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Envying Our Teens

It's natural to be a little envious of your teen. Read advice for parents who are experiencing it.
By: Carleton Kendrick Ed.M., LCSW

Envying Our Teens

We envy our teens. It's one of those realities we work hard at keeping buried deep in our unconscious minds. If we allowed ourselves to become fully aware of that envy, we might realize that some of our anger, frustration, disapproval, and disappointment directed toward our teens often has more to do with our jealous, unfulfilled, worried state of mind than it does with their adolescent behavior.

I'm not suggesting that we want to be living every single moment of their confusing, anxiety-ridden, and often emotionally overwhelmed lives. That's why most of us say things like, "You couldn't give me enough money to live through being a teenager again." Too much hurt. Too much heartache. Just plain too much...allthe time.

But, we do secretly covet their vitality and enthusiasm, their energy and sense of adventure. And we also wouldn't mind trading bodies with them. For the most part, our teens are fully engaged in exhibiting all the characteristics of being fully alive, when we are on the cusp of being rudely introduced to -- or in the throes of -- female and male menopause. They look and feel like everything we do not. Their bodies defy the laws of physics (especially gravity) while ours feel unattractive, under siege, and moving south at analarming pace

Bad Timing

Bad timing. That's what's at the heart of our envy. Really bad timing.

Just when we are being dramatically told and shown that we are not forever young, vital, in control,and "hot" -- unless you count hot flashes -- we are sentenced to live with these glowing models of passionate, boundless energy and possibility.

So what are we going to do? Resent them for having so much more fun than we are? Get angry with them for being carefree and adventurous when the last big risk we took was drinking 2 percent milk? Forbid them from wearing bathing suits because we don't want to be reminded how glorious it once was to feel sexually attractive?

Teenagers are not a disease. And neither is menopause. Truth be told, I think the timing of all this is good: Parents and their teens being at these divergent life stages at the same time. Seeing our teens so fully immersed in life at all levels should make us reflect upon our need to celebrate life. Not by emulating them, dressing like them, talking like them, or trying to be their best friend instead of their parent.But by confronting our own complacency, boredom, and indifference and challenging ourselves to become interested and interesting. If our lives have become all work and no play, we must find a playground.If our bodies have become fast-food storage facilities, maybe it's time that we started walking in the spring air with our mates, our friends, or our dogs.

Do you think there might be a reason why most of us are where we are -- mentally, physically, and spiritually -- when our children are teens? Maybe that's the cosmic plan. Maybe we all get a chance to turn some teen envy and parental self-pity into becoming who we really need to be and what we reallyneed to do in the next chapter of our lives.

Read Carleton Kendrick's bio.

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