Now that I am through it, I notice something I didn't notice before about the way people discuss the various stages of the baby and toddler years. There are two basic ways of doing it: one is with an obvious understanding that the particular stage will end, and the other is without that understanding.
Both groups understand intellectually that what they're going through is temporary. It would be pretty much the most condescending thing in the world to say gently, "You do realize this is TEMPORARY, right?" EVERYONE REALIZES IT'S TEMPORARY.
Except they don't. They haven't internalized that information, so instead of talking with undertones of this: "This stage is driving me nuts! I can't wait for this stage to be over! This is not my favorite stage so far! Here is how I am trying to survive this stage!," they are talking with undertones of this: "Here is how I am trying to survive the unending suffering of my new life. Here are some of my new permanent coping skills. Here are my thoughts about this particular unsolvable issue that will never go away on its own." They don't say any of this directly, but it seeps through everything they do say.
And this is what I've noticed creeping into the way I think and feel about rearing teenagers. I DO know it's temporary! I DO! ...Except I don't. I am working on internalizing it, but it will blow your mind to hear that it's not easy to do that. If it WERE easy to do that, we'd all fully understand ALL the things we can't seem to make ourselves understand about eating, exercise, success, work, what's truly important, the passage of time, and our eventual deaths.
I can see the evidence that it's a stage and that it will be okay: OTHER parents have gone through the teenage years and have come out on the other side of it still recommending that people go ahead and procreate. OTHER parents have gone through the teenage years but then still speak to and enjoy their adult children. OTHER parents have gone through the teenage years, and they LAUGH ABOUT IT.
Doesn't this sound familiar? This is how I remember reasoning my way through the pregnancy/newborn stage: Other parents have survived it. Other parents went through it and still recommended the idea to others. Other parents even remember certain parts fondly. Most importantly, other parents voluntarily HAVE MORE CHILDREN after the first one! So they must, overall, feel it was a satisfactory and worthwhile experience, and it will likely be okay for me, too.
I thought the same about having a second child: it SEEMS like such a thing would be impossible to do---and yet other parents are doing it. Therefore it IS possible, and will likely be possible for me, too. I DID still panic: if we can barely handle it with BOTH of us and ONE child, how can it possibly work to have two? or three? or more? But during that stage, I remember thinking that we could just take it one baby at a time: yes, we thought we wanted a lot of kids, but we weren't CONTRACTUALLY COMMITTED to that, we could stop ANY TIME and just have one baby, or just two.
With teenagers, though, here's what it's like: imagine being in one of the hard stages of babyhood/toddlerhood, but knowing that you HAD to have four more children. There was NO CHOICE. You have THIS impossible baby/toddler, and there are FOUR MORE BABIES/TODDLERS COMING, LIKE IT OR NOT.
That is what I am having a little trouble dealing with sensibly these days. It doesn't matter how I do with parenting a teenager, or whether I decide it's "for me" or not: there are four more of them coming along unavoidably right after this one. And I am currently lacking the internalized understanding that this is a stage that will end.
Life-improving products, part 4 - (Continued from part 1, part 2, and part 3.) Stearns Youth Life Vest (photo from Amazon.com). I’d been too scared to take the kids to any body of water oth...