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Today I’m giving myself a little pat on the back and a “good job, you made it.” This self-congratulating is because today is my daughter’s birthday.  Good bye teenager.  Hello 20s.  She’s alive and thriving.  I still have most of my hair left and pieces of my sanity remain intact as well despite the last seven years that were her teenage years.

Allow me to clarify.  I loved her at 13.  I loved her at 14.  I loved her but didn’t like her much at 15.  I loved her at 16 and 17.  I loved her at 18 but she was a little shady.  I liked her on most days when she was 19 too.  But I can’t get enough of her at 20.

Today, she is sitting in a sorority house at her university campus, about a 3-hour drive from me, killin’ it.  I never would have believed it had you told me on one of those nights that we both stormed out of the room crying with frustration hurt feelings blinding rage over a disagreement miscommunication full-out brawl about her attitude.

We celebrated her birthday 3 days ago when we drove there to take our family to dinner.  The next morning, during breakfast at our favorite diner just a couple blocks off campus she said, and I quote “mom is my best friend.” It was a quick phrase in a long story she was telling us about her friends.  I sat across from her trying not to react.  Trying not to choke on my granola yogurt parfait. Cool as a cucumber as my heart filled up with her.  How far we have come since her 13th birthday when we drove her and a carload of friends to Nashville to shop.  I contemplated giving her away to anyone who would take her that day.  But now?  Now only a short few years later she was sitting there all adult-like having a conversation with her parents; casually saying out loud that I’m her best friend.

I write this as a form of encouragement to so many of my dear friends who are smack dab in the middle of the teenager, smart-assy, unpredictable, sanity-challenging days that you worry will never end.  They end.

If you can, keep them alive while still reminding them that even being a grade A jerk doesn’t diminish your love for them.  The rest will hopefully fall into place.  Staying alive and knowing they are loved are the primary goals.  It’s rewardingly refreshing to hear her reflect back on those grade A jerk moments with regret.  She sees things with more mature eyes now and I don’t seem so dumb to her now.

20 is still a fresh adult with so many faceplants and heartbreak ahead; much yet to learn.  However, I look forward to hearing my phone ring with her voice wanting to talk about it rather than a slammed door.

Teenagers.  They don’t keep.  Suck them up and love them while you can.  Because thank you Jesus, one day it ends.

Teenagers get a bad rap. It’s for good reason. I know, I have two of them.

They live in a world of polar extremes. Their ever evolving brains make them predictably unpredictable. I’ll watch my teenage son and daughter, sitting shoulder to shoulder on the couch laughing together and this mama’s heart beams with joy. Then I’ll walk over and discover they are bonding over an inappropriate video they found on YouTube.
Raising teenagers means being amazed at their wit and charm, but also means I have to say things like “why would you put me on speaker phone if people were all around?” One minute, I pat myself on the back for raising responsible, honest kids then the next minute I’m exhibiting a prowess normally reserved for the FBI as I investigate and gather information by any means necessary to find out if one of them has lied to me.

Raising teenagers is a roller coaster ride all the time. It’s a ride full of excitement, wonderful highs, scary lows, lots of loopy loops and vomit.

It’s not all bad. Actually, being the mom of teenagers is pretty awesome and here are 6 reasons why:

1. Teens are fun on vacation.

They are finally old enough to do the fun stuff. They enjoy eating at places other than McDonalds. They are tall enough to ride everything. They can go to the public restrooms without holding an adult’s hand. I don’t have to keep my eye on them every second at the pool. They can take a walk along the beach while I stay back reading a magazine on my chair. The nights don’t end early because they don’t have to go to bed early, in fact, they prefer not to. The mornings are peaceful because they don’t wake up until 11am. It’s great.

2. We enjoy the same movies.

Finally, my movie choices at the theater aren’t limited to Disney and animated flicks. They understand and laugh at the humor in comedies. They get on the edge of their seats during suspense films. I don’t have to explain what’s going on to them. Actually, if anyone is explaining a movie plot to anyone it’s more likely that my son is explaining it to me, not the other way around. They understand that mommy’s purse full of candy and snacks purchased at the gas station on the way there is not something that needs to be announced to the girl at the ticket booth.

3. My teenagers gave me back my sex life.

I’m not sure of a more delicate way of saying this, but when my precious angels were born my sex life went to crap. We had to take what we could get during their nap times. Being spontaneous was something of the past. Then they became little kids. We had to lock doors because those suckers could get out of bed on their own and would try to make surprise visits. Then they became teenagers and it only takes a comment from their father about how good I look in a dress to make them cringe. The sight of a closed bedroom door sends them running for the hills. Oh, and they are gone from the house frequently. Score.

4. Teenagers are passionate.

Emotions run very high for teens. Once they get sold on an idea though, whether it be something as meaningful as serving a meal at the Salvation Army or something less big-ish like what theme the students have for how to dress for the home football game on Friday night, the passion is felt. Get them on board with a big idea and they will run with it. Encourage what interests them and they will make an impact on people around them. Their passion is contagious and will either excite you or drive you to drinking, but either way being around a teenager who is passionate about something will make you feel awake to the world around us.

5. Teenagers keep me young.

I’m living in the phase of life where I know current rap lyrics. I get a live-in fashion consultant via my daughter, who is now very invested in making sure I look presentable in public. I hear stories of what’s going on in high school and all the drama around it. I’ve picked up some of their lingo. My son teaches me all the short cuts and special features on my iPhone. They are nuts and hilarious. They keep me on my toes. I feel young (and tired) when I’m with them.

6. Teenagers have strong opinions and can have intelligent conversation.

They haven’t yet been on the earth long enough to have a bunch of life baggage that jades them into cynics. This generation is more open minded to the diversity all around them. They have valid opinions on important subjects. They bring fresh, new perspectives that can both surprise and impress. They are able to present new ideas and opinions that we haven’t yet considered. They are smart to the ways of this world and totally naïve all in one day. They are a bright bunch.

There are so often times when being a mom is not fun. Times when I feel like a huge failure and wonder if I got it all wrong. Chances are that I likely did do something to mess them up. I mean, on the scale of perfection I rank pretty low and I’m the one, along with their dad, with the most influence over them. God help ‘em. There will be things to blame me for I’m certain, but as long as they grow up to be kind, not incarcerated and gainfully employed then I’ll mark it a success.

Raising teenagers, just like with the roller coaster, includes times of nervous anxiety, times of unimaginable exhilaration, times were everything seems all downhill and times we vomit. Once you’re on there’s no getting off.

May as well hold up your hands, scream and enjoy it while it lasts.