The thing about parenting is that from the instant you announce your impending arrival to the world everyone has an opinion for you. Breastfeeding, toilet training, two year olds, siblings - the list is as long as the many phases in a child's life. Coming from other parents I can understand it, and I've even been guilty of it myself - the thing is when you've survived a childhood phase and you and your child come out the other side of it (more or less) intact you're pretty damn proud of yourself and eager to share your new-found wisdom with others in the most well meaning way. So when other parents feel inclined to give me unsolicited advice I nod, smile, and sometimes follow it if I think it's worthwhile. When the advice comes from non-parents I nod, smile and generally ignore it (whilst quietly smirking over the shock they're going to get when they actually have children of their own!).
I've noticed this happening again recently because my gorgeous daughter has just turned thirteen. Yep, that's right folks, I have a teenager in the house, and if I'm to believe the comments I've had from some, it's all downhill from here - a hellish dive into sex, drugs and rock and roll which I'm led to believe I'm completely unprepared for. What really gets my hackles up is when people make these comments in front of my daughter. I've always believed that if a person hears negative comments about themselves often enough they're likely to start believing, and embodying, those comments.
Why is it that teenagers are consistently viewed so negatively? I remember seeing a documentary many years about about a famous anthropologist whose area of speciality was teenagers, specifically the differences between teenagers in different cultures. Some of the cultures she studied had no concept of 'teenagers', no word for it in their vocabulary - children essentially went straight from childhood to adulthood, often with an accompanying ceremony to celebrate the event, and she observed in these cultures a lack of what we would think of as 'typical' troublesome teenage behaviour. I don't want to make broad brush stroke generalisations out of this, but it is food for thought isn't it?
The years ahead may be difficult, there may be times when I search frantically for the instruction manual that was through some oversight left out of my daughter's packaging, but in the end she knows I love her and I know she loves me (even on those days when I'm 'The Worst Mum In The World'). We'll come out the other side of The Teens, and I'm going to treasure every damn moment of it along the way.