Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Toddlers vs. teens

When our girls were toddlers, I couldn’t wait for them to outgrow the temper tantrums, the whiny meltdowns and the tattletales.
I just knew that once they became young adults, life would be so much easier. The crying fits and screaming would end, and the Huffman home would then be inhabited by civilized people talking to each other in a kind and sensible manner, Jane Austen-style.
I know, I know. How wrong I was. I was wrong in the wrongest way.
It turns out having teenagers is almost the same as having toddlers all over again, only these “babies” have car keys, Tumblr accounts and boyfriends.
This became even more clear to me after reading a toddler parenting advice column. I figured reading about preschoolers would give me a vacation from the mental contortions of raising three teenagers. At least we don’t have potty training to worry about anymore, I thought smugly.
There was just one problem as I started reading. The column, while written about toddlers, was sounding very familiar. Like mom-of-teenagers familiar.
I pretty much wanted to cry when I realized all I had to do was substitute the word “teenager” for “toddler” and lo and behold, the advice still fit. Was there no escape?
“Don’t be inflexible” with your toddler, the column advised. “Toddlerhood may represent the most stubborn, inflexible time in the life of a child. Too often parents do not recognize this as a normal part of development, and are frustrated as their child increasingly seems irrational and out of control.”
Stubborn, check. Irrational, check. Out of control, check. We have all of this and more at our house these days. We’ve got enough stubbornness, irrationality and attitude to start our own snarky farm. Twelve crabby comments for a dollar. Bulk discounts available!
The toddler/teen combo advice continued. “Toddlers need someone to be in charge, and that’s you. While you can benefit from giving your child choices, you will also benefit from setting loving boundaries so your child can feel safe and satisfied in the choices she has made.”
Boundaries. Choices. Safety. Three more words that circle every mom’s head when her teenager is begging for a later curfew and a ride to a concert in Oakland with her three friends.
“Don’t reason with a defiant toddler,” the column advised. “Toddlers are irrational by nature, and as a parent it’s important to simply accept this fact.”
You got that part right. Have you ever tried to reason with a defiant teenager? Vaya con dios, mommy.
The column concluded with a cheerful pep talk for toddler moms.
“Toddlers are interesting little beings, filled with passion, humor, curiosity and willfulness. … By trusting your instincts and implementing rules that you are comfortable with, you will be doing all the right things to help not just your child, but your entire family.”
Better advice for parents of teenagers was never written.

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