The Field Guide to Your Teens

From the rock n roll rebels of the 1950s straight through to the Snapchatting snark-masters of today, your teenage years are a time to cherish. But learning just how to be a teen can be tricky.

And that’s why we at Parents Just Don’t Understand Publications have put together The Field Guide to Your Teens™, a handy guide full of tips and tricks that will take you from moderately moody tween to classic teen!

In our fun, easy to use manual, you’ll learn classic teen skills such as:

Extreme eye-rolling: We’ll teach you how to achieve the most bang from your eye-rolls.

The creep and crawl: Perfect the slow, incremental movement away from nearby adults without them realizing what’s happening!

Moody Kabuki: Our handy guide will show you how to mask genuine excitement beneath a facade of apathy, contempt, and just plain boredom.

From beginner hormone surges to expert snark, our unique approach guides you every step of the way.

In these pages you’ll learn about our patented PAST™ approach.

Using PAST™ (Polite Adult Small Talk), you’ll learn how just enough small talk appeases hovering parents/adults. Follow our three easy steps and we guarantee every parent you interact with will leave thinking, “Oh, what a nice boy that Johnny is!”

In our Teen Tips and Tricks chapter, you’ll read about:

The Dissolve, the act of disappearing into other rooms without sound. One minute you’re there, the next you’re not!

…amazing and astonishing your parents and peers by growing two inches overnight.

…drawing a sigh out into four distinct syllables

…flipping from happy to surly and back again in record time.

…demolishing a week’s worth of groceries in one sitting.

And much, much more.

Broken up into easy to read chapters especially designed to hold your attention for seven seconds before you shout “It’s so boooorring.”, The Field Guide to Your Teens™ is meant to be picked up and put down 1,297 times.

With a web component included, you can use our easy, interactive language tools to build fluency in one of three languages. Chose from Sarcasm, Snark, or Emoji.

The Field Guide To Your Teens™ provides you with the answers to these classic teen dilemmas:

How do you accessorize sullenness?

What color goes best with existential angst?

How can I get my parents to stop living their own wasted youth vicariously through me?

You’ll learn classic teen behavior like sleeping through four alarms on a school day as well as newer skills such as perfecting the art of the one letter return text “K”.

You’ll learn our foolproof method to slouching, appearing bored, and the slow breath through the nose to show your utter contempt as well as exactly the right type of music to drive your parents to scream at you to “turn that shit down!”

We’ll provide you with the correct response to adults who start their conversations off with “In my day” and “You don’t know how good you have it.”

Use the PAST approach to counteract the”Uphill Both Ways” myth.

In our role-playing chapter you’ll find exercises to use with friends where you can  practice classic teen phrases such as “You never let me do anything!” “Leave me alone!” and “That’s not fair!” and our number one best-seller, “You just don’t understand!”

Put aside time to practice the centuries old art of door slamming in your own home.

Learn how to exasperate your parents without opening your mouth.

The Field Guide to Teens™ will even teach you how to exploit your grandparents to form a united front against your parents.

And so much more!

If you’ve ever dreamed of perfecting the classic teenager, this is the book for you!

Order now, supplies limited.

 

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The Sweet Spot

relaxingMy husband and I spent the weekend rearranging furniture. By the end of Sunday we had reclaimed another square-inch of space of Lego storage from our children. We promptly put a plant there and much like brandishing a flag and claiming land for the Queen, we staked our claim as adults.

Sitting in our increasingly grown up living room with a glass of wine, we agreed that our lovely Danish apartment is likely the nicest place we are ever going to live.

As I looked around, I thought the same thing about our children, who were nowhere in sight. No longer babies or even pre-schoolers prone to a sulk but not yet teens, I know my husband and I are sitting pretty in the sweet spot of parenting.

My kids are 11 and almost 8 now; old enough to be as independent as I need them to be and yet still young enough that we haven’t started worrying about the big, bad teenage years that lay ahead.

Not only are they taking up less space with their toys, they can work the toaster. They can pour milk into a cereal bowl without spilling half a gallon onto the floor. They can, most of the time, even put the milk back into the fridge. All of this means that my husband and I don’t have to get up on a weekend morning if we don’t need to. Sometimes we stay in bed until 10.

10!! I remember a time when 6 was a far off dream.

They can entertain themselves. Sure, they need guidelines and reminders that there is life beyond a screen, but there’s no more crouching for minutes that felt like hours on the floor or setting up craft projects or trying to act interested in Playmobil knights storming the castle. And though there are times I miss that, it’s a subject for another post. Remind me later.

The older one gets himself to and from school, to and from football practice, to and from friends houses. Sure, he still leaves his clothes wherever they fall and has to be reminded to brush his teeth on a daily basis, but hey, you can’t have it all.

The little one is finally fluent enough to read books that take him a few days. He’s developed interests outside of mine, outside of his brother’s and is striding toward independence himself. He can get himself a piece of fruit is he’s hungry. A glass of water when he’s thirsty. And nine times out of ten, he doesn’t even spill it.food shopping

Day-to-day life right now doesn’t feel so fragile. Free time doesn’t feel so desperately longed for and hoarded. Gone are the days when a shower or a trip to the supermarket counted as a tally mark on the great spread sheet of alone time (don’t pretend you didn’t/don’t keep track…). Nowadays my husband and I leave the kids on a Saturday morning and go to the grocery store alone together. The other day I exclaimed that it was almost like going on a date.

We can have almost whole conversations. Conversations with four letter words even. Yes, I can swear in front of my kids now. They’re old enough that I expect them to respect the difference between me as the eff-ing grown-up and themselves, the lowly offspring. I’m not walking around eff-ing this and eff-ing that, but I don’t have to be so careful not to let fly a few choice words when I…say…drop something on my foot. But the swearing thing is a subject for another post. Remind me later.

I know that soon my big one will be staring down the barrel of puberty. He’ll want to go and do  something dumb, like grow up. He’ll want to go out on dates and get a driver’s license and probably drink cheap alcohol and throw up in some bushes. There will be heartbreak and sex talk and…can you see why I’m relishing this time right now?

Babies are yummy and delicious and they squidge into you all cuddly and warm like cookie dough just out of the oven. But they’re a lot of work. Toddlers are hilarious and it’s amazing watching those chunky little flesh balls take the shape of a real live person with a personality all of their own. But man, the constant vigilance and supervision and redirection? Exhausting.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the only minute of the day to sit down and relax was the sixty seconds in between getting the kids to bed and passing out on the couch. But now…now I have whole half-hours of time. Hours even.

Why right now they’re in a whole different part of our lovely apartment playing Wii with a friend while I type this out.

couple relaxingIn another few years it’ll be a girlfriend in there instead of a friend. And I’ll have to open the doors in between me and them instead of shutting them. Instead of waiting for them to turn the lights out at 9 so that I can watch grown up television they’ll be going out at 9 and that will bring a whole new level of stress to the game.

But that’s still a way off.

Right now I’ll just enjoy the calm of the moment. Of being in the sweet spot. In my increasingly grown-up apartment with just a little less Lego and a little more breathing room. And wine, of course.

Tweenage Wasteland

kids-and-cardsI’m suffering a case of whiplash.

Not from an accident in the pedal or be killed bike lanes of Copenhagen, but from watching my not-quite-eleven-year-old waffle back and forth between being a little kid and teetering on the edge of being a teenager.

Has there ever ben a more apt slang term than tween? When I was eleven and trying to figure out if it was still cool to play with my Barbies, while I was busy dreaming about the boy down the street and meticulously cutting out paper dolls, while I was fantasizing about growing boobs while playing with my Spirograph set and Fashion Plates, those years between kid and teen were just called awkward.

Surely you remember those years a little bit. The exquisite pain of trying to figure out where you fit in, the uncertainty, the sensation of growing right out of your skin.

The years betwixt and between. Caught between ages, emotions, between height and breasts and dropped testicles. Between a stirring in the heart and still being reasonably sure the opposite sex has cooties.

The other day my son was quite happily playing with his younger brother with a bunch of trucks in the sand, reminding me of that sweet, quick-smiling toddler of yore. Then he stormed off in a huff because of…well, I don’t even know what he was storming off about.

Was it something I said?

I have a feeling I’ll be asking myself that question a lot in the days to come.

Photo: Mary Ellen Mark
Photo: Mary Ellen Mark

He recently devoured the Divergent series in the space of a week….and followed it up by whipping through a series about a hamster named Humphrey.

Every now and then he snuggles up to me, lays his head in my lap and asks me to stroke his hair. Or he stomps away angrily, embarrassed, unsure. Still craving affection yet not sure if it’s cool to seek it out.

He asked a girl to the dance….and then asked Santa for a Build-a-Bear. He is mature enough to cycle to his friend’s houses independently, and yet still will only eat apples cut up into slices.

On a Thursday he went to see Jurassic World, and on Monday he happily wasted an afternoon watching PacMan cartoons with his brother.

Not going or coming, but both simultaneously. Still years away from being taken seriously by most of the adults around him, but with far more to say than a kid. Forming his opinions and ideas, not knowing where they fit into the big picture.

He is in the no man’s land between kid and teen.

Kids are tolerated, they are forgiven, they are smiled at and have their heads patted. They get away with things because they are cute and chubby and little. They lisp their toddling way into our hearts. Teens are tolerated because most of us have a vague recollection of being a teenager, of what it was like to use all your resources for that final push into grown up ness, when your bones stretch at night and you wake up a young man or woman. Plus, they sleep a lot and can make their own lunch, so that helps too.

34-Street-Games-GettyBut those years in between? They’re tough. Awkward. Tweens still exhibit all the goofy silliness of kids, but at ten, eleven, twelve, it’s not cute to us anymore. It’s annoying. They spout nonsense as if it were on tap, but instead of thinking it’s adorable like we did when they were three, we think it’s smarmy. They want to cuddle and yet they’re starting to smell. Too old for many things, not old enough for the rest.

My son still half believes in the tooth fairy and yet we’re talking to him about puberty, prepping him for deodorant and jock straps. Kissing scenes in movies are just starting to make him squirm. And we’re starting to squirm because he is. No wonder why he’s confused.

Tweens have to take that final, frightening step from kid to adolescent. They have the space of a few years to do it in, but there’s a whole lotta wasteland to cover in between, in which to be a tween.

In the meantime, I’ll prep my neck for the inevitable whiplashing back and forth.

Sticks and Stones

sticks-and-stonesDear Boys,

For some inexplicable reason I still can’t fathom, when I was in high school the term du jour for a pretty girl was muffin. At the top of this confectionary food chain, reserved for the prettiest of the pretty, the cheerleadiest of the cheerleaders, was blueberry muffin.

Even more inexplicable than the baked good rating system was the fact that I happened to be dating a football player. Not just any football player, mind you, the quarterback. In case we stay overseas and you never experience the popularity of American football, the idea of the quirky, kind-of-gawky smart girl (yes, your mom) dating the QB is the stuff of John Hughes films. If you don’t know who John Hughes is, I’ve failed you.

I digress. During some sweaty locker room conversation that later got back to me, in between towel snaps and jock itches, a teammate asked the QB–my QB–why he was going out with me. I wasn’t blueberry muffin material, he said. In fact, I wasn’t even muffin material. I was nothing more than…burnt toast.

As a grown up writer I’ll give the boy credit for sticking with the theme, for stringing along the metaphor. But as a teenage girl, I was devastated when his words found their way back to me. Few girls of fourteen or fifteen have the stamina, the strength or the confidence to withstand a direct assault on their looks. I certainly didn’t.

Most of us don’t. Not then anyway. Recently I had brunch with a group of smart, successful women. We got to talking about the sticks and stones slung at us during those long ago school days. And while we could, as adults, laugh them off, it was obvious those barbs sliced deep enough they left scars. They may not be visible to the naked eye, but they’re there all the same.

Grease Ball
Tit-less
Fat Ankles
Kitchen Lady
Stick Insect
Burnt Toast

It was a timely conversation. I had just read an excerpt from an interview with the actor Melissa McCarthy, who recalled how she responded to a journalist who body shamed her in print.

Stick-and-stones-may-break-YOUR-bones-but-words-will-always-hurt-ME

“Just know every time you write stuff,” she said, “every young girl in this country reads that and they just get a little bit chipped away.”

Boys, I love you dearly, I hope you know that. I will fight in your corner if and when you need me. I will advocate for you, I will be your voice, I will stand by you and behind you. But know this: If I ever find out you are taking pot shots at a girl’s weight or the size of her thighs, I will take you down. If I find out you were making fun of another student’s skin or her hair or the size or her breasts, I will take you down. If I find out you’ve insulted a girl because she was flat chested or big hipped or because she didn’t meet some crazy expectation of pretty or some unachievable ideal, I will take you down.

We remember. Over coffee and croissants, every single one of us remembered the name of that boy–the one who shamed us. Every single one of us could name, without a breath or a hesitation, the full name of that boy, the one who made a mark, left a scar.

And I don’t want either one of you to ever be that name.

As the proud feminist mother of boys, I’m in a unique position: I get a chance to raise the next generation of men. I feel like it’s my duty to raise you boys to respect all people–not to treat women differently because they are women, but to treat everyone respectfully. Frankly, I hope you’re holding the door open for whoever comes behind you, male or female. But there are things I can’t tolerate, can’t abide. Hurting girls with words that aren’t necessary or kind is one. Cutting someone with an insult sharp enough to leave a lasting scar, is another. Being that boy? Please don’t. Don’t be that boy.

You can’t keep a good woman down–not for long, not really. But you can leave her marked and pocked. And tweenage, teenage, young adult skin is a lot more susceptible to scarring than this forty-something woman’s. Your skin takes on teflon, repellent properties as you get older. But that takes time. It doesn’t take much to slice open the heart of a ten year old or a twelve, fourteen, sixteen year old girl.

beautifulBoys, if you call a girl ugly, you’re not commenting on her looks, you’re hiding the ugly thoughts in yourself. Be gentle in your actions, gentle in your words. When you call a girl fat, or tit-less or greasy or skank or slut, you are feeding your own emptiness by creating a little chunk of emptiness in her.

Just remember that. Remember that the scars fade, but they never go away completely. Remember that she will always keep your name on the tip of her tongue. Forever and always. I want you to be remembered, but not for that, never for that. Not for being that boy.

So be kind, be respectful, be aware.

Love,

(Your quirky, kind of gawky, mostly smart) Mom