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Parents do certain things when their kids are small; we know it just comes with the territory. Where we go wrong (or, where I went wrong?), is thinking these stages are going to come to an end and we won't have to endure things like cleaning up bodily fluids and remind them to use their manners.
I've learned as a mom to teens that just because they know how to do something, it doesn't mean they will automatically do it. They need constant reminders to do things, like put their shirts in the laundry (instead of on their bedroom floor) so they have actual clothes to wear. To them, it seems to make more sense to complain they don't have enough clothes and can never find anything because looking through mountains of clothing is exhausting.
And that’s just the beginning—the types of things parents do when their kids were babies and toddlers doesn’t change much as they morph into teens. Things like:
1. Wiping pee off the toilet seat.
Yes, my kids clean their own bathroom, but our home is like most; we have a common bathroom everyone uses. I always find dribbles of urine on the floor and toilet seat that my teens "didn't see," or claim the mess isn't theirs and they blame me. Now, I've tried calling them in there to wipe up their own mess. But moms know after you've had kids the ol’ bladder doesn't work like she used to. Sometimes there's no time for arguing—you just want to sit on a clean toilet seat and relieve yourself.
2. Tell them 10 times it's time to go.
You can tell them what time you are leaving 80 times, set a timer, bribe them, text them, whatever it takes. I've come to realize teens are actually slower to get ready now, because they can see in the mirror, and they need to see what their friends are wearing, and they really do move a lot slower than they did as toddlers.
3. Tell them "no" 23 times in the grocery store.
This is a battle every time my kiddos come to the grocery store with me. I'm constantly saying "no" to things like boxes of powdered donuts, gourmet chips, and overpriced energy drinks. The only difference now they are older is they try and tell me they are the only ones whose parents don't buy these things, and when they go to a friend’s house, they have all the good snacks and they are deprived.
4. Buy socks once a month.
Remember those sweet little baby socks that would never stay on, and you'd find them in the car, the driveway, or under the bed? And when they are toddlers and enter school, they grow so fast you can't keep up and are constantly buying socks? Well, it never ends; it never stops; you will be buying socks once a month until they move out and can buy their own. Get used to it.
5. Monitor screen time.
Young kids are obsessed with the television, iPads, iPhones, and all other devices. So are teens. This is a constant fight and bargaining chip. On one hand, it good to always have it in your back pocket to threaten them with when they act up (see #6), but it's also exhausting to monitor it. Teens are very good at sneaking devices and learning all your hiding spots.
6. Explain their behavior.
Teenagers are moody, need lots of sleep, and eat at an alarming rate. I used to apologize if one of my kids was crabby from skipping their nap, or they were fussy because they were teething. Now I apologize because hormones and going through puberty makes them not want to talk to anyone, and they fall asleep at family gatherings after they've eaten all the food. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry—they really can be very sweet.
7. Scrub sticky countertops.
My teenage son spilled orange juice the other day and "kind of wiped it up with his t-shirt," according to his younger brother. I could see an orange-tinted stain on the countertop underneath all the ants that found it the next day and am still confused how anyone can feel good about wiping sticky liquid up with their t-shirt, then wearing it all day.
8. Remember things for them.
My memory has definitely faded a bit as I've reached my mid-forties, but I'm still able to remind my kids to bring their sports equipment and homework to school. I'm constantly having to remind them to hand in their permission slips that hibernate in their backpack, and for some reason when they are spending the night at a friend’s house, they don't think it's important to bring a change of clothes for the next day. I call it “reminding” they call it “nagging.” You’d think they get tired enough of said “nagging” to make it stop but, no.
So, until my kids are old enough to fly the coop and buy their own food, socks, and soil their own countertops, and toilet seats, I'll be over here shaking my head wondering why these things are still happening.
But the good news is they are now old enough to be left alone while you sneak up to your room and devour all the snacks you bought for yourself when you went to the grocery store without them.
Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine and is a full-time freelance writer. She's writes about all things parenting, food, and fashion.