When our children are growing up, they’re like puppies. They’re all over us. They’re always excited to see us. Maybe so excited they pee on the floor. When family or friends or even complete strangers come into contact with the baby, they make embarrassing cooing noises. They can’t help it. They want to pick them up and smush their li'l faces!
But then your puppy gets bigger. And bigger. And something changes. They no longer run to the door when you arrive home. They would prefer not to snuggle in your lap for no reason. If you try to pick them up, they hiss and retreat into a dark corner. Friends and family regard them with a wary fascination.
Teenagers, in other words, are just like cats.
Stay with me, because this analogy is perfection.
Just like cats, teenagers do love us. They just show their love very differently. They may not inform you that they’ll love you forever and would like to marry you when they grow up (and, by the way, they also don’t like to be reminded that they ever did that), but they definitely love you.
Does your teenager want you around? Not in the same room, maybe, but definitely somewhere they can keep an eye on you? Do they text you to ask when you’re coming home, and when you ask why, they say, “nothing”? Surprise: They love you.
Proximity is the teenager’s love language. In the same way, cats show they love you by hanging around in your general vicinity. If you’re sitting next to them on the couch? They’re pretty much in love.
You will be constantly infuriated by your teenager’s messes. It’s amazing how much wanton destruction a teen can leave in their wake. If there is a can of soda anywhere in your home, it will eventually lie opened on its side, a sticky pool spreading across your area rug. This is how your teenager tells you, I still need you. Also, look at the mess I made.
You can pet a cat once, twice, three times, and then they’re like, “No.” If you’re lucky. If you’re less lucky, it’s a full-on freak-out to the face, claws extended. Similarly, teenagers can handle a quick hug or a smile, and then they’ve run off into the darkness of their rooms, or suddenly you’re on the receiving end of a noogie.
When it’s mealtime, the cat emerges from his slumber and pushes its face against yours, purring maniacally, until you give in and feed it. Similarly, mealtime is when the teenager emerges, blinking, into the daylight, and asks how your day is going. Then they might casually inquire when dinner is going to be ready or if you’ve purchased any snacks they can shove into their faces. If food is available and ready, it will be declared that you are a very good parent and were always secretly their favorite. If food is nowhere to be found, they will make unholy noises indicating that they’re going to die soon if they don’t get said food/snacks.
Cats will transform from cold, distant jerks who live only to stare at you in judgment to complete maniacs who zoom through the house knocking over everything. Teenagers are also known to act like hyped-up goofballs suddenly and with no warning, running around the house with their scrawny limbs flailing dangerously close to lamps and other breakables. This is especially liable to occur when their friends are over.
But now that I’ve proven with zero doubt in anyone’s minds that teenagers are basically cats in human form, what’s to be done with that information? What can we do with these new, strangely distant beings who have taken over our once lovably straightforward babies? My advice: Make like a cat owner and learn to appreciate them on their own terms. Note every subtle gesture toward connection and clumsy attempt at showing their love. And remember, this phase, too, will pass, and someday you’ll miss having these weirdos invading your home.
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