This is what my husband says when I complain. Teenagers are like two year olds. When my children were two, I didn’t complain about their irrational, illogical, self-centered, pouty ways. I just accepted it as part of the stage. Well, ok. I complained, but not because I expected them to behave differently. Maybe if I view my teenager as a two year old, I can do the same now.
The thing is, they look so much like grown-ups. They are capable of so many things like complex speech, reading, self grooming (most of the time), lawn care. It really seems like they should be capable of logical deduction and basic analysis of situations. But they aren’t. Some examples are in order.
This morning, Jane was angry. She was angry because her dad wouldn’t buy her Blow Pops for her campaign for National Junior Honor Society Secretary. He wouldn’t buy them for her because she didn’t have a plan. She just wanted to hand them out. He said she should have “Vote for Jane” signs on them or something.
After discussing with me, he decided to offer to buy the Blow Pops if she’d pay for half. She was still angry. Because he had told her (her words) that “giving the Blow Pops without a sign advertising was stupid.” I stopped her and pointed out that she now had the opportunity to get what she wanted. She was too busy moping.
When I pressed, she pointed out that she’d been asking for the Blow Pops for several days and she could have put tags on them if she had gotten them then. I asked why she had never mentioned putting signs on them. “Last night,” I said, “Why didn’t you say, ‘Hey, I need those Blow Pops for tomorrow. Look, I’ve made these signs and I want to attach them. Can mom pick up the suckers on the way home from her meeting?’ But you didn’t do that. You waited to ask for them again this morning.”
“Because I didn’t think about it then.”
And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of the problem with the teenage brain. Well, one of them. They expect so much more out of you than they ever hold themselves accountable for. It’s her suckers. We really don’t give a flip if she has them or not. So whose responsibility should it be to make sure they get purchased? See, I would think it’s hers. But she thinks it’s ours. Because she told us about it and that makes it ours. She gets to offload it from her brain to ours, as if we don’t already have plenty of things that are important to us taking up space there.
A similar thing happened with the purchase of eggs for her science project. One Wednesday evening, she declared the need for eggs to test her protect-the-egg-from-breaking-when-dropped-from-a-great-height device. So Daddy brought home some eggs. Saturday night, she had a friend spend the night. Sunday morning, with six people in the house, one of them a guest, Daddy thought it’d be a good idea to fix some breakfast. The eggs were still there and were the only eggs in the house. So he cooked them.
Monday morning, Jane got out a pan to fix herself some breakfast before heading out to volunteer for four hours at the elementary school (no school that day). That’s when she discovered that *her* eggs were gone. She was enraged. Those eggs were hers. They were for her science project and we had no business cooking them. Never mind that we cooked them so her guest could have breakfast. Never mind that she had acquired them over four days earlier yet not conducted her experiments. Never mind that she herself was about to cook them. Never mind that we had four hours to get more eggs before she could do anything with them. They were hers and we were out of line.
About five hours later, we were returning home and were almost there when she asked about eggs. She then got saucy and rude when she found out we had forgotten to purchase the eggs.
“You and Daddy drove right past the store after he picked you up. Why didn’t you ask if he had purchased the eggs then?”
“Because I didn’t think about it then.”
Again, we were expected to remember her business more fully and completely than she was. We were, again, in the wrong while she shared no culpability in the non-possession of eggs. And she needn’t come up with a solution to her problem – like, stopping at the convenience store around the corner from our house, which was what I suggested.
The selfishness of teenagers truly has no bounds. That particular weekend that her friend spent the night, her brothers had been making plans to sleep on the couches in the living room Saturday night. They were pumped about it in a way that only makes sense if you are under 12 years old.
And then Jane, who was celebrating her birthday with friends, asked for a sleepover. I agreed and then suggested to the boys that since they didn’t have school on Monday, they could sleep in the living room Sunday night. They weren’t happy about it but reluctantly agreed. Jane and her friend stayed up late into the night watching a half dozen episodes of How I Met Your Mother in the living room.
Sunday night, on the way home from visiting friends, Jane asked if she could watch an episode. Daryl immediately piped up that she couldn’t because they had the living room. I confirmed that he was right.
“So I don’t get to watch an episode,” she said, with so much scorn and disgust dripping from her voice that I’m surprised it didn’t stain her clothes.
“That’s right. They didn’t get to do what they had planned last night so they get to tonight.”
“Can’t they wait in their room while I watch an episode and then they can go sleep on the couches?!”
“No, dear. They gave up their plans last night so that you could do what you wanted. You watched five episodes last night. I think you’ll be ok not watching one tonight.”
“So I don’t get to watch an episode.” Her tone made it clear that the world was unfair and stacked up particularly tall against her.
The fact that she could not comprehend how she had impacted her brothers the night before, nor that she was asking for a further inconvenience that night for something that was truly not important, astounded me. The comparison to a two year old is an accurate one. The only difference is that I never expected her to comprehend why it was wrong to steal someone else’s toy when she was two. I kinda expect her to get it now.
But, no, it’s all about what she wants and when she wants it. The morning after Daryl’s exhausting sleepover, while I prepared to make detailed minion cupcakes for Hal’s party that afternoon, she wanted me to sit at the dining room table so we could discuss her desire for an iPhone. I told her that, especially since I had just discovered I had no icing, I simply didn’t have time and it wasn’t a priority to be taken care of that morning.
She could not believe that I wasn’t making time for her on what is arguably one of my busiest days of the year: Saturday of birthday weekend. She started ranting about how she had been “kicked out of my house on my birthday and now you won’t talk about my phone!” This ignored that we had pulled her from school to eat at her requested restaurant for lunch. That I had delayed taking her back so she would miss the class she didn’t want to walk in late for. That she had spent the evening doing what she wanted: movie and dinner with her grandmother. That she had been given the option of returning home or staying at the hotel with grandma and had chosen the latter.
She also couldn’t understand why her Daddy wasn’t willing to just trust her that she could earn $50 a month to pay the larger phone bill. Never mind that she struggles to pay her current $20 bill each month. Never mind that we would be locked into a two year contract, whether she proved able to pay it or not. Never mind that she’s never shown a willingness to work. No, her father’s desire for a two month proving period where she earns the $50/month before we acquire the iPhone was deeply unreasonable.
Oh, well. My only comfort is that when I talk to my friends with similarly aged children, they tend to bounce up and down and get excited and point at me and say, “My kid too! Oh, my goodness! It’s like they are twins!” I take comfort in our shared misery. I also take comfort in my mother’s laughter when I finish a rant about my daughter with “I surely never behaved this way!” Because if I did, as her laughter seems to indicate, then there’s hope for Jane. After all, I think I turned out just swell.