Wouldn't it be nice if parenthood came with a handbook? Not one of the thousands of books written by people who are, in essence, just telling you what they've found to work best with children just like theirs, but an actual guide book developed just for you on how to raise your specific child? They have manuals for individual makes of vehicles, how-to booklets for every new cell phone to hit the market; there's even directions on the box of dishwasher detergent these days. So, wouldn't it be amazing if, when you were handed your sweet-smelling, all wrapped up and cuddly baby...you were also handed instructions that would take you from birth to adulthood? Maybe even beyond?
Of course, we probably wouldn't read it anyway. What with the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn, the exhaustion that comes with trying to keep up with a toddler, the lack of free time that accompanies the elementary school years, and the knowledge that your teenager already knows everything that there ever was and ever will be to know....who has time for, or even needs, that handbook?
Me. I do. Right here. Please?
My baby is twelve now, and the oldest is seventeen. That means I no longer actually have a baby. And while there is a wealth of advice out there on babies, there ain't a whole heckuva lotta help for teenagers. Or beyond. And what there is, isn't as helpful as you'd think.
Think of it like this: When a recipe calls for adding salt and pepper "to taste", it is taking into account that each person's ability to handle seasoning is different. Well, hormones are a lot like salt and pepper. Without them, life is beyond bland. But each person is different when it comes to how many hormones they can hold at a time. There is absolutely no way to know how testosterone will affect every single boy, or estrogen will affect every single girl. All you know is that it WILL affect them. And while you have control over adjusting your food seasonings as you get older and are better able to tolerate spicier foods, you don't have the luxury of adjusting hormones. Which is where it would ever so helpful to have something handy to tell you how to handle things.
Things like pushing their boundaries of independence by repeatedly missing check-in times; telling you what they're going to be doing rather than asking for permission; looking you right in the eye and telling you No, I won't do that; or going toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose, muscles bunched and fists clenched, that first time they decide that they've finally had enough of the unreasonable rules and can take the old man on.......
Fortunately, things always stop there. My children, while secure enough in the knowledge that they are loved unconditionally and therefore supported through everything, are also bright enough to realize that maybe they still need to be the ones to back down first and go back to playing by the rules of the house. Silly rules, it's true; rules that tell them they have to clean up after themselves and be respectful to their mother; but still the rules they have to follow.
I still really want that handbook. Maybe it could be written like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books were...... because sometimes, I'd really like the chance to change how our adventures play out.