Teenagers get a bad rap, don't they? There's no question that at times they earn their reputations for being grunting, disengaged, lazy, vague, moody know-it-alls, but like all humans (they are human, right?), teenagers have so much more to offer.
As a parent to two of these intriguing creatures, I thought it was time I reflected on what I've loved about raising teenagers.
Once you get over the grunt hurdle, there are some fascinating conversations to be had with your teens. It's an opportunity to gain insight into how they think, what the world looks like to them and how they see their future.
Just the other day, my son started a conversation about sex. Okay, it was about how chickens make chicks but technically it was a sex talk. He'd observed our chickens in the backyard, one who turned out to be a rooster, and wondered what this meant for both edible egg output and the reproductive life of fowl.
Like many other topics I've been slapped with as a parent, I didn't have detailed answers, so we undertook the necessary research and reconvened. Had this not been prompted by the teen, I would never have been inclined to look up "how do chickens have sex".
For your reference, the rooster fertilises the unlaid eggs by mating with the chicken who then lays fertile eggs and sits on them for 21 days and they hatch into baby chickens. You're welcome.
Teenagers are funny creatures; funny-ha-ha and occasionally, funny-weird. If we give them the space to be open with topics and test language at home, they can develop quite the comedic angle.
We have an overt comedian in our house who doesn't mind a corny pun. He loves to imitate "dad jokes" and pulls ridiculous faces that would make Victoria Beckham snort tea out her nose.
Our other teen is a quietly spoken sarcastic one who doesn't say much but when he does, BOOM!
I recently played in a mums' charity football match and I'm not sure if it was more surprising to me or my family, but I kicked a goal. They have not heard the end of that achievement and nor will they for at least a decade.
When my quiet teen asked what the bottle of wine sitting on the bench was from, I proudly told him it was an award I won at the footy match.
"A participation award?" he asked wryly.
Touché, sweet teenager, touché.
Teenagers are an obliging bunch if you just ask (or bribe). They are capable of changing their own sheets, vacuuming the house, unloading dishwashers and cooking dinner. With the right guidance and a dose of expectation, they can be a handy help.
It's a new phase of parenting when you can duck out and leave the teenager in charge of minding a younger sibling or getting a start on the evening's meal. The key is delegation, rather than waiting for them to initiate.
4. Self-reliance and independence
With age comes the desire to break away. The self-reliance and independent streak of teenagers sees them testing boundaries.
Frances E Jensen, neurologist and co-author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, likens teenagers to "Ferraris with weak brakes". Thrill-seekers who are looking for instant rewards, teenagers' rationalisation and risk assessment skills can be lax but not all risk-taking is detrimental. In fact, some level of adventurousness is necessary for youth development.
Teens learn the ways of the world by trialling various activities. Part-time employment, navigating social experiences with friends such as catching the train into the city or attending parties, and stepping outside their comfort zone to try something new, like auditioning for a play or taking up a new sport, are all healthy risk-taking ventures. These opportunities build confidence and strengthen decision-making skills.
5. Seeing the adults they are becoming
When our children are toddlers, we watch in wonderment at who they may become. When they are teens, their personalities start to crystallise. This period of growth offers a window into the kind of people they are maturing into. That's not to say who they are at 15 will be cemented without movement but the foundations and character traits are clear.
I love watching my teenagers and wondering about the careers they will follow, what passions will ignite their learning and who they will fall in love with.
There is much to celebrate in raising teens. Sure, at times it feels as though you are being pecked to death by eye-rolling, door-slamming chickens, but how else would we find out about the reproductive life of poultry if we didn't have them around?