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Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/partly written by Melvin Durai
December 2017

About a decade ago, when my three children were all under 5, taking care of them seemed to be a daily challenge. We had to change diapers, survive countless tantrums, and struggle at the dining table to get them to eat anything healthful. When we complained to other parents, they expressed their sympathy with these soothing words: “Wait until you get to the teen years! That’s when it really gets hard.”

Well, the teen years are here and let me tell you, it hasn’t been that bad. I still have a little hair on my head.

It helps, of course, that I’ve been preparing myself for the teen years like a soldier prepares for war. I’ve been keeping myself in shape—doing push-ups and sit-ups—because of the advice I heard from an Army general: “Never let the enemy think you’re weak.” The enemy is always looking for any kind of weakness that they can exploit.

For example, my 13-year-old daughter, Divya, knows that the best time to ask my wife, Malathi, for permission to do something is when Malathi is engrossed in Facebook. Divya just stands behind Malathi and says something like this: “Mommy, I want to go to the mall with my friends after school tomorrow. I know you’re busy, so if you just hit ‘Like’ on the next post, I’ll take that as a ‘Yes.’” And Malathi, of course, just keeps hitting ‘Like’ on various posts, and we don’t see our daughter for days.

This is why it’s so important to prepare for the teen years—so you don’t get blindsided. Teenagers are very smart. While you’re reading books titled Surviving the Teen Years and How to Raise a Responsible Teenager, they’re reading books such as How to Get Your Parents to Say ‘Yes’ to Almost Anything and A Step-by-Step Guide to Thwarting Your Parents.

Aside from reading books, getting advice from other parents is a good way to prepare for the teen years. Just make sure you find parents who look like they’ve survived something awful, such as a war, hurricane, or dental surgery. Avoid getting advice from parents who look like they’ve just returned from a vacation in Jamaica. Such parents probably have teenagers who are extremely well-behaved and never cause any trouble, the type of teens whom other youths would consider quite abnormal.

My wife and I have two teenagers in our household, Divya and her 15-year-old sister, Lekha, and we are dreading the day when our son, Rahul, turns into a teenager. Thankfully, that’s almost two years away, but the thought of having three teenagers under the same roof scares the living daylights out of me. I’ve considered sending one or two of them away to boarding school, but it would be easier on my wife’s emotions and considerably less expensive if I just went away.

At least we got some good news recently. We heard about a new study published in the journal Child Development that shows that today’s teenagers, compared to teens in previous generations, aren’t so eager to turn into adults. Fewer of them are participating in adult activities such as drinking, dating, having sex, and driving. In other words, they’re not growing up as quickly as they used to. An 18-year-old today acts like a 15-year-old in 1980.

Oh no, I just thought of this, but if kids are acting three years younger, then perhaps the teen years haven’t really begun in my household. Perhaps Lekha is acting like a 12-year-old and Divya is acting like a 10-year-old. That means that our parenting skills, not to mention our patience, are really going to be tested in a year’s time. And in a dozen years or so, if we survive the teen years, we may be giving advice to prospective parents: “If you’re determined to have kids of your own, please consider adopting a few goats. They won’t talk back to you, won’t demand their own cellphone plans, and won’t complain when you tell them to trim the lawn.”



Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.

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