Life with Teenagers: 20 Things I Really Wasn’t Prepared For

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: Life with Teenagers: 20 Things I Really Wasn’t Fully Prepared For

 Written by: Morgan Hill

Just like when I brought my babies home from the hospital and I felt totally ill-prepared and clueless, here we are more than a decade later and I’m still clueless. 

The truth is, no one can really prepare you for the teen years. 

Sure, you can read parenting books, listen to podcasts and talk to other parents who have traveled the same path before you, but no two teenagers are alike and every parent and teen relationship is different. In other words, this is one path you can’t fully “map out.” You just have to navigate the twists and turns as you go… something I learned the hard way. 

Here are a few things I’ve learned about life with teenagers, including 20 things I wasn’t fully prepared for. 

 Life with Teenagers: 20 Things I Really Wasn’t Prepared For



#1 So. Much. Eating.

Who knew one person could consume so much food? How is it possible for a teen to eat 18 chicken nuggets, a bowl of mac n’ cheese, two apples and half a rotisserie chicken and still be hungry?  When making your grocery list, double it and you might have enough food to last four days

#2 Curfew Battles

You’re convinced that 11p.m. is a reasonable curfew, but your teen claims all their friends get to stay out until midnight. Be ready to compromise or stand your ground and battle it out. Either way, brace yourself… this conversation is coming. 

#3 Mean Boys

We all know our girls are likely to come face to face with a mean girl here and there, but no one tells you that mean boys exist, too. You think boys are easy-going, relaxed and inclusive, but any mom of teen boys knows, that’s not always the case. Just like we do with our girls, look for any changes in behavior, friendships, health, or a lack of desire to go to school and keep the lines of communication open. 

#4 Shopping

Get ready to make a zillion trips to the mall (or their favorite stores) and trail 20 yards behind your teen so (God forbid) you embarrass them by being seen with them, (until they need your credit card, of course).

#5 Mood Swings… No, Really

Everyone warns you, but no one really prepares you. One minute they love you, the next minute they hate you. It’s all really very exhausting. Try not to take it personally and love them through it all. It won’t be this hard forever.

#6 Grooming

Cologne, perfume, gels, deodorants, hairspray, mouthwash, nail polish, acne cream, body wash…these are just a few of the many things your teen will want and say they need. Get ready to spend a ton of time AND money at the local drug store.

#7 Holidays

Who knew that even though they’re sporting a newfound “I’m so cool” independence, they’d still love holidays and all your holiday traditions – yep, even the tacky traditions they roll their eyes at. I think it grounds them to bring back those comforting childhood memories. 

#8 Forgetfulness 

No kidding, my 15-year-old son forgot a shoe once when he was going out with his grandparents. Another time, he forgot his backpack when he was going to school. WTH??? Anyway, these are the moments you’ll begin to wonder if your teen is really your child. (The good news is, they’re not that flaky forever.) 

#9 Dating

I don’t think anything really prepares you for when your teen starts dating. So many conversations you need to have with them! How to be a girlfriend/boyfriend, your expectations and ground rules, what to look for in a healthy versus an abusive relationship and the rules of sexual consent. (Not to say they’re going to become sexually active – not all teenagers are having sex – but you have to start the conversation early.)

#10 Parties

Remember the days when your kid attended wholesome birthday parties where the rowdiest thing they did was jump in a bouncy house? Well… those days are over. Now your teen is being invited to parties where there will likely be drinking and possibly drugs. This is where open communication is key. Talk to your teen about choosing the right friends, making responsible decisions and not caving into peer pressure. 

Need a few tips to help your teen avoid caving in to peer pressure? Read this post! How to Handle Peer Pressure: 13 Genius Ways to Get Your Teen Out of a Tight Spot.

#11 Late-Night Driving

Until your teen can drive themselves, you’re basically their on-call chauffeur. Be prepared to stay up WAY past your bedtime sitting in a darkened car texting your teen to come out. “Hello? Let’s go! I’m here…are coming out?

#12 Cuddles

They may duck or literally run away when you move in for a hug, but don’t let ’em fool you. They still want to cuddle (or, at the very least, settle in for a back rub). With teenagers, it’s all about timing. (Hint: Teenagers are notorious for softening up a bit late at night… be ready.)

#13 Social Media & Video Games

Ahhh… social media and video games… it’s the reason they’re glued to their phones and computer, the reason they’re constantly so distracted and the reason we worry so blasted much. How much is too much? How do I get them to find more balance? How is this impacting them long-term? AND, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube influencers may be more influential than you are. It’s a constant battle. 

#14 Really Messy Rooms

 Maybe not all teenagers, but for some their bedroom is on the verge of becoming a verifiable biohazard and they’re totally fine with it. Honestly, they couldn’t hang up a shirt if their life depended on it and their idea of cleaning is just throwing their stuff in less conspicuous places like under their bed or in the closet. Just close their bedroom door. It makes the house feel cleaner.

#15 Resistance

What is it with teenagers? They’ll fight you because it’s Monday. They’ll fight you because it’s raining. They’ll fight you even when they agree with you. Just go with the flow and don’t let it get to you. Trust me, they outgrow the “I’ll argue with you about anything,” stage eventually. Just hang on.

#16 Staying Up Late

There was a time you used to read your child a book, kiss them on the forehead and tuck them in at night. Now they’re tucking you in at night. Because their circadian rhythm shifts, they’re not tired until 10p.m, 11p.m. or later. (Don’t freak out if you hear strange noises in the wee hours of the morning… it’s just your teen raiding the fridge for a snack.)

#17 Waking Up Late

Get the air horn ready. Late nights + early school mornings = a.m. battles!

#18 Bending the Truth (or, Flat Out Lying)

The days of telling the truth about how much homework they actually have or what they were really doing after school may be gone. Try to keep the dialogue open and keep tabs on them, if necessary.

#19 The Worry

When my son was little, I worried that he’d skin his knee or break his arm falling off the monkey bars. Now I worry that he’ll take his attention off the road when he’s driving, that he’ll cave into peer pressure and adopt the notion that “It’s okay if I do it just this one time,” or have unprotected sex in the heat of the moment. The W.O.R.R.Y. is so intense and unrelenting.

#20 Family

Even though they don’t talk much, say “no” every time you ask them to hang out, and even act like they hate you from time to time, don’t buy into it. They love you and they really love family time. You just have to ride this one out, avoid taking the eye rolls and slamming doors personally and hang on for dear life. (Don’t worry… with a ton of love, they come back around eventually.) 

Ahhh, life with teenagers… although you can’t be totally prepared – every teen is different. But what you can do is try to take every day in stride, take the hits as they come, remind yourself (over and over again) that so much of what they’re going through is normal and will eventually pass, and love them no matter what.

Sure, life with teenagers is hard and challenging and exhausting, but it’s also rewarding and amazing and fun. 

About Morgan Hill:

Morgan Hill is an essayist and humorist. She has written for many online and print publications including Insider, Your Teen Magazine, Revel and MASK Magazine. She is the mother of freshman and senior sons in high school. When not writing, she can be found at flea markets, in her garden, photographing architecture, taking cooking classes or eating the stinkiest cheese she can find. You can also find her on Twitter @MorganHWrites or Instagram @MorganHillWriter

 If you enjoyed reading, “Life with Teenagers: 20 Things I Really Wasn’t Prepared For,” check out these other posts!

21 Cheat Codes for Parenting Teenagers – Because This Level is Really Hard

21 Things Only Parents of Teenagers Would Truly Understand

10 Myths About Teenagers Every Parent Should Stop Believing

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