People never seem to believe me when I say I look forward to Elli's teenage years. Any time that statement comes out of my mouth there is an immediate torrent of venom towards teenage girls that takes me quite aback. I am sure there are particular parenting challenges when a child goes through puberty but somehow the world is convinced that teenagers are the absolute worst people on the planet and parents simply hate them.
This came up today as it is the first day back to school and I was talking with other parents I hadn't seen much over the summer about our children. We were discussing the changes in our lives as the kids age and I seemed to be utterly alone in the thought that things would get more fun and easier as time goes by. Not that Elli's teenagehood is likely to be without issues obviously but I expect things to be better than now... I certainly don't expect some sort of parenting utopia where she delivers a report card full of 95s before fetching dear old dad a cold drink.
The things people usually say about teenagers just don't worry me so much. They talk about how the teenagers don't want to talk to their parents, how they will want to drink and do drugs, stay out late, have sex, get tattooes, and all other manner of rebellion. I look at that list and shrug. Clearly this is a list of things teenagers want to do and honestly I should have done a lot more of that as a teen and learned some things so it just doesn't worry me. Elli will make mistakes and screw up and 'ruin her life' and then move on, just like nearly everyone else.
It is possible my audience is biased in this regard as I am around a lot of stay at home moms who mostly really enjoy the experience of having small children around. Some are really sad that the summer is over and they don't get to have their kids around all day every day, while I am practically punting Elli back to school with a grin on my face. I expect they will miss the days of having little kids around while I sure won't!
That isn't all of it though. There is a real tendency for people to assume that I am simply wrong and that I don't understand myself beyond just stay at home moms. Maybe there is something deeply satisfying about dealing with the bodily fluids and tantrums of a tiny raging blob of flesh that most people experience and I just cannot fathom... but I can't imagine that this can be all the difference. It can't just be that other people feel sad that their children are no longer perpetually attached to their legs whining for some thing or another.
I can see the differences between my feelings around parenting and other parents'. Elli is going to be walking herself to school starting tomorrow and I am just happy to be able to avoid that chore. Other parents almost have a meltdown when they have to face the fact that they aren't needed in that way anymore and I don't feel that at all. I believe these other parents when they describe their feelings but I can't see myself experiencing any pangs of regret when watching Elli get up and run ever further away from me. I want to watch Elli fly away and see the things she chooses to do from a distance. That prospect holds no fear for me, and I suspect I am far from common in this.