There’s something about teenagers that is both awesome and terrifying to any intelligent person. They have special powers of which I am envious as an adult.
Special Power One: Hearing That Turns On & Off With Lightening Swiftness
I can stand right in front of my 17-year old son and tell him about a chore in a normal speaking voice (or rather louder if I have competition from the TV or DVD player). Often however, I get no response. Repetition may increase parental blood pressure but doesn’t seem to increase the potential for getting through. However, the following things can be heard right off the bat by any self-respecting teen: a phone on vibrate even if three rooms away, the sound of the refrigerator door being quietly opened, annoying side-comments made by sibling under their breath, and any use of “bad language” by parent in fit of anger. What good is hearing if you can't use some of what you heard to your own advantage at some point?
Special Power Two: Re-Interpretation of Parental Messages
Evidently, interpretation IS everything. Say something simple like – be in no later than midnight. I have had many a long discussion with my son about what that means. To me it means – be in by midnight. For him it means many things. Be in by midnight but only if you are driving and not one of your friends. If one of your friends is driving then somehow this rule doesn’t count anymore. The new 12 is 2. Be in by midnight also yields itself to re-negotiation. If he comes in by midnight then he can ask to go back out because he met the midnight deadline for the night. That makes sense - doesn't it? It does if your a teenager with a midnight deadline. After all, it must be midnight somewhere – just not here. What’s an extra hour and a half when mommy has to go to work the next day and can’t sleep until you arrive home? You know it's okay though - she's getting a lot of reading done. She loves to read.
Special Power Three: Deep Sleep
It may take them some time to decide to go to sleep but when their heads finally hit the pillow, a teen is really asleep. And they will sleep, and sleep, and sleep. Sleep is nice. Sleep in good. And if they are up until 3 AM then they may be able to sleep until 2 PM – Easy. And why not? I’d do it if I could. If they need to get up early then it is likely that others in the household may be awakening along with them just for the moral support or even worse, other may be forced to do the actual awakening. My son can sleep through alarms, ringing phones, and many other big noises. It’s really very impressive even if a little bit exhausting for the rest of the household.
Special Power Four: A Flair for the Dramatic
Did something go awry in the home? Did something get scratched, bumped, or misplaced. Do you think your sibling did it? Are you willing to point the finger? So the drama begins. Somehow, I, the parent, have suddenly become incapable of observing such errors on my own. At least that's what my kids seem to think because now they are always pointing out how I am being too lenient with the other kid or have missed spotting some terrible wrongdoing like fingerprints on a DVD or dishes left on a table. Consequently, just to make sure I get it right, I must have these things pointed out to me by others, i.e. each of them about each other. Evidently, I am always letting one kid get away with more than the other. Although who that kid is seems to change with the finger-pointer.
Special Power Five: Ability to Focus
Do you want carryout? - I ask my son. What color drink would you want if you could pick? - my son says to me as he shows me the little shot glasses my daughter thought would be amusing to purchase for her someday apartment. He has one on each finger. His sister would not be amused. But whose telling? So anyway – I say, blue. I like a nice blue drink. Do you want carryout? - I'm not one to give up. Oh, there’s a purple one too - he fishes another one out of the box. No, I like the blue. Do you want carryout? And so it goes.
Special Power Six: The Power of Persistence
My youngest live by the motto that one can never ask the same question too many times. Especially if you keep getting the wrong answer. Can I stay out until 1 PM ? may get a no the first time but after asking it at staged intervals while mom is watching TV or while dad is upstairs trying to fall asleep, or by pointing out all the stuff your sibling got/gets to do, you create a sort of Chinese water torture effect that is sure to work. Eventually, 1 PM just doesn’t sound too bad in exchange for a little peace and quiet.
Special Power Seven: Heightened Awareness of All Irritants
Forget about the Princess and the Pea. She was an amateur. My kids are irritated by the smallest misstep of their sibling. Did your brother ask you a stupid question like – can I see the new picture you put up on My Space? Or, did you see my Season 4 Monk DVD that was in the DVD player? Or, hi, how are you? when you are watching a TV show on DVD. How dare he. You can’t just let him get away with that. Big sister protocol means that you must take a tone with your sibling to make sure they understand their place. When your sibling expresses outrage or passive aggressive behavior in response to such treatment, such as jingling car keys, making popping noises with a soda can, or a hundred other brilliantly annoying tricks, you can ratchet up the battle back with impunity. Let the sibling wars begin. Mom, can only take so much of this. Eventually, she decides she is going to bed. Of course, first she is going to be reminding all the combatants about the value of one's siblings and other maternal mutterings that don't make sense when you are a teenager but will eventually come to be found true. Mom is so wise.
And worn to a frazzle by all the teen special powers.
You see, there is a big bonus to all the teen super powers. It is bound to drive your parents just a little bit crazy.
That’s part of the beauty of youth and the part of the pain of parenting.