Parenting A Teenage Son Redux

My wife and I managed to get one son through his teenage years. We should be able to do so with a second, right? Right?

Then why does it feel so hard?

Younger One is now 14. Fourteen is not the age of reason. Fourteen is not the age of Viagra—that is, the age of knowing how to get things done part. (Okay, it’s not the age of Viagra in any other regard, either.) In fact, it’s the opposite of that; it’s the age of not having a clue.

Younger One is trying to figure things out. A lot of things. Primarily, it seems, how far he can push his parents before someone burns down the house.

Back when Older One--now age 24, and an independent, well-adjusted contributing member of society--was entering his teens, a family friend, who had successfully brought his two children through the teen years, shared his two pieces of advice on raising a teenager. First, think of the teen years as a long, underground pipeline that your child enters. The child has to find his/her way through. All you can do, as a parent, is occasionally bang on the pipe to let the child know you’re still there. Second, it takes two parents to raise a teenager, because you always need one to stop the other from strangling the child.

That advice worked pretty well for Older One. I think. I’m not really sure. His teenage years are a blur to me now. I think that’s a product of evolution, and the human survival instinct. We repress painful memories. It’s the same principle that enables women to go through childbirth more than once.

Sometimes, when Younger One is raging in an especially illogical and defiant manner, my wife and I will ask each other, was Older One this bad? The answer is, neither of us knows.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of joys in watching Younger One move through his teens: the pride I felt (and joy he did) when he first beat me at one-on-one; watching this strong, athletic body emerge; sharing in his moments of euphoria of nailing a particular snowboarding trick for the first time; watching him wrestle with heavy concepts like religion, justice and ethics; the occasional spark of empathy. Yes, there are moments.

And oy, there are moments.

Many books have been written on the topic of teen parenting (I think my wife has read most of them), so I don’t think I’m going to uncover any fresh nuggets of parental wisdom here. These days I have two goals I’m trying to achieve with Younger One: 1. lay the groundwork on the importance of and ability to Make Smart Decisions (mixed results so far, and the stakes are only going to get higher in the years to come), and 2. promote civil behavior.

More to come. Assuming this doesn’t kill me first.