Mom! I Need a Ride!

Ten tidbits everyone should know about living with teenagers

1. It’s a fact of nature: sweet cooing, smiling and cuddly babies eventually grow up into awkward, moody, hormonal, smelly, door-slamming, screaming teenagers. Don’t take it personally.

2. You will never have enough milk (cow, soy, goat, hemp, rice, whatever) or cereal in the house to satisfy the hunger of a growing teen. Buy a goat or cow and a grain mill.

3. Some teens never grow out of their obsessions with Harry Potter. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Every parent should educate herself and know the difference between Gryffindor and Slytherin.

4. If your teenager is female, you will spend a few hundred dollars a year on menstrual products, PMS tea, rom-com rentals, chocolate, gynecological visits and stain removers. You’ll also be able to prove the theory of women’s cycles syncing up. For roughly one week each month, your home will transform into a modern-day Red Tent situation, sans actual tent and bloody stacks of hay.

5. Thumbs really can be sprained by too much texting. You’ll learn this when you get your kid a new cell phone “for safety reasons” in eighth grade.

6. No matter how many unshaven radical feminist friends you have, and no matter how many annual goddessy ceremonies your daughters attend at the Women’s Herbal Symposium, at some point they will attempt to pluck their own eyebrows and shave their legs without your permission. It’s not pretty.

7. Morning carpool is a perfect time to interject your politics into conversations about celebrities. For example, when a Chris Brown song comes on the local radio station, this is an opportunity to discuss boycotting, sexism and violence against women—and to make sure the teen boys around know you mean business.

8. As teens get older, you don’t have to wait until they’re sound asleep to watch all the steamy R-rated movies you rented. R-Rated Movie Night can and should become a Friday-night family tradition. The only catch: sex scenes are often used as an opportunity for your teen to badger you with questions about your own sex life. (Also, watching Girls with your teen is a great opportunity to show them just exactly what bad sex looks like.)

9. If your child is psyched about driving and gets a driver’s license (unlike mine, who is afraid of being on the road while other teens are driving and takes the bus everywhere), you, my friend, have a personal designated driver for rides home from happy hour!

10. At some point in the mid–high school years, no matter how difficult or exhausting you become from driving back and forth across town, calling to make sure no creepers abducted your child on public transportation, helping with geometry homework and college job applications, buying cereal and milk, addressing health issues, counseling the kid after a blowup with a friend and all of the other various and unpredictable challenges that come with being a teenager, you will panic. You will sit alone at your kitchen table while your kids are out at parties or movies, and you’ll think, Oh mother of pearl, how did this happen so fast? These people are almost adults and will be leaving me soon. You’ll think of how desperately you want to shrink them, to encase them in cute little boxes in order to hold on to every precious, gut-aching, nostalgic memory forever. Then you realize putting your kids in boxes is creepy and illegal, so you let them go out into the world, you learn to trust that you are a great parent, that you did everything you could to love them and guide them into the people they are. And then you’ll pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and learn to enjoy the last few years together while you still have them.

Sonoma County Library