Surviving the Summer with Teens

By Judy Berman

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Most credit author Charles Dickens for that first line in “A Tale of Two Cities.”

But I believe it is coined by parents of teenagers during summer vacation. Even though our daughters’ teen years are far behind them, my hubby, Dave, and I recall that period all too well.

For the teens, the day following the last day of school, it is the best of times and the worst of times. For us, it is the worst of times and times too horrible to contemplate.

Enter the 16-year-old with her first car. Danielle now has the mobility to leave her block unchaperoned for the first time on wheels numbering greater than three.

Her parents, however, are a wreck until she returns home, sometime perilously close to her curfew. So’s the auto. The vehicle limps home on flat tires. By night’s end, the car is a dedication to junker-car heaven.

Next, the 14-year-old. A telephone is permanently welded to Jenn’s hand when she first wakes up until she falls asleep – still talking.

The front door of our home is a revolving one, and more strangers are in our family room than crowded the deck of the Titanic as it sank. These people are friends, acquaintances and passers-by whose common bond with our daughters is they share the same area code, our living space and our food supply.

The best of times for the teens is their total freedom, absence of responsibility and mobility. The worst of times for them follow all the above when they’re grounded anywhere from one week to three years for various infractions of house rules.

The worst of times for us is when the neighbors no longer speak to us because they haven’t had a full night’s sleep since June. The final straw is when our daughter’s car, and the tree in front of our house, are swaddled in toilet paper, and the paper hangers leave cackling loudly and squealing their car’s tires from here to the state line in the dead of night.

The times too horrible to contemplate are when we, the parents, are grounded along with our kids. We go no farther than the mailbox at the end of our driveway for fear our daughters may have too good of a time if our absence is longer.

While I’m at it, Dickens must have stolen that last line, too. “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done.”

That’s definitely the parting shot parents the world over yell to their children as they board the bus for school at the end of summer vacation.

[With apologies to my daughters, and Keith (who later joined our family as our son-in-law), thanking them in advance for letting me have fun at their expense. This story – with some minor tinkering – was published in The Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y. when they were still teens.]


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* Main Photo: toilet papered tree

* Photo – Danielle, Keith and Jenn at Excalibur, Las Vegas

* Photo: teens about to board the school bus

  1. You made me chuckle. I am sitting next to an almost-twelve year old who has just begun to develop some of the features you describe. It is wearing now, and this is just the beginning. The best of times, the worst of times? Too right, Judy 😀

    1. The great thing is that by the time your tween is 18 or 19, you will have reconnected, and then you’ll begin a wonderful relationship as adults. Thanks for your comments, Kate.
      I just checked out your post on the Olympics. Good show – and post. Now I have to catch up on what I missed. 🙂

  2. Those were good times – for me at least. :o) The scary thing is that we are getting close to experiencing it from the other side – ugh!!! Thankfully, our kids will never do any of “those” things.

    I still have a few years to live in that fantasy.

    1. Remember the good times. I wish I could trade places with you then and now. But each phase has its moments to treasure.
      And, you’re right. Our grandkids are little angels and would NEVER dream of doing any of “those” things.

      1. Ha Judy, one of my favorite cars was a ’69 Impala. That car went to my brother and then my sister after that. I think it got 8 miles per gallon, but you’re right, it was SOLID!

        note from earthrider to MJ Monaghan:
        Yes, the Impala was not fuel-friendly. But it was a great ride.

  3. Oh boy, best and worst for sure. I really wouldn’t want to do it again. I enjoyed the teen years, but I’m fine being way past that now. Better relating to them as adults. Now I have to say, I loved the years from about 0-11 yrs. You’re a saint for working with Jr High kids!

    1. Thanks, Michael. I have to chuckle. Usually, people genuflect and give me the sign of the cross when I tell them I teach 7th graders. Fortunately, I have some great students, and I hope they enjoy me and my class as much as I do them.

  4. You teach middle school?????? YAK! Your are a saint. I think 7th and 8th grade is the hardest. Those kids aren’t little and they aren’t big. And then they grow up. Sigh. Launch. and we miss them. You post brought back memories.

    1. I just now spotted your comment, Barb.
      You’re right, our kids do grow up too soon. Our middle schoolers begin to edge away from us as they gain more independance. I’m so glad when I reconnected with mine toward the end of their teen years. I’m sure my parents felt the same way.

  5. Yep, it brought memories. But how i missed the non stop ringing of the telephone when our daughter left home! Now her son is almost twelve and I am going to be watching from the sidelines 🙂

    1. Yes, Madhu, our home is a lot quieter now. I can’t say that I prefer that. There also were a lot of fun and excitement during their teen years.
      Our daughter, Danielle, commented above. Like your daughter, she is about to experience this period with her own kids. It’ll be fun to observe. 🙂

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