Did I mention I have two teenagers in the house?
As an educator, I've studied the stages of learning and development. I understand the physiology of the brain, the transition from concrete to abstract thought, the madness of hormonal fluctuations, the long period of narcisissm before the frontal lobe develops the ability to think about consequences and other people, and the significant impact of sleep cycles that don't conform to the traditional school day.
Nonetheless, I get blindsided nearly every day by my kids' erratic jumps from eye rolls to loving hugs to secretiveness to telling me WAY too much.
When our children were babies and preschoolers, we parents shared and learned from each other. We talked incessantly about hand-eye coordination, separation anxiety, sleeping through the night, learning to read, first steps toward independence, and important details like the way little boys like to turn EVERYTHING into a weapon of some sort. (I just never expected that a banana goes bang-bang.) Mom to mom chats were my best source of reassurance and validation.
Now that our children are teens, suddenly all I hear is perfect people in training. The ones who take a dozen AP classes at a time, hold down a part-time or volunteer job, have a large circle of equally well adjusted friends, get early admission into top tier colleges, are pillars of their church or temple youth groups, and get along splendidly with their parents. "I thought these years would be challenging, but we have the BEST relationship!"
What did I do wrong? I have to physically drag my sleep-deprived teens out of bed. The alarm clock is a joke - it's blasting through the house, but the only ones hearing it are the parents. One loves school, the other hates it, and both would far rather do games or texting or Facebook or AIM than do homework. Their emotions give me whiplash. One moment things are peaceful; the next they're roaring with anger or pushing family buttons just to see what kind of reaction they get. Every single A on the report card comes at a tremendous cost in terms of my foot in someone's derriere. Their bedrooms look like some crazy person decided to empty every drawer and wallow in the chaos. Chores are done reluctantly and with the most minimal effort possible. Showers take up to half an hour and every outfit rejected that day as not-cool ends up in the laundry hamper.
I love my kids, completely and unconditionally. But boy, some days that love is really, really hard work. I head to work on those days with gratitude that I get a few hours off from my job as the family ringmaster.
Could it be that I hear only from the parents who are wiping their brows in amazement that their teens are on autopilot to success? And that everyone else is just like me?
Oh please let that be true!
Because misery does indeed love company.