India Knight of the Times of London felt compelled to write a defense of 14-year-old girls today, "because a survey of 2,000 parents has found that 14-year-old girls are the most irritating and tricky creatures known to man."
The survey Knight is referring to was conducted by "TheBabyWebsite.com," a website whose participants declared that 14-year-old girls were the toughest to parent, and that "parents of girls say the main problem when they were 14-years-old was that their little girl turned into a grown woman overnight." In her defense of 14-year-olds, Knight wisely dismisses the "grown woman" complaint as "an odd sort of thing to be cross about because the alternative would be biologically freakish giant toddlers hanging around in groups at bus stops."
Knight argues that the "difficult" aspects of raising teenagers are really just parental failures to realize that their children are becoming adults with opinions and passions of their own, and that challenging their parents control and desperately trying to assert their own independence is simply a part of the process of growing up: "most teenagers aren't difficult at all," she writes, "they are pains, which is a different thing. They're just trying stuff out, experimenting, kicking against boundaries in a way that may be exasperating but is hardly much more."
I've said this before, but it bears repeating: teenagers are a very easy demographic to make fun of. It's easy to mock that age when you're removed from it, because all you see is what you perceive to be the "ridiculousness" of it. It is, perhaps, harder to remember how it feels to really be that age: to be in that weird place between childhood and adulthood, while your body changes and your priorities shift and you can't quite understand why you feel the way you feel.
Maybe it's hard to remember because most of us would rather not remember: it is easy to portray that time as dumb and over-dramatic (I do it all the time) than to stop and recall how hard and scary and frustrating and sometimes really, really depressing it was. And in that way, I think, we find ourselves dismissing the opinions and loves and mood swings of teenage girls as products of the age, as opposed to real and true emotions that should be respected or at least shown a modicum of understanding. Or, as Knight writes: "It has nothing to do with being 'difficult' and everything to do with the reasonable desire to have our views or opinions respected by those closest to us."
Maybe instead of brushing 14-year-old girls off as "difficult," we should consider that the things they're going through are difficult, and that like us, they'll eventually come out on the other side as fully-formed adults, with all of the experiences of their formative years locked in their pockets, shaping parts of who they are. Yes, there are certainly times when parents know best and have to lay down the law. But for the most part, perhaps it's time we stop instantly equating the teenage years with "phases" that will pass. Maybe instead of laughing at them, or stereotyping them, or telling them to quiet down, we should stop being difficult ourselves, and shut up, and listen.