Illusions of Control When Parenting Teens

Dawn Davenport


parenting teens in not for the feint of heart

A donkey carrying cilantro (a.k.a. a cilantro ass)

I know most of you are still at the cute footy-pajama stage of parenting or dreaming of getting to that stage. Cherish this time! Not only are your kids adorable, but you still have some semblance of control. Trust me as the mother of four teens and beyond, you won’t have control for long. I know you think you will, but you won’t.

I truly tried to fight the good fight when it came to foul language. When the kids were little, we enforced a no “S” word policy: stupid and shut-up were strictly banned. When our eldest son came home from second grade saying “I hate to tell you Mom, but there`s another S word”, we added that one to the list. By mid-elementary school, I had added another S word (suck) to the forbidden list and included all the more traditional curse words.

I’m not perfect, but at least in front of my kids I try to make my strongest curse “Rats” or an occasional “Rat Pooh”, with a very occasional “damn” thrown in for emphasis.  You’d think all this effort would pay off, wouldn’t you???

My husband and I are empty nesters for the first time this year. We have three in three different colleges (heaven help us) and our eldest is in the Peace Corps in Morocco. We are living in Mexico for six weeks where I’m continuing my work at Creating a Family and volunteering at an orphanage. (See our blog on this adventure at On a Mission to Colima: A Spiritual, Linguistic, and Cultural Journey). Since the family is separated in three different countries, I thought it would be a good idea to have a weekly Family Skype Chat. After our first one last week, I’m not so sure. It was painfully clear how little control I actually have.

I started off the chat going around asking everyone to share what they were up to. That lasted all of about 30 seconds. Then the ribbing started about everyone’s Skype pictures, with one son continuing to take weird pictures of himself and uploading them as his Skype photo throughout the chat. And then the following:

Daughter #2 (DD #2): I’m working on a one-page paper that I forgot was due.

Son #1 (DS #1): One page!?! I knew your school was a candy-ass when it came to sports, but didn’t know it was such a candy-ass when it came to academics!

DD #2: Well too bad your school is a candy-ass at everything.

Me: Hey, since when did it become OK to say candy-ass???

DS #2: Since like forever.

DD #1: I saw a cilantro ass the other day.

Me: Keep it clean you guys.

Hubby : I saw an ass in the street here yesterday.

Me: (glaring at Hubby and sending him the following message with my eyes: REALLY?!? You had to go there?)

DS #1: Mom, I guess the only way you’d think it was OK to say candy-ass is if there was a real ass dipped in sugar.

DS #2: I assume only the ass of the ass would have to be dipped. Hey, you know what they say about “assume”–it makes an ass out of…

Me: Guys… let’s go back to what each of you are doing this week. (At this point no one was listening to me)

DD #1: That’s what I’m saying. I saw an ass (I mean donkey, mom) carrying a huge bunch of cilantro on his ass (I mean butt).

DD #2: Cool. And mom since it’s a real thing it can’t be on “the list”.  Hey bro, it sucks that you attend such a cilantro-ass school.

All I’m saying is enjoy them when they are cute and still under your thumb! It won’t last long. Parenting grown kids is not for the feint of heart.


Image credit: DD #1 in Morocco

25/02/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 24 Comments

24 Responses to Illusions of Control When Parenting Teens

  1. Avatar Susan says:

    It may be my state of mind at the moment, but Dawn I’d be rejoicing from the roof-top if I were you. Your children are in good shape and on track. No one is dead, dying on the streets or in jail! I work with many adoptive families, and the teen years are the toughest by far – many do ok, but for others, the teen years and the identity and individuation that comes with it are complicated by underlying birth related issues such as prenatal exposure, attachment, trauma and loss. You are right that parental control slips away by this point, but parental love, influence and unconditional acceptance can remain. With any luck, that will be enough to help everyone survive!

    • Susan, I so agree. Parenting is all about losing control, or perhaps the better way to say it is “turning over control”. That’s the nature of the job if we do it well.

  2. Avatar anon says:

    I think that if this is “out of control” as it gets, you are in good shape! Sounds like affectionate banter between siblings to me, not spiraling out of control… And “cilantro ass?” Am I missing a real joke or did your family just make up an inside joke? Love it!

  3. Sandy, clearly my kids don’t have a problem!

  4. Avatar Michelle K. says:

    The ongoing banter about donkeys in your Skype conversation was hilarious! (y)

  5. Avatar Michelle K. says:

    Experiencing the teen years now–will be sure to read this and identify with it! LOL! 🙂

  6. Avatar Tamara says:

    I feel for you. I’m entering the preteen (meaning my daughter thinks she can act like she’s in her 20’s) and the mouth is unbelievable. If I hear one more curse word come out of her mouth, I’m grounding her to the neighbor’s house where the kids are, per my daughter’s argument, allowed to say whatever they want. 🙂

  7. Avatar AngelaPACC says:

    Thanks for the laughs, Dawn. A great post-lunch, afternoon pick-me-up. 🙂

  8. Sadly, I can have a potty mouth – not proud of it but these days of sleep deprivation and stress have destroyed my filter. I try to only let it slip in fun but sadly it happens. And the kids LOVE it when I throw in a naughty or two – whether it’s innuendo or cussing. It cracks them up cuz I am SO the Manners Police otherwise (when the stress levels are normal and sleep refreshes my brain!).

    It’s become one of those things that is so LESS important than the other things we are facing and I just have to keep telling myself that it’s one of the “little” things that matter less than I think it does.

    And… I will cop to LOVING the adrenaline rush of shocking one of the boys. It’s pretty hard to do and sometimes it just feels good. We had a HILARIOUS Rated R moment in the kitchen a few weeks ago – four nights in a row of terrible sleep, a long couple days of crabby baby and someone said something. The VERY first thing that popped into my head was a crude innuendo that they had NO IDEA I would know about (admittedly, I’m pretty niave about most things they hear in school every day). The looks on their faces were totally worth the shock I felt at myself for blurting it out. Oh, how we laughed. Till our sides hurt. It was crude. But it was funny and healing too. 🙂

    And ya know what? They are GREAT kids who love Jesus and love their momma. So really, it is less important than I make it out to be – when I’m in my right mind. 🙂

    • Gang’s Momma, I truly believe that the most important part of raising teens is establishing that relationship, and the most important way to establish that is to laugh with them and at least once a week do something fun together as a family. The side-splitting laugh you had was adding more concrete to your relationship. Good for you momma. And I also think our kids (or maybe I should say I pray that our kids) will know when to let one slip and when to behave.

  9. Avatar Cathy G. says:

    I am so grateful that my 10-year-old is still calling me out if I say “crap” or “stupid” which are on our list of no-no words! I owe her a quarter every time I slip up, and I occasionally do, but she really never does (she wouldn’t want to give up a quarter!) May this last forever….

  10. Avatar Michelle K. says:

    LOL…loved, loved, LOVED reading your Skype conversation with your kids. “I mean donkey, mom!” LOL! Thanks for sharing it!

  11. I am only a little embarrassed to admit this here, but that seriously sounds like one of our regular conversations during the dinner clearing and cleaning time when all 8 of us are home. The two oldest are coming up with crazy justifications like your two and my 12-year old is hovering in the perimeter giggling and snorting as only a jr. higher can do at the titillation of hearing and repeating words his grown up brothers are saying to shock Mom. And getting even bigger laughs from her while she’s trying to shush the 12 year old at the same time. I cry “Uncle” and give in to the laughter most nights.

    • Oh Gang’s Momma–tell me it’s not so. I thought for sure you’d be the one with well behaved kids!! (Why does it make me feel better to know that you share my suffering?!?) 😉

  12. Avatar Lila Bradley says:

    I was feeling a bit low after following the recent emotional back and forth of the FB group–this blog gave me the smiles and laughter that I really needed! Thank you!

  13. Avatar Kimberly says:

    Oh Dawn! Thank you for the giggles!! This is SO the direction my house is heading. Only 2 of my 6 are teens at the moment. Give me 3 years then ill have 5 under one roof. :-). Keep up the good work (letting go of control and enveacing the humor!)

  14. As a former expatriate, I am envious of the experiences you and your children are having!

    But to your dialog, I must admit it’s hilarious. I can so picture my kids doing the same in just a few years.

    Nice donkey 🙂

  15. Avatar Hope says:

    Thank you for the great laughs and for sharing your blog about Colima! What important work. Safe travels to you and your husband.

  16. Avatar AnonAP says:

    In other words, your kids are awesome! Now assign them A Midsummer Night’s Dream as homework so they can learn about ass-headed Bottom.

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