I now have two little girls. And one day, they will be teenagers. And that, my friends, scares the shit out of me! Between the raging hormones, irrational mood swings, dating, driving and everything else that holds some sort of rite of passage along the path to teenagerhood, I AM TERRIFIED. So, I decided to dig deeper into the subject so I can start to mentally prepare now. I feel like I need several years to really understand how my world is going to be rocked. I am also very excited to get out of the “I only want to shop at Justice” phase, because I would literally rather have a pap smear in front of a public audience than go in that store. (same goes for Claire’s BTDubs).
I always love a good collaboration, especially with people I know who are at totally different stages with their kids. It broadens my perspective and seriously arms me with knowledge that I don’t think I could ever get by burrowing in the “How to Raise Kids and Not Completely Screw Them Up For Life” section of Barnes and Noble.
So….I had a little Q&A with an old client/friend/overall kickass woman. Once upon a time, Samantha Stone (marketing powerhouse FYI) was one of my clients when I worked at a PR Agency in Boston representing technology clients. We hit it off immediately. So much so that thanks to social media, we stayed connected all of these years and during moves through several states on my part. We even did a little work together fairly recently. Anyway, she is the mother of three teenage boys. THREE, you guys! I feel like she should get a medal or be in a hall of fame somewhere with rose petals thrown at her feet.
I was eager to get her scoop on what it’s like to navigate the hormone-infested teen waters (especially because she is wicked smart) and she was happy to oblige.
Here we go…
I’m petrified of the teenager stage…is my fear valid?
You should be terrified, but probably not for the reasons you think. As my boys got older I thought my biggest fears would be about drinking, dating and not slapping them when the inevitable eye rolling kicked in.
All of those fears are real, and we as parents have to keep vigilant. But honestly, I found all of that pretty straight-forward. Except for the eye rolling, that still makes me want to scream.
I knew clearly how to talk about dating and how to give clear guidance on drug and alcohol use. Not that I expected them to always listen, but I knew what I wanted to instill, and how to watch for signs of trouble.
I’m constantly questioning if I’m teaching my boys not to need me enough. It’s so damn hard, when you want them to need you so much. In fact, I was completely unprepared for my little boys turning into free thinking humans. Of course, I said I wanted that from the beginning, but that’s because I always believed they would agree with my world view. The truth is your teenager will vote differently than you. They will debate the merits of your favorite movie and they will most certainly think about the world in a different context than your own.
Knowing when to stand firm, and when to listen without interjecting, is not always intuitive and I’ve found it the hardest part of being a mom to teenagers.
What’s the one question your teens have asked you that left you speechless?
You mean besides “what’s for dinner?”; when my son’s perfectly capable butt has been sitting on the couch for hours and I just walked in from my 5th meeting of the day?
All joking aside, I’ve tried hard to be really open with my kids, so no question is off-limits. I expected them to ask me the hard stuff and I’m perfectly comfortable saying I don’t know, what do you think? We talk about terrorist attacks. We talk about sex. We talk about drinking & driving. We talk about politics. We talk about mental health.
I’m also completely prepared to lie when my kids ask about my own childhood and I’m not ready to share :) We don’t have to be honest about everything!
Having said that, I’ve had a really hard time talking with my kids about death. We don’t practice a specific religion, although we are spiritual. Without the teachings from religion, every answer I’ve tried to give feels totally unsatisfactory.
How do you not self-medicate when they start driving?
Who says I don’t? Chocolate is my drug of choice! Driving is one of the scariest milestones. If it’s any consolation, I’m on my third child learning to drive and it has gotten easier with each.
What goes on when they start to dip their toe in the dating waters?
You have the sex talk – a lot. No one wants to do it but you have to, and you have to do it before you think they are ready for sex. One of my sons came home refusing to ride the bus home from school. I asked why – he said kids were having sex on it and he wanted no part in watching that. Another shared that his 7th grade classmates were having an oral sex party.
We had to talk about sex. We had to talk about sexuality. And we had to do it in the context of respect for themselves and potential partners.
Whether your kids are dating anyone or not, get used to the idea your kid is a sexual being. Expect to find something you don’t want to see under their bed, and do yourself a favor and use caution when opening closed doors.
We also have to talk about something our parents never had to face – technology. It’s too easy to snap pictures, share videos, and video chat. It’s a whole new level of dating we have to put boundaries around.
And after all that sex talk, the hard part starts. Nothing prepares you for comforting your child when heartbreak sets in.
Is there anything you were not prepared for when your kids hit the teen phase?
I spoke earlier about independent thinking, but there was something else that equally caught me off guard. One of my boys suffers from Depression. While I had read a lot about the disease, until it hit my son, I never realized how they symptoms could mimic typical teen angst. If there’s one thing I learned, it’s trust your instincts.
Will my teenage daughter still love me and let me hug her in public?
She will absolutely love you – although there will be times she won’t know it, and she most definitely won’t want you to know it!
I’ve been pretty lucky, my boys are pretty generous with hugs and cuddles. I never take it for granted, and when I can sense it’s not the right time or place I don’t push.
For all the times your teenager will want to pretend you don’t exist, there will be a hidden moment when they make you melt. It will feel all that more special because you know they really mean it.
What’s the best advice you can arm your teens with to make sure they stay on the path to be an awesome human being?
Be kind. Teenagers can be petty and cruel, including your own. When you see it, call them on it. But get your timing right. When the kids were little I would react immediately to inappropriate behavior. “Give back that toy” “Stop hitting your brother” “ Why are you licking that rock?” As the boys got older I had to tune into when they were receptive to hearing feedback. It almost never was in a heated moment, and rarely when other people were around.
Thank you so very much, Samantha. I’m going to lock myself in the bathroom and have a good cry. All kidding aside, this convo was awesome. It was honest and candid and perfect. Also, can you come down to talk to my daughters about sex while I just sit with a glass of wine and watch? K, thanks ;)
Samantha Stone, author of “Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook that Drives Sales” is a revenue catalyst who helps unleash the possible in organizations that have complex selling processes. She’s a fast-growth, B2B marketing junkie, speaker, consultant, type A personality who has also managed to find time to raise four boys (three are now teenagers) with her husband, David. In 2012 she founded The Marketing Advisory Network to help savvy business leaders unleash the possible within their enterprises because she loved her work but was tired of corporate politics taking so much time away from her family.