In honor of Swim Chick’s thirteenth birthday, I picked up a book recommended by a friend on the August96 moms list. I Wanna Be Sedated is a collection of essays in which the authors, both well-known and not-so-famous, relate their experiences raising teenagers. Some have appeared in print before, and others are published here for the first time. The essays range from the humorous to the tear-inducing. I particularly liked the fact that the essays were written by both mothers and fathers and related a wide-range of family experiences.
My favorite essays in the book were Shopping for Kotex, Sex Education, and How to Get into College Without Really Trying. The first two deal with parents handling what could be embarrassing situations with children of the opposite sex, one when a dad has to buy feminine hygiene products for his newly menstruating daughter and the other when a mom gets to do the sex ed lesson from health class with her son. How to Get into College Without Really Trying highlights the pressure that so many of our seniors are under to get into the “right” college and how their reluctance to jump through all the hoops in the process can reflect their ambivalence about growing up and leaving home.
There were also essays that made me uncomfortable and left me thinking, “Well, I’d never do that.” Having raised toddlers, though, I know that I’ve already done a lot of things in this parenting process that I thought I’d never do when I was reading those parenting books while pregnant. Therefore, I’m not quite so ready to jump to conclusions about the decisions made by the authors of I Definitely Inhaled, Only Rock and Roll, Runaway, and The Girlfriend Sleeps Over. As I enter this period of parenting teenagers for the first time, I’m taking a deep breath and hoping that I won’t have to deal with some of the challenges these authors faced: drug use, running away from home, obsession with punk rock, dropping out of high school, and overt sexual activity.
So, what is Swim Chick like tonight, exactly 26 minutes into being a teenager as I type this post? By all accounts she’s a great kid. She’s conscientious about her school work and keeps up with her assignments without having to be prompted. She enjoys playing cello and participating in Odyssey of the Mind. She’s being confirmed this year and has a real faith in God that shows through in her actions, particularly in her sense of justice and her treatment of other people. She’s beautiful in that coltish sort of way, long and lean and all arms and legs. Though the young woman she’ll be does shine through the braces and ponytail more and more often these days.
She’s also extremely frustrating at times. Her emotions are quite close to the surface, and we are constantly having to remind her that she must be polite when speaking to us and to her brother and sister. At times, her life is very, very hard. We actually ask her to do things such as empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, and clean her bathroom. Can you imagine? Her room looks like a tornado hit it at any given moment. I’m trying to strike the right balance between not bugging her too much about trivial things when she’s doing such a good job overall and not letting the trivial things add up and get to the point where they drive me crazy. She’s also a perfectionist, something she comes by naturally, which will be no surprise to those of you who know Adventure Guy and me. Though I should be more understanding, I often get frustrated by the paralysis that her urge to do everything just right can bring on.
An interesting thing that I realized today is that we’ve now been parents for thirteen years, and it will be another thirteen years until our youngest, Soccer Boy, turns 20 and we no longer have a teenager in the house. Why do I have a feeling that this new phase of our parenting career will be even more challenging than the first stage? So far, I can’t find anyone who has raised teenagers who will disagree with me. So, my plan is to hang on and enjoy the ride as much as possible!