A few thoughts on the care and feeding of an exotic species: the teenager

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

I can't claim a full understanding of teenagers, despite having raised two and been one myself. But over the years, I have figured out a few things about them that might be of use to other parents trying to get a grip on teenage behavior.

Parents of teenagers quickly learn that they aren't just raising their own children. Because teens tend to move in herds, parents often find themselves responsible for the care and feeding of many, many teen friends.

Here are a few observations on their behavior:

  • It's true that teens eat a lot, but that doesn't mean they'll eat a lot at your house. We have, on more than one occasion, stocked up on food in anticipation of a teen grazing event, only to find they consumed nothing more than two grapes and a glass of water. Why? Because teens, being into instant gratification, eat the instant they get hungry. If that instant happens before they get to your house, they'll ingest a barrel of Cheetos and arrive stuffed. Timing is everything.
  • The second strongest desire in a young teen is to ride shotgun in a car. (We need not elaborate on the strongest desire). Teens will scratch, claw and wrestle each other in an urgent attempt to be the first one at the front passenger door. I can only guess that they're driven by the fact that the shotgun position is the closest they can get to the driver's seat before age 16.
  • You can win an argument with a teenager, but it won't do any good, because the teenager won't notice. He'll go right on arguing, oblivious to the fact that your superior logic put an end to the debate 20 minutes ago.
  • Teenage boys sprawl. Teenage girls huddle. Keep this in mind when considering space needs. Two 15-year-old boys can take up as much room as a dozen 15-year-old girls. Also, never forget that teens and adults have contrasting assumptions on the durability of materials. Adults assume everything is fragile; teens assume everything is indestructible. Hence, a teen will sit on any horizontal surface - be it an antique coffee table, a cardboard box, even a wafer-thin sheet of glass -until it proves incapable of supporting weight by crashing into pieces. Then the teen will go sit on something else.
  • Most teens own three dozen pairs of shoes but wear only flip-flops. They store their excess shoes wherever you are most likely to trip over them.
  • Teens are way better than adults at living in the moment. They feel everything, and do everything, far more intensely than you do. If they're having a good time, they don't care if it's 2 a.m. and they have to get up in four hours. When they finally do get to bed, they'll sleep with the same intensity that they do everything else. And when morning arrives, it will be your job to wake them. Good luck with that.

Joe Blundo's column, So to Speak, appears in the Life section of The Columbus Dispatch. It's a mix of humor, human interest and information. A collection of his columns has been published in the book Dancing Dads, Defective Peeps and Buckeye Misadventures. He lives in Worthington with his wife and two children.