Over the summer holidays one of the many exciting things which happened was that I now have become the proud owner of one teenager. A turned 13 near the start of the holidays and celebrated by having a paintballing session with some buddies.
So is 13 different to 12? I think so. For a start there has been far more doors slammed this summer than previously, more sighs and hormonal moments. It is both funny and sad at the same time watching him go through this. Funny because although he is not of the generation to have appreciated The Fast Show and Harry Enfield, somehow he IS Kevin the Teenager. Word for word, he shouts the same nonsense about life being so unfair as Kevin says to his parents.
It's sad because on hormonal days where he flies off the handle and then he feels awful for the rest of the day. He had a teen tantrum a few days ago while on a shopping trip to buy him new trainers. The result was that we returned home without the trainers and he felt really bad for being horrible and also trainer-less. I blame this on teenage hormones. Becoming a teenager isn't just a matter of my child getting older. It means that things have changed internally. Chemical changes. Every parent of a teenager will tell you that their child completely changed when they became a teenager.
The teenage years are also a time when children become more socially sensitive. At the age that most teenagers are concerned with spots, fashion, popularity, school marks, and dates, teens on the spectrum become painfully aware that they are different from their peers. They might notice that they lack friends or deep friendships and unlike their schoolmates, they aren't dating or planning for a career. While all neurotypical teenagers are difficult during this turbulent time, I am still wondering how it will manifest in a teenager on the spectrum. Every child is different and so we will have to wait to see how it manifests itself in him.
From what I can remember of my teenage years, my sister's and from the parables of friends, I figure that if I just try to remember this then it will explain a fair amount of his behaviour and attitude over the next few years instead of looking for rational reactions during a irrational period. A sort of parental survival mantra to accompany this period along with purchasing a bulk supply of Febreeze:
- Some teenagers care about smelling good. Or not.
- Some like orderliness. Or not.
- Teenagers do not learn good self-esteem by themselves.
- Teenagers like to make their own choices. They are not usually the same as yours.
- Teenagers do not develop good organizational skills through osmosis.
- Moodiness is a normal teenage state of mind.
- Raging hormones are part and parcel of being a teenager.
- Self regulation is an important life skill but is not practised by teenagers.
- Teenagers are never hungry at the same time as the rest of the family.
- Masturbation is normal teenage activity. (Eurgh!)
- Discussing sex with your parents is not.
- As a parent, you will survive the teen years. Barely.
I will try to remember this over the next few years!