Living With and Loving Our Teens
One recent morning, as my thirteen year old son slumped sleepily into the kitchen for breakfast, I took a good look at him and realized that I now have a “teenager” living in my house. Up until this moment, I hadn’t really accepted the fact – although he’d reach the chronological age, he still seemed like my little boy. Suddenly now, in the middle of his thirteenth year, I’m back to reading parenting manuals and seeking helpful advice in manner that I haven’t done since my youngest was in the throes of the terrible twos.
Living with a teenager can be an adventure. The rules seem to have changed on me, and I’m struggling to be a good (but not an “embarrassing”) mom. One of the best things I’ve done lately towards this end is to read From Wedgies to Feeding Frenzies, A Semi-Survival Guide for Parents of Teens (iUniverse, August 2004, paperback, 122 pages). Author Tim Herrera is dad to four, including three teenage sons. His wonderful book contains a series of essay reflections, ranging from the heartwarming to the hilarious. From my reading of Herrera’s book, I’ve come to the perspective that this time as the mom of a teenager is as fleeting as were those toddler years; I should come at it with a sense of humor as large as the sense of love I feel for my son.
Tim Herrera shared the following on writing, his family, and surviving the task of parenting teens.
Q: Tim Herrera, dad and author of From Wedgies to Feeding Frenzies, congratulations on the publication of your latest book! Would you please start off by telling our readers a bit about yourself and your family?
A: I’m married and the father of four children, three of them now teenagers and one a pre-teen. We have three boys and our youngest is a girl. She’ll be a teen next year! I’ve been a family oriented writer for about twelve years. I started writing a local newspaper column with a parenting theme when my oldest was in kindergarten. At the time, he sat next to a little girl whose father was the local newspaper editor. I asked if I could submit some articles and he said “yes.” Now my oldest is 17, bigger and stronger than me and I am still writing about family.
Q: Obviously, you write from personal experience! What prompted you to take on the topic of parenting teenagers and to look at it from a humorous perspective?
A: I’d like to see more clean and family oriented material available. There’s so much “dysfunctional family” stuff out there. Also, people always say “write what you know.” Well, I have a bunch of teens living in my house, eating all of the food and leaving dirty socks everywhere, so it seemed like a good topic. Most of what I write has a humorous tone. There’s humor in just about everything, especially with teens. Honestly, I believe that teenagers are great people with a great deal of potential, but they are often misjudged and underappreciated. I tell a lot of people that “Wedgies” is NOT an advice book but that after people read it they might want to offer me some advice.
Q: How do your kids feel about your writing and sharing family stories?
A: My kids are used to it. Classmates sometimes comment about something they’ve read in the paper or in one of my books. Sometimes there’s some teasing but my kids know that I’ll never cross the line and get into something too personal, like girlfriends or personal hygiene not getting the proper attention.
Q: How can having a sense of humor assist parents of teenagers?
A: Having a sense of humor is a requirement when raising teens, followed by having a credit card with a high limit. You have to laugh at the appropriate things at the appropriate times. If you don’t, then you’re not enjoying the time you have with your kids. You can’t take everything so seriously that you miss out on the good times.
Q: Setting humor aside for a moment, what practical pointers would you offer to parents of teens? I have a thirteen year old son and some days I feel like aliens have abducted the child I knew and sent someone else to live in his body! Is this typical for a mom of a teen?
A: Yes, this is typical. Kids are DEFINITELY aliens, but not always intelligent life forms in their decision making. It’s difficult trying to help navigate our kids through the teenage years. It’s hard to stand back and not want to make every move for them. But you can’t. You just always have to remind them – whether or not they want to talk to you – that you are always available to talk with them… and listen. Teenagers aren’t the most open talkers, but you have to let them know you are always there for them.
Q: How has your faith impacted upon your family life and your writing career?
A: Church is an important part of our family life. My wife coordinates our parish’s Children’s Liturgy program and I am a lector and Eucharistic Minister. Faith is important to us. We are not evangelical but my wife and I try to set good examples. My faith impacts my writing. My faith isn’t right out in front like today’s good Christian writers, but I think the tone and tenor of my writing is Christian-like.
Q: Which of the essays shared in this latest book is your personal favorite and why?
A: I think my favorite is “Fathers Are as Strong as Brick Walls.” It’s about my father and about how hard he worked to provide for our family while we were growing up. It’s deeply personal. I go back and read it from time to time.
Q: Do you have future projects in the works?
A: I’m busy trying to promote this book and compiling more essays. I haven’t settled on a new theme yet. I’m working on two other writing projects right now, a novel and a kind of a “how to” book on media relations. We’ll see where these things go.
Q: Are there any parting words of encouragement you can offer to fellow parents?
A: Always remember that your children will never truly understand how much you love them until they have their own children. And remember that they do love you too. Right now they show it by asking for money, leaving wet towels on the floor and forgetting to feed the dog. But deep down, there’s love.
For more information on From Wedgies to Feeding Frenzies visit http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/059532763X/catholicmomcom
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa M. Hendey is a mother of two sons, webmaster of numerous web sites, including http://www.catholicmom.com and http://www.christiancoloring.com, and an avid reader of Catholic literature. Visit her at http://www.lisahendey.com for more information.