Before I start my post I am going to preface it: what I am writing about today is based on a mainly hypothetical conversation that I had with two neighbors while we were doing laundry. Both of these women have 13 year old daughters and they somehow oddly thought I might have some words of wisdom regarding teenage girls and raising them. After I stopped laughing at the thought of any parent ever knowing anything, we had a discussion around this topicwhile there is an example of a situation, this was more conversational than actual

The laundry room is like the water cooler of an apartment building. We run into each other and have long conversations about pretty much everything. When I run into these particular women, the talk often turns to how did I like the schools my daughter attended (remember we have school choice here- especially after elementary) On this particular occasion, the subject was girls as they enter the teen years.

How do you know the difference between a teen who is spoiled, a kid who is acting out as part of the normal growth process, and a kid that is having a real issue?

Teenage children act out. They rebel against their parents. I know we don’t want to hear this, but a certain amount of rebellion is normal and healthy. During the teen years we know that kids are trying to find their place in the world apart from their parents. Rebelling against parents is the safest form of rebellion- they are secure enough in the love of the parents that they know they have this cushion. Doesn’t make it easy to live through, but there you go.

Now, some kids rebel way less than others. I can’t tell you why some kids are more hellish than others during this time period.

But how do we know what’s good rebellion, and what sort of rebellion causes trouble?

I have no idea.

And I told this to my neighbors. My guess if is something is self destructive, or destructive to others, you might need to sit down with the pediatrician and ask for a next step.

But do we really ever know what is normal and what is a cry for help?

My neighbor brought up a particular situation: her niece had all of a sudden become a vocal advocate against date rape and other forms of sexual aggression towards young women. She asked me, how do you know if this is a normal protest against something that has been in the news lately, or what if she, or one of her friends has been victimized? Do you ask and risk the kid shutting down? Do you watch to see if any other behaviors are off?

I shook my head: these were questions I’d often thought of myself. When I would see a girl at school I wonder if they are anorexic, or maybe taking drugs, but at what point do you say something? Is it worth stirring the pot?

While we are all supposed to watch out for one another, in practice, how do we actually do it?

As an outside we may be looking at things from a different light- sometimes being close to a situation can be blurry. Sometimes an outsider can have clarity.

When do we butt in? When do we butt out?

When “normal” can be pretty obnoxious, how do we ascertain a cry for help?

54 thoughts on “Growing Pains?

  1. LA, I agree with you, and Barb.

    Children who are carefully listened to by their parents, from infancy on, are much less likely to seriously rebel.
    If we only ‘kind of’ , or ‘sort of’, listen to our children when they are little, then we should not be surprised by ‘rebellion’.
    Please, let’s listen to children. They have much to teach us. 🤗⚘🌷

    Liked by 2 people

  2. SOOO STRANGE. A few years ago when I picked my youngest up from college for the holidays, we got into this heated discussion about sexual aggression towards women. I’m here to tell you she was crying and yelling, her nose was running and I was thinking to myself, holy sh**- did something happen to my daughter? When I asked, she said no- so I asked if anyone she knew had been victimized..the answer again was no. What I realized at that moment with absolute clarity was the power of media to make our kids feel as if the world around them is coming unglued..every woman is being molested at work, every gay person is being beat up, the Russians are voting in our elections, your parents are racist (and don’t know it) and your town will hit 149 degrees this summer ..and this was BEFORE covid!! Suddenly the surge in depression, anxiety and suicidal ideations makes sense..

    Liked by 5 people

    1. See? That’s a great point. Bleuwater has a great post a while ago aboit the effect of news stories and depression on those who consider themselves liberals. How do we navigate all this?!

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I’m not sure anymore because as parents, I find we have no standing. We have been marginalized, classified, judged as irrelevant, un-informed, unworthy, unsophisticated and worse. Our hard won achievements, including the sacrifices made to send our kids to the very colleges that deride us, are devalued and somehow presented as proof of our shallowness. Mass media has become the parent, the friend, the church, the store and the source for all knowledge and entertainment.. There is no authentic perspective, no context- the fire alarm is always ringing. How do you prick that bubble? I have no idea.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I can’t even do that with my youngest. We don’t touch “hot stove” issues anymore..so that leaves the weather and clothes.. (not incl hair 😂)

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  3. Seriously tough questions, LA. I think it’s a lot easier to be a grandparent living in a different city from your kids than a parent these days! The comment from Cindy speaks volumes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know. It’s questions I have no idea how to navigate. I was fortunate in that my daughter was mildly rebellious, but I don’t know what I would have done in other circumstances

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      1. There are no easy answers, are there? You really have to know your kid, and that’s easier said than done at the best of times. And these days it’s harder than ever to be aware of everything they’re exposed to.

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  4. As part of my training to work at the middle school (just in the cafeteria as a cashier, mind you), we watched a video about reporting concerning behaviors like abuse, neglect, harassment, etc. The idea is that all of us adults need to be looking out for the welfare of the youth.

    In terms of your own children, I second the religious connection. First, of course, is having built a good relationship of communication -one that really needs a parent who doesn’t flip out and severely punish for admissions of error.

    Even given that, as you know, some kids won’t open up. I, for one, am a nosey teenage parent. I see it as my duty.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, no clear answer here. 100% contextual, all the while knowing, as you write, there are no “right” answers to hyper-complex situations. We’ve had our share, like everyone, of challenges, some of them, even currently, are quite serious. One thing we did “right” of the many we did “wrong” is that we didn’t give up on the conversation with our son, not ever. We kept at it and will continue to. Super difficult…

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  6. I have no answers either. I have a 13yo girl who is in therapy (which was not caused, but augmented by the 16 month lockdown) and a 16yo boy who prefers I have a peripheral existence in relation to him and his needs (right now).

    I only know one thing: neither kid reminds me of who they were just a few years ago. And, I suspect, it will continue to stay this way for the foreseeable future.

    But.

    Real trouble can be ‘sniffed out’ at times… Like some people said earlier, keeping lines of communication open is the only way to go about this. The tens may take that as an invitation to talk, or not. That is not for us to say. Like you said, they will push boundaries with parents more than elsewhere because they have a keen understanding about the safety, in most cases, of not getting rejected or unloved by their own parents. I realize this doesn’t paint the picture of every family (there is plenty of neglect and abuse everywhere), but for many of us, it is like a ‘phase’ we go through alongside our teens who push us and their own boundaries.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My kids are all grown but I remember the teen years were like traversing a minefield. I was lucky, we were on the edge of all the new technologies. I worried more about how much TV they were watching, if Friends was a bad influence, and if my curfew was too strict? Communication was key and a little snooping when necessary! We survived and enjoy close relationships today but the stories live on in infamy and we continue to exaggerate the tales! C

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have a 21-year-old and a 13-year-old. We’ve been down this road and we are heading down the road again. I agree with Cindy’s comment about feeling like we are going through it even if we haven’t been through anything. Social media has that power. That is something we never had to deal with when we were going through our “formative years.” I put quotation marks around those words because I believe we are always “forming.”

    I’ve always told my children that nothing scares us and that we can handle any problem they bring to us. That is, of course, a lie. But they don’t need to know that. 🙂

    There is no way to know when to butt in and parents who say, “I know my kid” are insulting those parents who’ve lost children to suicide or drug abuse.

    As you said, there’s no good way to navigate these years.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No one knows their kid. They know what their kid wants them to see. Even parents with great communication skills have been whacked in the face. That’s what I tried to tell my neighbors…we can do everything right and still there are things we miss. And social media….blehhhhhh

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  9. I’d agree with you – how can you tell? Speaking for myself, I think a bit of rebellion is not only normal, it is necessary as it preps us to leave the nest and get out on our own. That drive for freedom and independence. My own house rules, not my parents’. Of course, I can’t speak to the way kids are raised today. I grew up in a small town and reasonably smart kids got bored easy and there was little to do, so we made or own “fun.” Some might think that our fun was a bit much and too crazy, but none of us got hurt and we were always home at respectable hours, and I was an A-B student. I actually incorporated excelling at school as part of my rebellion – yeah I was wild, but hey, I was not a derelict 🙂 Drove my high school teachers crazy – LOL !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the hardest thing about parenting…there are never enough answers to the questions we have. We talk, and listen, and still there are issues, some benign…some…not so much. No easy answers

      Liked by 1 person

  10. With children, I think it’s important to know the child’s personality first, and then go from there. For example, if my youngest started talking about date rape, I wouldn’t even blink an eye. She has a laundry list of things she thinks are heinous and none of them mean she’s been affected in some way. Now, if my oldest started being an advocate for anything, I’d have to check to see if the world was ending, and then I’d ask her if she’d been recently raped (I actually would ask this).

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  11. Thought provoking post. I agree with Cindy that four years in college undid a lot of our parenting very quickly. Apparently I’m a misogynist according to my daughter. I heard that the other night. As for when to butt in, that’s a tough one. On our swim team, we knew a girl our daughter’s age who was driving 30 minutes to swim practice six days a week, but wasn’t making it to practice. Instead, she was hanging out with a young man who had already fathered a child. Did we let the parents know what their daughter was up to? None of the parents did. The coach didn’t either. When the parents found out their daughter was lying to them and ditching practice, they were furious at all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a difficult situation to be in. I saw a close friend’s daughter where she wasn’t supposed to be. I did bring it up to my friend. I knew they were struggling with keeping tabs on their daughter and she appreciated my telling her.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I used to love driving the kids to school every morning. It gave me a chance to listen to their conversations with friends (they thought I was listening to the music – LOL). Also, I made sure to tell them that whatever happens, it is always okay to come to us and let us know. We may get mad but would never stop loving them and would figure out a way to get through whatever it was. I also showed them pictures of me at their age (17-18) smoking and drinking to let them know that even though I may seem like goodie-two shoes mom, I had my moments! So, that’s the communication part. The rest is prayer. As for saying something to someone else’s kid, that’s a much harder scenario.

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  13. I have no idea in your scenario if there would be an issue going on with that particular kid. I think as kids get older it is normal for them to start questioning and forming a different world view as they get exposed to more information. When I tried to do this with my parents it never went well, of course.

    And I’m not sure that a young woman questioning how we approach date rape etc. is necessarily a sign of another issue. Honestly–I think our society has slid backwards in some respects with regards to these issues. I remember watching TV with my daughter a few years ago during some high profile discussions of date rape type issues and honestly feeling ashamed that the world didn’t seem to be a much better place for my daughter than it was for me when I was her age. I think it is good to talk about these issues—there is still a lot of work to be done. But I don’t want to go off on a tangent with this issue.

    My own kids haven’t rebelled too much. Unfortunately I think that my husband was tougher on our son in some ways than he was on our daughter—-my son used to push back on some of that . Would give anything to have my husband back but don’t miss the undercurrent of hostility that would often accompany simple teenager type requests.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess in the situation of the niece, my neighbor thought she just became so vocal in the subject, she couldn’t help but wonder…like 10 insta posts a day, etc. she thought it was slightly out of character

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  14. With my own kid, I would absolutely ask. This is because I’ve already established those lines of communication with my kids and that kind of a question shouldn’t cause them to shut down or shut me out. I’d know in an instant if they did that there was something much deeper going on and it would be cause to seek additional help. With someone else? It would really depend on the relationship I have. If I felt I had a similar open line of communication with the person, I’d ask. If not, I’d maybe mention my concern to someone who does or a teacher/parent or some other person in a better position if I felt concerned enough. I actually called a child abuse hotline for a friend of one of my kids once because I was so concerned about their safety.

    I’ve seen a range of acting out with my 3 kids over the years and sometimes it is hard to spot the differences between genuine problems and typical teenage drama. It is one of the hardest parts (one of so very many) to being a parent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely one of the hardest things of parenting…we try out hardest and half the time it’s not nearly enough. And watching your kid struggle is the worst

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  15. This is a thoughtful blog with excellent questions. I think the key to good parenting is to carefully observe. Have open communication, and trust your gut. Don’t preach!
    Often times parents are the last to know when there is a real problem . I will share a very scary scenario that happened when I was teaching in two schools during the week. It was a pull out gifted program where this young pre teen girl came to my class twice a week. She was very bright, outgoing, personable and happy. Over several months I watched a change in her behavior. She seemed unhappy, bordering on depressive. Her appearance changed. She started acting out in class and her behavior to others became negative.
    I spoke to her privately several times and where she had once been very open she was not about to share her thoughts. I called her mother to say I noticed this change and thought she might want to know, but her mom told me her daughter was just being dramatic and that it was nothing.
    So… I continued to watch her and discovered she was asking to go the bathroom every day after lunch and had been making herself vomit. I privately talked to the child who she said she was unhappy because she was getting fat. We had a good discussion about body image etc. And I informed her parents of the situation and the guidance counselor to be on high alert. I was told to mind my own business by her parents. And that I was crazy.

    At our next class session the girl pulled me aside and cried and told me she wanted to die and thought about killing herself. Obviously I told her not to and how I was there for her. I gave her dozens of strategies for a scenario such as this to build up her self esteem and her positivity.
    During lunch break I went straight to the guidance counselor and we called her Mom. Who again said her child was manipulative and dramatic. I told her this was far more than drama, it was dangerous. The mother became nasty. I was told to drop it by my administration.That I alerted her parents and that was all I could do.
    The next day I was teaching in another school and got a call. The guidance counselor from my previous school said, “ You were right! “ The child I was worried about came into school, Stood up in front of her home room class and slit her wrists in front of all of them. She was rushed to the hospital and was in critical condition . I was furious that nothing had been done with all the warnings I had given everyone.. * From that time forward if my gut told me a child was in trouble I called health professionals to take charge. Over the years I reported cases where children were the victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, bullying etc. This is a serious issue. As adults we need to carefully watch them.
    If you think your child is behaving oddly go to a good therapist and let them talk to someone for a few sessions. You would be surprised what that can reveal. If your kid is fine then better safe than sorry.
    If your child is just experiencing normal temperamental teenage behavior then at least you will know. But you just might save a child’s life.
    And no disrespect to anyone regarding Religion. It is is great. I’m religious myself. But, sometimes the cliques in religious youth groups have been known to be the cause for bullying. And often time very structured religious teaching has created suicidal feelings in sexually confused teens.
    As a teacher I’ve had multiple classes and trainings in dealing with behavior. Teenagers are fragile even though their exterior may seem strong or volatile.
    Each parent knows raising children is a crap shoot.
    All we can do is love them . Listen to them and try to respect their feelings as we guide them. And if we can’t seek professionals who can.
    And that’s my personal and professional advice. Take it or leave it. LA once again you nailed it with a brilliant post!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Omg what a horribly sad story!! That’s heart breaking…I can’t even imagine. I’m numb thinking about this. Thank you as always for your very valuable perspective and insights. We need to keep sharing these stories so we can get better

      Liked by 1 person

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