Now that I have 2 teenagers in the house and will be sending one half-baked adult out into the world in a year from now, it felt like time to address the rhetorical "Toddlers vs Teenagers - which would you rather have?" question.
Well, gotta have both, obviously (what's the option?!).
Right. The answer as far as I am concerned is ......DRUM ROLL......
I will take teenagers any day.
With their smelly feet and armpits, acne and dandruff, moods and sullenness, hair and large hands and feet! Shall I go on drawing this generally unappealing picture? :)
I just have these very sympathetic feelings for the underdogs you know. Toddlers are CUTE. Who doesn't like them? Certainly, even the kid-haters will good-humouredly set off the whining against the cuteness quotient.
But teenagers. Boy, they can be a tough breed to like. Tall, sometimes huge, they look like an adult but have none of the usefulness or know-how of one. They are unpredictable and moody. They eat massive amounts of food. They demand your time and attention and love and yet look the other way when you provide all of it. Arrrggghhh...they are infuriating!
Note: My kids were easy toddlers and are pretty easy teens as well; so not complaining here. These are general observations (my kids will call them sweeping generalizations!) based on all the kids I have encountered :)
These infuriating teens are also so vulnerable. Caught in the no-man's zone between childhood and adulthood, brains and cognition only partly developed (the brain is the last organ to mature; this happens in the early to mid-20s), misunderstood and misjudged even by the people who know them best, bodies growing in all sorts of uncomfortable ways, dealing with high pressure academic and social environments. One cannot but feel sorry for these poor souls.
Research has established that the level of stress varies very little whether you have toddlers or teenagers. I personally think the difference is in what kind of stress. Parenting toddlers or very young kids creates a huge physical workload while with teenagers the exhaustion is primarily mental. Second-guessing what they are feeling, reading between the lines, worrying about risky behaviour or social media exposure, etc takes a toll on the parent's mental wellness. On the other hand, they are very well able to clean and dress themselves, navigate their social calendars, and under duress make their own meals and get themselves from one place to another without my help!
The old parenting wisdom is that you only have 18 summers with your kids. The thing is, when the kids are toddlers, 18 summers seems like light years away. It cannot come soon enough. Fast forward a few years and they are teenagers and that 18th summer is really really close and you'll do anything to have your sweaty stinky messy teenager lounging around your house for just one more summer.
I never in a million years thought I'd say this. But I can now empathize with all those wannabe grandparents who are dying for their kids to procreate. It's not just some ego trip and carrying-on-our-family's-amazing-genes stuff. It's just plain old-fashioned "I need to smell that baby smell and feel that delicious baby fat and remember that feeling of wanting to gobble them up" stuff.
Gasp! I am going to be insufferable as a 60-year-old aunty!