I wasn't looking forward to having teenagers but, now I'm here, I've changed my mind.
Not that the life of a teen parent is all rosy - far from it. I've become used to being told how ignorant, old-fashioned and useless I am (except, of course, when it comes to preparing food, organising lives, supporting interests, driving, and handing out money…).
But, in between all that, I'm counting the joys of having teens.
1. Growing independence
I still fish wet towels out of bedrooms and make my teens breakfast so they don't miss the bus, but I'm also loving their growing capability.
One of the best ideas I had last year was a once-a-week dinner cooked by my two kids together.
The first night, my hubby and I kept an ear out, waiting to be summonsed to wrangle a frypan or arbitrate an argument but, to our immense surprise, the only call was to 'Come NOW, before it gets cold!'. We arrived to find a beautifully presented meal and two happy kids.
That was a moment of parenting joy.
2. Getting real
As my kids grow, I'm enjoying not having to filter my conversation as much as I did when they were little.
As one of my kids is sensitive, I still stop and think before sharing the latest COVID-19 infection rates or scary details about US politics, but it is great to be able to talk in a real way about world events and personal issues.
Part of getting real is no longer swallowing swear words (or replacing them with euphemistic alternatives like 'For Freak's Sake!').
I'm not a big swearer (unlike one friend who had to put the brakes on her language when her three year old's vocab was almost entirely unprintable) but it's nice to be able to let loose with the odd well-timed expletive.
4. Ease of planning
It is seriously liberating to be able to make plans without having to carefully consider the kids. I can plan my work largely around its demands rather than my kids' needs.
I can go out without dragging them with me, or planning it around another adult's availability. We can plan catchups with family friends, knowing that the kids will either come or not come depending on their mood and commitments. What bliss!
5. Shared viewing
I'm the first to admit to loving many kids tv and movies, but others nearly did me in. Now my kids are teens, we love nothing better than finding a Netflix series that we can all get into. We've done Brooklyn 99 and The Good Place and are now happily knee-deep in Atypical.
These shows are great for starting conversations (including difficult ones like: "What's a hand job?") but they're also simply quality entertainment that we can enjoy together.
6. Interests new and old
My kids have introduced me to the wonders of flying trapeze, the craziness of scary rides at theme parks and I'm currently very keen on a game — or ten — of Among Us.
In the other direction, my daughter is devouring my hubby's old copies of Lord of the Rings and, on piano, is teaching herself songs I loved as a teenager.
While I love this sharing of interests, I'm conscious of not cramping their style (I have no doubt that they'll let me know loud and clear if this becomes a problem!).
7. Remembering my own adolesence
I remember being 14 much better than I remember being four, so I can relate to what my teens are going through more than I could when they were young.
Not that their experiences will always echo mine. And, I know they will do and think things that totally surprise me.
But, being able to remember what I was like at their age helps me respond to their various outbursts and struggles with resulting empathy.
8. Friendship fun
I'm the sort of parent who welcomes my kids' friends into our lives. I love getting to know these other teens and seeing the delight they have in just hanging out together.
Like point 6 above, I'm careful not to overdo this but I'm learning that teens still need help negotiating and arranging plans even now they're able to be in direct contact with friends.
9. Let's NOT get physical
I recall my sister saying that, as the years go by, parenting gets less physical and more cognitively demanding. At the time, I was so up to my ears in nappies, breastfeeding and babes-in-arms that I could hardly hear what she was saying.
Now, I am relishing no longer having to do the endless physical grind of earlier parenting. I'm also making a point of enjoying every single hug that comes my way, as I know that those days might not last forever.
10. Sense of the future
At times, especially in the midst of a pandemic, I can feel overwhelmingly worried by the prospect of my teens heading out into the world. But then, they'll impress me with their ideas or actions and I know they'll (hopefully!) be just fine.
I have no idea what their lives will be like but I'm looking forward to, even at a distance, sharing that journey with them.
As I finish this list, I take a moment to touch wood, as I know that I'm only part way through my teen parenting journey, and that any of these joys could change.
I also know that the teen years often get a bad rap, so I reckon we need to celebrate the moments of joy that come from this tumultuous and exciting time.
Vivienne Pearson is a freelance writer. Her writing lives at viviennepearson.com