Gimme Chemicals! I Have A Teenager!

Need I say more?

And the sad things is, she’s an awesome teenager. (Knocking on everything wood in sight) We’ve had a few, a tiny few troublesome incidents with her. So few, in fact, that I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Why is it sad that she’s an awesome teenager? Because I’m beginning to realize that there are parents out there who are way more stressed than I am. And I can’t imagine going through more.

My troubles include:

  • an A-B student, taking Advanced Placement and honors courses, who is perfectly fine with getting C’s if she doesn’t like the teacher, the assignment, her seat next to the door, or  the temperature outside that day.
  • a teen who chooses high school football games, dances and other activities over studying for exams next week
  • a child who has to be reminded and reminded and reminded to do the few chores we ask her to do
  • a senior in high school who knows she’s going to college but doesn’t want to actively participate in the process. She tosses all brochures into the circular file, with her mind already made up to go to the easiest state school that’ll take her.
  • a spendthrift who never budgets for gas for the car she uses or lunch at school. When I hand over her allowance that is supposed to cover more than one item, she blows it in one day at the mall – and no, her purchases don’t include anything she needed in the first place.

I know. Pull out your violins. Cry me a river. I have it so tough.

But I’m stuck. How in the world do you teach responsibility, dedication, discipline? At her age I was the one applying to schools, begging my parents to consider the school of my choice – with them shaking their head no, and telling me I would go to the university right next door. I just want for her what I couldn’t have at her age. But she doesn’t seem to want more.

I want her to want more. So how do you teach ambition or drive? How do you push without pushing too hard?

On the other hand:

  • You tell her to be ready by a certain time? She’s rarely (if ever) late. Punctual to a fault.
  • You ask her to help you with something? I can count on one hand how many times she’s given me attitude. She is almost always willing to chip in – well, that is, if it isn’t already on her chore list.
  • As much as we’ve been at odds she hates leaving the house or going to bed at night without us resolving the conflict. I hate to admit it, but she’s usually the one that makes me talk it out with her until we can hug…and mean it.
  • When her money just flies out of her purse, it’s often to buy something for someone else. She is very, very generous.
  • She still wants to spend time with us. Whether it’s to watch Masterpiece Theater with me, go out for sushi with her dad, take the boys to the park or out for ice cream or a family hike – she is eager to go and will switch her schedule to make time for us.

But some days. Some nights. I’ve had it with the struggle of the week. And you parents with more struggles than mine? You need this song more than I do. So crank it up. Shake your head. And scream it so the neighbors hear! (Well, maybe not that loud. Wouldn’t want a visit from the men in white now would we?)

Disclaimer: I have no idea what kind of chemicals The Pink Spiders are speaking of. The chemicals I crave come in red and white Coca Cola cans, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tubs and those brown and yellow packages carrying plain and peanut m&m’s. THOSE kind of chemicals.


Filed under Music, parenting

25 responses to “Gimme Chemicals! I Have A Teenager!

  1. I understand… a bit. I only have one… a four-year-old going-on 16. It’s a bit much at times. And I have to admit: I had a drinkypoo in the bath tonight. It was just one of those days. A “gimme-gimme-gimme” kinda day, although I heard gimme from someone other than me. But these days end.

    It sounds like you have quite a gem on your hands. Those positive qualities will serve her wonderfully well as she grows older and you’ll be so proud of her that you’ll forget you ever had any complaint. After all, “this too shall pass….”


  2. She sounds like she’s doing okay. Sure, her goals aren’t yours, which is hard. But, the generosity, the kindness, the smoothing things out before going out… those are magic.

    From watching a dear one go through the ringer, the key, I think, is that she knows that she can tell you the truth, even if it isn’t pretty. And money. Well, the only way we learn it’s a limited resource is when there isn’t any more. Wouldn’t it be nice to learn another way?

  3. We can want the world for them – but that isn’t as important as what they want. She has a good head on her shoulders, she’s loving, she’s a good girl – she’ll decide what she needs to do with her life. And then decide what she really wants to do, and she’ll get there. And when she is on her own and has to pay rent, buy groceries, buy gas, insurance and a car, she’ll learn about budgeting. The hard way, maybe. But then, isn’t the hard way the way many of us learn?

  4. School is overrated…showing up in your life, putting family and first, being willing to help out, a willingness to work things out, resolve conflict, and generosity adds up to success in my book…I know lots of people would would want to hire your daughter or have her work on their team regardless of where she went to college or what her grades are. Just don’t give her your credit card. Now about my pretty nearly perfect 14 year old son….

  5. So basically, she’s a teen. She’s a good kid but makes you want to pull out your hair. If it wasn’ty for stupid puberty, admit it, you would want to trade places with her 😉 Just to get away from all the responsibilities. -Oh wait, is that just me?

  6. Welcome to the world of teenagers. She’s awesome.

  7. Okay, Jane…take all the things in your “troubles” list, and multiply by 4. Now subtract all the things in your “other hand” list (after also multiplying them by four). Now you have my life with a 17-year-old, 16-year-old, 14-year-old, and 12-year-old.

    Seriously, the kids today aren’t like we were! My kids are basically good kids, but they wouldn’t dream of having a job at age 10 the way I did (I was motivated by my princely allowance of 15 cents a week!). They don’t have the maturity we did. In my quest to give them a better life than I had, I think I’ve overdone it and handed them way too much! I’m happy if their clothes end up in the hamper, and their dirty dishes are in the dishwasher! We just started something last week where we pair the kids up and the pairs make dinner one night a week (Jim takes a night too)…we’re still working the kinks out, but at least I get a break once in a while.

    Best of luck with your girl…I’m sure she’ll be fine (and just keep popping those little brown things – my favourite ones are the peanut ones!).


    • Hey there, WriterWoman.

      Actually, I think it depends on the kids and the household circumstances. My 18-year old (a sophomore in college) started a “business” when he was 13 – and made money at it. Not a lot, but something – fixing computers and installing software – for adults.

      My younger son has been earning money selling his artwork since he was 13. Portraits, on commission – when he can.

      My kids have had “kid” time, but they’ve also known that in our circumstances, I would do everything I could to facilitate their dreams but they had to pitch in.

      I think hardship kicks ass. It also brings sadness and fear. It’s a mixed bag – and what the kids do with it evolves.

      Kids today are different, I agree. The world is different. But parents are also much too ready to coddle and soft-sell. I’ve done it myself. To some extent I still do. But there are plenty of kids pushing themselves hard, because it’s the only way they’ll have the future they want. And they know it.

      • That’s awesome, BigLittleWolf! You must be a great mom!

        I had my first business (community newsletter) at 11, and my second at 16 (candy store). My brother bought a lawn tractor when he was 13, and had quite a successful lawn care business.

        I think many of us give our kids way too much…perhaps if they had to struggle a bit like we did, they’d be more responsible!

        I’m thankful that my kids have (so far) managed to stay away from bad stuff (like drugs and alcohol). They’re all good kids…I just wish they’d realize that we’re not going to be there doing things for them forever!


  8. Your daughter sounds pretty phenomenal to me for a teenager. Helpful, generous, doesn’t allow conflict to fester, wants to spend time with her family still, all signs of a very well balanced teenager at a time when balance is hard to find with all those hormones raging.

    As for the ambition and drive, well we all want the best for our children but the best means ultimately what they want, and I too want my daughter to be ambitious and driven as I was but if she is not then I will accept that – especially if I get the well balanced teen you have.

  9. Ambition and drive isn’t everything. Maybe not even very much. Happiness, willingness to spend time with her family, generosity, well, THOSE are the things that will get her through life. She might not be the richest person in terms of money when she’s an adult, but I bet she’ll be pretty rich in terms of family and friends. And in the end that’s all that matters.

    Now go give her a hug, but don’t increase that allowance!

  10. She’s a good kid, but she’s a teenager, and they are maddening in any form.

    I hear you on the college thing! ASR is the same way and it’s making us nuts!

  11. ck

    When I was a senior in HS, I was a mess. I didn’t take my SATs, and I didn’t apply to any colleges because I had decided to skate by for the rest of HS and just go to the community college.

    But sometime over the summer before college started my attitude changed. When I got there, I worked my butt off to get a 4.0 because my mom had a 4.0 in college (something she never harped on or challenged me with, but made a big impression when I understood what “4.0” meant.) Even as I prepared to graduate, I still couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to go, and I wound up picking the first school that seemed interesting. And you know what? It changed my life. I learned how much I loved writing and met my husband there.

    I’m saying all this because you’re doing a kick-ass job with your daughter. It will matter to her when it needs to. So don’t stress yourself in the meantime.

  12. Not being a parent, I can’t say I understand. I can say that it sounds like you have a great daughter, though. I really believe that dedication and more responsibility will come to her naturally, since she has you as an example.

  13. I am so not ready for teenagers!!

  14. Definitely sounds like you are parenting a teenage GIRL! I know you count your blessings, overall. The other stuff is sooooo exasperating. Since you give her an allowance, maybe you can sit her down and decide what she will be responsible for paying for. If she doesn’t have it, then she does without. Let a couple of college app deadlines slip by and then ask her what her plans are in lieu of college. Walmart is always hiring. 😉

  15. My 15 year old, soon to be 16 needs a constant kick up the backside to get anything done. She’s wonderful but she’s not motivated at all. Well unless it’s to go on Facebook.

  16. You know what? You cannot compare one situation to another. The problems you have to deal with are real and valid, but like you said, your daughter sounds like she is a generally good kid going through the “typical” teenage stuff. My students often exhibit the behaviors you mentioned. I guess it is just a process. Good luck sweety.

  17. She sounds like a good kid, but I understand that isn’t always apparent when you are trying to reason with her. Growing pains come at age. . . whether their four or eighteen.

  18. I was a really good teenager, and I’ve always been a little… resentful that my parents complained about me. But honestly, I think it’s the same thing as with toddlers – no matter how good they are, they’re still crazy 🙂

  19. She sounds like such a great kid, Jane, in so many important ways – which you know already.

    Those issues of motivation – there are no easy answers, and every kid is different. I don’t have an answer or a suggestion. I’m struggling with my kid, as you know, and there isn’t a day that I don’t ask myself if I should be doing things differently.

  20. I often tell myself teenagers are just taller toddlers with more hormones. And it makes me wonder how I’ll ever make it through the teen years with my three! =>

  21. In terms of motivation, I think that some people just get it later than others, and maybe that’s a good thing. I was stressed all throughout my school years about getting good grades so I could apply to good colleges and get in. My boyfriend took a couple years off after high-school because he didn’t know what he wanted to study yet. Now, though, he’s utterly motivated, and is redoing some school tests to get a higher average so that he can apply to better schools where he wants to study psychology. Seeing him motivated is amazing, because it’s such a striking difference than the way he treated studies before.
    My point is that everyone moves at their own pace. Your daughter might need some time to figure out for herself what she wants to do in terms of further education.

  22. Will vodka do m’lady? 😉

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