didn’t gear up for struggles. Novice mistake. His attitude, negativity and my vast ignorance about everything happened suddenly. Amazingly, my becoming wiser and his becoming more tolerable occurred simultaneously. Imagine that! Which is not to say adolescence was effortless, but previous experience helped with navigating through trying times.

Only a sainted mother, not sure I’ve ever met one personally, hasn’t uttered the “I hope you have a child just like you someday!” anthem. For four years we had three teens, and that wish replayed frequently in my mind. Interestingly when my children did have their own children, I didn’t want them to struggle with parenting. Maybe I mellowed, or maybe that’s just how maternal mayhem finds its completion. However it works, now it’s a delight to see my children’s traits in my grandchildren. Because I’m no longer in charge or responsible for the outcome, those traits seem charming not problematic.

No age is best in a child or an adult. Decades of living do not necessarily make one wise, so certainly a kid is likely to make numerous mistakes. I can see that clearly now, but couldn’t always as the parent. Perhaps it’s because if my grandchildren behave poorly, it does not reflect poorly on me. When I was parenting, I felt it did. While grandparents’ roles are not clearly defined, I believe ours is a supporting role, not a spoiling one. We can encourage our children and grandchildren, not make it a contest between the two.

Teenagers often think they are infused with knowledge much beyond adults’ understanding. What seems so desirable and admirable to teens pales considerably after learning life skills and experiencing discomfort. If only a less difficult solution existed, but alas, we typically learn more from disappointments than success. I think grandparents can help immensely at those times providing they don’t try to rush in with reasons or excuses that don’t promote accountability.

Perfect parents don’t exist, and neither do perfect grandparents. Trusting my grandchildren know how much I love them perhaps they can consider me the sometimes invisible presence in their lives encouraging and applauding them as they develop into loving and compassionate adults, as their parents did.

Sandra Dempsey Post

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