i have been so super lax about posting that i felt like i owed all my readers (all 5 of you) a really GREAT post...
and i just didn't have it in me.
so i went to an expert...
my college roommate dina. mother of two amazing teenagers. leader of her church's youth group. putter upper with me for over 20 years. need i add more credentials?
so this week she has been hanging out at md anderson with another friend who is there for 6 weeks of treatment. and dina has been bragging about the yummy food. the lack of carpools to run. the absence of dr.'s appointments to get to. nary a bathroom to clean...
so i gave her an assignment... to write a guest post for me.
and for the FIRST TIME IN HER ENTIRE LIFE she did exactly what i asked her to do. so here is my first guest post...
what to expect when you are expecting a teenager... by dina clarke
Expect Cat-like Behavior
I read a blog a couple years ago that explained the progression of our offspring’s behavior like this: First your children are like dogs. As teen they become cats. But don’t panic, they will be dogs again.
As a mother in the midst of parenting two teens, this made complete sense to me. I have a dog. I can leave my house for a week or go to the end of the driveway to get the mail, and my dog is so happy when I walk back in the front door. She barks and celebrates and can’t stop jumping up on me. She is grateful for being fed. If I am upset with her, she grovels for forgiveness and hangs her head low in submission and regret. She sits in my lap whenever I sit down. When I leave the house she wants to go with me. She just loves to be near me.
Pre-teen children are like that.
Then they become cats.
Cats like to call the relationship shots. They sit with you when they want to. They ignore you… a lot. They usually show up when they are hungry and then they seem to accept the food you feed them with an attitude of, “Of course you feed me. You have to. Don’t expect me to thank you.” They are skittish and unpredictable and they change course on a dime. You go away for the day or a week and you are greeted with a bored yawn. The best way to deal with a cat is to not overly celebrate any attention, because they tend to run away when you seem to be enjoying their company. You have to be affectionate on their terms. Be still and they seem to be drawn to you and the attention they apparently still crave (but act like they don’t). And if you discipline your cat, expect them to pee on something or scratch the furniture in revenge.
And teenagers are like that. Even the sweet ones. I remember when my daughter was about to graduate from high school and she was excited and anxious and nervous and ready and not ready. She came in one evening in tears. I jumped up from the couch, she jumped into my arms and said, “I love you so much. I am going to miss you next year. And I am a little scared about leaving home. But excited too. And I don’t know why I am crying.” We hugged. I held on and encouraged. Sweet moment. No lie, thirty minutes later I walked in her room to ask her something and she bristled and snapped at me. I walked away and thought to myself, “Meow.”
Doesn’t mean we let the cats call all the shots. It means that we still love hard and discipline hard. It means we still put out the food and keep still and let them come to us. It means we still lavish attention when accepted and praise even when it is not. And we remember what it was like to be in between childhood and adulthood and wanting so badly to feel confident and capable. And at the same time to just crawl in Daddy’s lap and be told everything will be okay.
It means our worth must come from our being a child of the King and not from our teens’ attention or kindness or behavior or thankfulness. It means we celebrate when we see a little dogness in the midst of a lot of catness.
And it means we pray. A lot. And trust the One who created the whole teenage process and loves us when we are inattentive and distant and forgetful.
I googled “How to train your cat” and it yielded some surprisingly good advice for teens for deterring unwanted behavior:
1) Find the root of the problem: Many times, your cat isn't acting out just for the sake of it, but has a reason for his unbearable behavior. Your cat could just be having trouble adjusting to a new environment or may need more love and attention. If your kitty has previously had no trouble and is suddenly acting out, try thinking of some reasons that could be causing him to act badly.
2) Change its environment: Your cat may be exhibiting frustrated or upset behavior because of a bad past experience.
3) Reinforce good behavior with rewards: This will teach your cat that good behavior has positive repercussions, and make it more likely to continue doing it on its own even when it is not rewarded every time.
But my favorite is this:
4) Deter bad behavior. Cats dislike water and high-pitched noises. Next time you catch your cat committing the offense, squirt it with water and make a sharp "psssst" sound or shake a can of pennies at the same time. Try to position yourself so that the cat doesn't see you squirting it - you want it to associate the water with the bad behavior, not with your presence. Just remember that you should spend more time rewarding your kitty for good behavior than punishing it for bad behavior.
And one day, so they tell me, the cat is going to disappear. And become a lovable, appreciative, attentive dog again.
Until then I may invest in a water bottle and a can of pennies. I’m kidding. Sort of.