Smell the Coffee: Toddlers and teenagers
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some mornings I'm not sure if I have a normal daughter or one prepping to audition for the role of Regan in an "Exorcist" sequel. To say that Celeste is not a morning person is a ferocious understatement. Vampires greet the dawn with less fuss.
"It's just a phase," said a friend. "They call it 'The Teens.'"
My girl is generally one of the more pleasant and easygoing 15-year-olds you'd ever meet. So long as you don't meet her too early in the day.
A friend of mine, whose children are grown, believes the teen years are God's way of making it easier on parents when their kids leave the nest.
"Instead of being sad for them to go," she said, "all the stresses from the past few years get parents into a mindset of practically celebrating their children's departure. It's hard to be sad about a break from bickering and raging hormones."
"Seems like just yesterday when she was tiny and sweet," I said. "She was so much easier then."
"Truth be told," my friend said, "if you think about it, teenagers really aren't so different from when they were toddlers. It's just that back then, they had that adorable, cuddly thing going on. Now -- pimples and body hair."
My first reaction was to suspect my friend was losing her mind, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized she was right. While I know you can't paint all teens with a single brush, you could probably wear short the bristles with most.
The similarities between the two groups are kind of interesting. I mean, think about how both toddlers and teenagers fight over going to sleep at night. They'll fall asleep everywhere else -- at the dinner table, in the car, when you're talking to them -- but tell them it's time to get in bed, shut off the lights (and the phone), and get some sleep, and it's "Exorcist" audition time once again.
Both groups have repulsive eating habits and often need to be told, "Do NOT put that in your mouth."
My girl -- a maddeningly picky eater who can work a fork like a sieve to filter minuscule onion bits from spaghetti sauce -- will not hesitate to down a Tabasco, mustard, yogurt and pickle juice concoction if offered by friends, so long as it comes with a side of double-dog dare.
Consider how often teenagers, like babies, are responsible for making you late. How they require a bag of gear wherever they go. And how many outfits they can go through in a single day.
Instead of a bathtub littered with a few dozen toys, it's polluted with lady razors and specialty creams, with sugar scrubs and acne soaps, and a half-dozen conditioners. And they generally won't get out of the tub until the water is cold.
Their arrival in a room tends to completely disrupt whatever peace had been previously present, and clouds of mess follow in their wake.
Their dawdling can be maddening.
And then there's the screaming, screeching and squealing. Except thanks to the pack mentality of teens, it often comes as a chorus.
There are tantrums and whining in common, and the throwing of food. They tend to wander off in crowds. Have to be repeatedly warned about not trusting strangers.
Both toddlers and teens seem to have an affinity for one-word answers. ("Do you like school?" "No!" "Where are you going?" "Out.")
Neither toddlers nor teenagers can apparently stand the sight of their mother catching some Z's.
But some can't resist the lure of climbing in with her for the occasional snuggle.
Effectively undoing, in moments, the strategy for easing the coming pain of an empty nest.
Reach Karin Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org.