I got four teenagers up before 7am. By 7.33 am I had gotten them unplugged from their devices that they auto-gravitated to (first big challenge after shaking them and making them sit up in delirious shock), hustled them to connect with their toothbrushes, got them to change (while they continued to wear their look of shock) and proceeded to kick them out of the house before they could protest. Then I made them pose for a pic (I had to validate all of this AND I had to inflict on them what they inflict on us. Please note the dazed look on their faces). As I march back jubilantly, I’m thinking: one more career option – dorm matron.

This must be how a small band of warriors must have felt like when they crossed the moat at the still of dawn and fell upon the enemy army that could have been no match for them when they were ready—in full gear, armed with ammunition and numbers AND prowess—sneaky, but victorious.

Life with two teenagers has made me strategic like that: victory comes with stealth and moments of unpreparedness. Oh! Who am I fooling? This is me crowing with one victory. Most of the time I’ve no idea what I’m doing.

Parenting is a marathon. Parenting teenagers is a long slow, painful, disoriented run. On good days it is like flying a kite. You must have your feet firm on the ground, and you have to be connected with a long string to the kite that is out there, wanting to and exploring the sky.

Our job as parents is to know how to keep the kite up there. For that, the feet planted firmly down is as important as knowing when to reel in and when to give more rope. Each tug is a victory, and with each slackening of the string you have to know how much to reel in. Because, the kite was made to fly. And that is what we as parents are supposed to know:
1) understand the kite you have
2) put it out there at the right time, after testing the wind
3) and finally, know how to fly a kite.

The thing is, there is no one teaching you to fly the kite. And, the fact is, there is no formula to it. Each kite is different, as is the kite flyer, and already the numbers may not add up. The wind speed, the manjha, the other kites that are out there also exist, and have to be factored in.

Am I flying my kites well? I’ve no clue. Both my kites are my material and (of course) both are so very different. There are days their string is slack, and my string is also so slack that I’m either too busy grieving over loss of wind or tricking my way back up there… that I don’t see them drop.

There are days that they are parenting me. And even to that my responses are different. Some days I’m so grateful for their kindness and other days this brings on belligerence: the excuse-me-I’m-your-mother, response.

It’s a no-win situation, really, for children whose parent/s is/are in permanent existential-crisis-mode.

A friend of mine—she has one teenager and one seven-year old—asks me wearily: does it ever get better? It’s a rhetorical question. And I want to comfort her.

Every day is a struggle. And every single day I think (actually, oh god, I know) I’m doing such a miserable job. Every single day I think they gravitate towards me only because I know for a fact that children—of all living creatures—are hardwired to love and be loyal to their parents. It is, in fact, the biggest tragedy of children of abusive parents.

There are days where I find myself on a rant. The voice I’m using is the voice of disapproval; it’s the voice of my motherfathergrandmother. A part of me is appalled. And a part of me can’t stop. It feels so good to vomit all that ire on to my flinching twosome.

But, more often than not, I don’t know who these two beautiful creatures are. Could they have come out of me? And even more than the wonder and occasional disillusionment are times of terror. Their hostility is sharper than a knife. Their rage is a towering tornado. But worse, much worse is the sneer. The thin veneer of contempt.

I was telling a friend, who says she simply loves the company of young adults, my scariest public speaking moment was when I addressed 200-odd grade 9 and 10 students. It is their bored, blankish-sneer that freezes me. It’s the whothefuckareyou look that penetrates. Who the fuck am I, indeed?

The wonderment and the intense curiosity of children delight me. Keep me in a closed room with any number of toddlers and I will take them and the accompanying horrors of their peeingpooingfeverpuke, unflinchingly. One teenager reduces me. Whothehellareyou? Whatthefuckareyoudoing? It makes me want to confess: I. Have. No. Clue.

So, does it ever end? I don’t know. Every time I’m floundering—and I am floundering most of the time—I gather great courage from another friend who has survived childhood and adolescence and says that there were days she wanted to wring the neck—really, really wring the neck—of her kids and the only thing stopping her was the fact that she’d get caught and it already felt like she was doing time.
I hold on to these words, because I’m there so very often. It is reassuring to know that I am not the only one bumbling along. And that most of us parents-of-teenagers have really no idea what hit us.

But sometimes I look across the room and see these two beautiful creatures, and our eyes meet, and they don’t roll it upwards or look blankly at me. And just sometimes they see me and brighten. And it feels good. It really feels deliciously good.

Thank god I have a sense of humor and thank god I have learnt to forgive myself. Because I know I may just last this round too.