I remember vividly when my kids were toddlers. I loved it. I got giggles, snuggles, and random cuddles at any time of the day (and night). I loved loading up the buggy early on a Saturday morning and walking down to the park, my toddlers like ducklings waddling around me.
I was a hero, daily. I was the only man in my daughter’s life (“forever”). My coffee was always drunk lukewarm, the newspaper only fleetingly flicked through, and I watched Shrek so many times, I can recite it, word perfect. I could fix things quickly with a lollipop, too. And the house was quiet by 8.30pm.
But I often thought (out loud), that it’d be so much easier when they’re teenagers. They’d be able to tie their own shoelaces, get themselves into the car (no more trying to load a possessed, head-spinning toddler into a car seat), and they’ll be able to read their own books at night (“books”, that shows my age!). I’ll have so much more time, so much more energy, I’ll be able to get back into my own sport/fitness/hobbies/dates with my wife/weekends away. I’ll able to get in my car and not put my hand on a seven-week-old apple core. Freedom was just a few short years away, although felt like a galaxy far, far away.
Then they became teenagers, and it began.
First, though, a quick background for context. We have five children (yes, same wife) aged from 15 to 27, four boys and one girl right in the middle. Everyone always says, poor girl. I say, poor boys, there’s not enough of them to make it an even fight! People ask me, “What’s it like having 5 kids?” (Normally with a look of total disbelief on their face). I say, “It’s like being on a continual road trip, in an old Kombi that rattles and shakes on every bump and you get lost, every time ‘cos there’s no GPS. You run out of fuel regularly, it breaks down, you swear at it, you coax it up hills and sometimes you can wind down the windows and let what’s left of your hair, blow in the wind. Plain sailing… Till the next pot hole jolts you back into reality.”
“Dadding” teenagers is a rollercoaster ride; a ride that you’re sure is going to break and crash at any second, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. It’s fear and thrill, shock and joy, panic, and pride. All at once.
This stage of life is full too. Full of work, mortgage, elderly parents, family history, baggage and “manopause”. Many, many times, my “kids have been the problem”. They don’t listen, tidy their rooms, do their homework, help out, look after their mum. If only they’d just do as they’re told! I found myself saying out loud (with no sense of the irony), “It was so much easier when they were toddlers.”
They’ve frustrated me to the point of feeling like my head was going to explode and it did, often, and I became The Grumpy Dad. I lost the unconditional joy of my toddlers and, instead, got teenagers who were wary and weary of me, who were unsure how I was going to react, and my moods dominated the house.
Then one day I clicked. My teenagers weren’t the problem, I was. All the parenting books give you tools to manage and “deal with” your teenagers, but I believe that for dads in the teenage zone, the best “teenage tools” are the ones you use on yourself.
Deal with your load, deal with your stress, and not only will your teenagers be easier, but you will like yourself a lot better, too. You’ll also look better, too: Less stress equals less waist. So my intent is to show you how to overcome “manopause” and “Grumpy Dad Syndrome”, because an easy you leads to easy teenagers.
PS: I’m a work in progress, too!
Tim Corbett likes to cause change and at times, trouble. He is a husband, father, a sportdad, a speaker, an image maker and the Director of Change and The Change Lab.