Elizabeth Gomez: Why Teens Rule WAAAAAAAY Harder Than Toddlers

We all have that friend. The woman or man that cannot  stop talking about how awesome their two year old is – “Cody is going to be a drummer. Man, when he hears music, he starts to dance around and hit things. He beats his hands on the table, the chair, and the tupperware. He’s got a natural talent!”

No, he doesn’t, sir.

The fact is that all two year olds love music and beating on things. Your child isn’t going to be the next Rick Allen. Sorry, sir, move on. By the way, most toddlers love to paint, draw, sing, dance, and run, this doesn’t automatically make them a virtuoso by any means.

Other things that you may want to know about toddlers:

  • They are all cute; occasionally, you’ll find an ugly one, but overall, as a group, they all are adorable. Even if yours is one of the not so cute, you’ll be told that he is cute, so don’t feel special.

  • They are blobby little creatures that put lots of things in their mouths for no reason except to make you a criminal –  “I heard Blaze choked on a hot wheels car while his mother was making dinner. If she had only paid attention….”

  • Most of them are losers; they can’t read, they don’t have jobs, they lay around the house shirtless stuffing their faces and drinking.

  • You may love them, but they have no idea about loving you. Consider this: if you left your one year old in any grocery store aisle and another person took that baby, he/she would never notice the difference. Some time in the future, in the back of your child’s mind, he/she may have a vague memory of some dark haired woman, but Blondie is who they call mom now.

  • While you see that glimmer of your child becoming an unbelievable prodigy, he/she will more likely grow up to be “that” guy/gal. Rather than leading the next revolution in social entrepreneurship or discovering the cure for cancer, your kid will be likely working a soul sucking job behind a desk, be the jerkface that talks on his/her cell phone while making a left turn without turning on the signal light, or even worse, a hovering helicopter parent who tries to set up job appointments for his own child because his life was such a disappointment.

You may be surprised to find out that I am a mom. I have new teen daughters, as in they are just entering teendom, not that I picked them up from that same grocery store aisle where toddlers are left. When they were little, I loved them with the same intensity that you love your offspring. However, I never felt like they were extraordinary children.

I listened to so many glowing parents that surrounded me at work, at parties, or playdates. “Isn’t she adorable? She’s really smart. She can already count to 10 and read the first page of Goodnight Moon,” one mom would say as we watched our children in the playground.

Part of me wanted to say, “Your kid is eating the wood chips at the bottom of the slide. She’s clearly a genius,” but I held back. Partly because my daughter was sticking her hands down her diaper and then wiping whatever was in it on the kid next to her.

I was wrought with the idea that I had no business raising children. Frankly, after this rant, I’m sure you believe that, too. However, I kept keeping on. I guessed at everything I did. I tried reading books and they were never helpful because ultimately the message was always the same, “Every child and every family is different, so you have to make the right choices for your family.” Fuck, this was not going to go well.

So, another year would pass by and another. I stared at the little girls by my side and kept thinking, if I can keep them alive until they are 20, then I’m doing ok. I promised myself, no matter how much they drove me crazy by putting gum in their hair and chewing on electrical cords, I would NOT leave them at a bus stop. Instead, I committed to being honest with them, making the best decisions I could, and answering their never-ending ridiculous questions. Which, by the way, became more and more difficult:

Girls: Mom, why do we have two eyes?

Me: Because we were made that way.

Girls: Mom, why is Sissy older than me?

Me: Because she was born first.

Girls: Mommy, is the Easter Bunny real?

Me: No.

Girls: Mom, why is there war?

Me: Because people suck.

Girls: Mom, what’s a condom?

Me: WHY ARE YOU ASKING?!

The miraculous thing that is happening as they get older is that they are becoming people. I mean at this point, if I left them in a grocery aisle today, it not only would hurt their feelings, but they probably could figure out how to get back home to tell me so. Then promptly call the police to have me arrested. What a beautiful thing!

Teens don’t get enough credit. When people ask me about how old my girls are and I tell them, I’m met with sarcasm and pity, “OH! Teenagers, eh? Well, good luck!” And with that the teens are dismissed. There’s no commiserating over how fantastic our teens are and what great leaders they will be. But, why not? This is the age where you can truly see what they are capable of doing beyond eating wood chips in a playground and smearing feces from their pants.

They can get dressed on their own. They can make meals that are delicious! They have taken actual music lessons and can write their own songs, for real. They have been in plays and dance recitals and now you know they suck at that, so you can move on. Best of all, they can formulate whole thoughts injected with their own perceptions about humanity and the world around them. Side note: One of my favorite memories of my daughters is when they woke me up singing MacArthur Park by Donna Summer while serving me breakfast in bed for my birthday. AMAZING!

When I spend a little time each day listening to them, I am riveted by the challenges they are facing about their bodies, their friends, and their future. I feel so connected because while they are suffering through these issues, so am I. They laugh at their boobs getting larger and I laugh at mine getting lower. They lament over their hair being uncontrollable and I lament about mine falling out. They fear what it’s like to grow old and so do I.

I’m impressed by the fact that these two lovely young ladies have somehow dealt with a bipolar father, a neurotic stepfather, and an anxiety filled, controlling and demanding mother and still have come out a-ok for now. I imagine that we have a bunch of years ahead of us that will be challenging and filled with therapy. But, for now, we’re good.

People ask me if I’ll ever have any more children, especially since I’ve remarried. My first reaction is always, “DEAR GOD NO!” Yuck! Babies and toddlers, gross. Then, I take a moment and wonder what would happen if I had a child with my significant other. What would it be like to raise a child armed with the knowledge and experience that I have now?  Would I be a stronger, better parent? And then I think, “WHO CARES? Babies are stupid.”

–Elizabeth Gomez

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