I thought I would hit my stride when my kids became teenagers. Truth be told, I didn’t love the baby stage. The toddler years were fun but exhausting. Elementary age was wonderful. The kids were old enough to have some independence but still thought I was smart and wanted to spend time with me. But I was waiting for the teen years. This would be my time to shine.
I’ve never been more wrong.
I was unprepared for the moodiness, angsty emotions, and eye rolls that would begin overnight. My sweet, curious boy turned into a heavily sighing alien who knows everything. In the nine months I’ve been the mom to a teen, I’ve felt stumped, overwhelmed, and annoyed. I was recently lamenting to a friend about how HARD it is to parent a teen. She said something life changing.
Teenagers are like cats.
When kids are little, they are like puppies: excited to see you no matter what, endlessly faithful, and easily entertained. They find joy in common, everyday experiences. They are a little naughty but adorable. It’s easy to look the other way when they chew your shoes or pee on the floor. Then suddenly, their personalities transform into a cat. We all know the joke that dogs have owners and cats have staff. Cats are characteristically moody, aloof, and only interested in you for food or attention on their terms.
My teenager is a cat.
He interacts with us on his terms. Suddenly, my buddy who never stopped talking mostly speaks in one word sentences. Spending time with us is a form of torture. He’d rather be alone. I never know if a joke will result in playful banter or in him showing his fangs. He seeks us out when he needs something, namely food and money. I know he’s gaining independence and skills he’ll need as he moves onto college, but I miss the puppy version of him. The silly jokes, snuggles on the couch, and just enjoying each other.
How long do the cat years last?
Well, I don’t know because I am less than a year in. But a friend with kids in their mid-twenties shared that after college, the cat years morph into something else. The best she could describe it was your cat transforms into, a loyal, older dog. The kind of dog who still plays with you but doesn’t chew your shoes when you look away. The kind of dog is predictable and reliable. The kind of dog that everyone wants.
I just have to survive the cat years.
Every once and awhile, I see a flash of the little boy he was, mixed with the man he will be and the cat years don’t seem so bad. I will leave out the food he likes and lavish him with attention when he finally shows his face.
Abby, this has much wisdom in it, and it’s not an entirely unique metaphor. It sounds very like the Adair Lara article from 1996 titled “When Children Turn into Cats”.