Do you dislike your teen?

I have a friend who’s battling with her two teenage daughters at the moment. They’re 2  years apart – 14 and 16 – and both are giving her headaches and heartaches in different ways. When I recently went to visit her, she admitted, over our third glass of Chenin Blanc, that she sometimes wishes she hadn’t had children. Then she put her head down on her arms and wept. ‘I can’t believe I just said that!’ she cried. ‘I’m such a terrible mother!’

She’s not. She’s just human.

It’s no secret that getting through your kids’ teenage years is usually pretty challenging. I speak from the smug spot on the other side – having stuck it out through two teens (a boy, now 20, and a girl, now 19), and ended up with kids who are largely unscathed and generally pleasant people, I feel I deserve some sort of medal for, oh, I don’t know, grace under fire, perhaps.

And I, too, sometimes wished – and sometimes fervently – that I hadn’t had kids.

Even ‘good’ teenagers go through periods where they’re secretive and sneaky. The troubled ones – the rebellious ones, the ones with learning difficulties, the ones who feel sidelined socially – can drive you close to murder, even while you understand perfectly well that what’s happening to them is largely out of their emotional control.

For any parent on the other side of ‘normal’ teenagehood (i.e., where your kids have managed, sometimes against the odds, not to fly completely off the rails), looking back gives a clearer perspective on the occasional feelings of rage and impotence (and resultant guilt) you experienced during their worst periods.

Time to move out of home

What I found most interesting with my own kids is how I got to the point where I couldn’t wait for them to leave home – and it’s fair to say that they couldn’t wait either. So when they finally went off to university in another town, we were all more than ready for this very necessary cutting of the apron strings.

And, about 6 months down the line, when the meagre make-do of living in student digs had given rise to a new appreciation of some things about living at home (general domestic orderliness, a stocked fridge, regular magical delivery of clean laundry, access to TV, familiar people who loved them despite themselves, etc), they came home with a changed attitude. (And, of course, often also with a huge bag of dirty laundry.)

It’s when your kids ‘come back’ to you in this way that the parent/child relationship begins changing, and if you’ve managed to keep the lines of communication open through their teen years, this new bond is usually largely non-combative, interesting to both parties, and lays the groundwork for the way you and your children will relate to each other into their adulthood.

A word to the wise: sometimes, your grown-up kids realise that living at home was so fine that this ‘coming back’ rebounds on you, and they return for good.

Have you seen the light at the end of the parenting tunnel? What advice do you give those who are in the thick of it?

Read more by Tracey Hawthorne

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24