The Wacky World of Parenting Teens

The Wacky World of Parenting Teens

Humorous tips for the Solo Mom to maintain her sanity

“I’d like to thank my wonderful mother. A Solo Mom, she was always there for me. . . .” I’m dreaming. The tears I’m feeling are actually the cat licking my nose. I have this dream a lot since my lively children became complicated teenagers.

Everyone knows teenagers are hard on themselves and hard on everyone around them. Take the tantrums of a two-year-old, toss with hormones, add a much larger vocabulary, and you have your average parent-teen interaction.

For solo parents, it’s like being Frodo Baggins. You and you alone must carry this burden of moods, misery, and mayhem through to the end. But fear not, hero adventurer! Here are some tips for solo parenting a teen.

1. It’s your fault. Alone.

Healthy food for dinner? Must be that killjoy Solo Mom. Nagging about grades? Anxious solo parent. Curfews? Overcompensating. No other mother your child knows has ever been as restrictive, indifferent, overinvolved, neglectful—or capable of being all of those at the same time.

What to do: Go with it. It makes no sense. It’s emotionally draining. You’re a solo parent! Expect nothing less than trouble. Deep breath. Glass of wine. Or turn on the shower and scream loudly.

Upside: Your marriage won’t suffer! One less thing to worry about!

2. The unexpected and unbelievable.

Teenagers do stupid things: sneaking out to Koreatown at midnight, using your credit card to order from Smith & Wesson, and so on. You’re lucky if you catch them in the act.

What to do: Replay in your head every teen movie you’ve ever seen, and know that the drama you’re experiencing has nothing to do with being one parent short of the standard model.

Upside: Sure, you are up from 4:00 a.m. till dawn worrying. But you’re talking to yourself! Your kids don’t have to hear you, and you’re not arguing with a partner about which of you is worse at parenting.

3. Get out of my life.

Even if they live with you, they really just don’t want to be with you. It’s painful. You feel vulnerable and abandoned. After all, they have been sucking up most of your free time for more than a decade and you have enjoyed most of it. Can’t they see how they are hurting your feelings? And now they think you’re embarrassing. Remember when they embarrassed you? Seems like yesterday.

What to do: Step back. They do care, but really they care only about themselves. That’s the way it should be. Give in agreeably but not too much. Arrange carpools. Be available for 1:00 a.m. pickups, but explain that can’t happen all the time. Don’t even try to be the cool parent. You’re the only parent.

Upside: You get more time to yourself. Finally! It’s not quite your time yet. It still feels like they are scheduling your life. (Haven’t they always?) But you may be able to find some time to take a nap—and dream of them standing at a podium, smiling and thanking you!

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Margot Kessler, a screen and television writer living in Los Angeles, is the sporadically witty Solo Mom of two lovely daughters.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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