Humor Journal Motherhood Relationships

I Love Teenagers, Unless They’re at the Park

I Love Teenagers, Unless They're at the Park
Written by Jamie Sumner

So, this is a new one for me. I’ve turned into an old lady at the park. How? How in the name of all things Indigo Girls and incense did I let this happen? As a high school English teacher I was cool, at least as cool as you can be as a high school English teacher. I still made them write thesis statements and read The Great Gatsby. But I also taught creative writing and we took fieldtrips to nature centers and yelled slam poetry into the sky. We fought nerf gun wars to relieve tension. We laughed, collectively, and not at one another. We had a good thing going, me and the teens.

And then I had babies and grew censor ratings like horns overnight. Or at least that’s what it feels like when I go to the park. When I’ve got my five-year old and three-year-old twins trailing behind, all I see is the wake of destruction those same teens leave when the sun rises over their late-night haunts. If there’s a cigarette butt in the sandbox, my kid will find it. If there’s an empty beer can under the swings, my kid will pick it up and shake it over his open mouth like it’s the last drop of water in the canteen. Adults can drink and smoke (almost) anywhere, but the sixteen-year-olds have to play their grown-up games in remote locations, like covert spies. It’s only natural they would choose the park. It’s still theirs, or it was, not so long ago, when their moms used to push them on the swings and help them climb the ladder to the slides. I understand the itch for freedom mixed with the last bit of comfort the park can bring. But it doesn’t comfort me, the mom on the other side yelling, “Don’t touch that!”

Here’s what I see with my mom-eyes. Graffiti on the slide, like it’s the side of a train, a train that isn’t going to pass me by and let the images head west. I’ve got to look at the hand flipping me off and that crooked penis over and over again while the kids scramble back up the steps. How long will they believe that it’s just a hand? When do we have to have that talk? Is it at the same time I explain what that girl and her boyfriend were doing in the tunnel by the monkey bars we passed on the way in? Does my toddler need to know how many steps it takes to get to third base?

I actually kind of like it when those same teens get into their cars and sit in the parking lot with music so loud it vibrates the soles of my feet—if it’s good music. Let’s rock on and play an homage to Chris Cornell. But can we tone down the tunes with f-bombs at 10 a.m. on a Saturday? Or at least relocate them? Last week the twins sang a litany of curse words all the way home, rhyming them like Cat-in-the-Hat. I tried not to laugh. Because it was a little funny when to them it’s all nonsense words. Soon, though, I’m going to have to explain what that nonsense means and still convey that it’s nonsense. Let’s let them hit preschool first.

I’m probably wishing too much, searching for sanctuary at the park when it doesn’t exist. I know this. I wish I could be the cool teacher again, or the cool mom now and let it go. I was a teenager once. The light of self-absorption is blinding. It holds you in its glare and keeps you there until you’re twenty-something and emerge, blinking, into the rest of your life. But I also want a little bit of space, some green grass and a swing or two, where my kids can be little before they have to face the glare themselves.

About the author

Jamie Sumner

Jamie Sumner is mom to a son with cerebral palsy and twins. She writes for Parenting Special Needs Magazine and dishes about infertility and special needs parenting on her website, She can be found on Facebook, Twitter @mom_gene and Instagram @themomgene. She and her husband live in Nashville, Tennessee and most days you can find her outside with three kids, a dog, and a large cup of coffee.


  • Even though I’m not a mom ,I totally resonate with what you’re saying Jamie. It can be a crazy hard world for parents to raise children, but the grace of God will and does carry us through. If not for His grace we couldn’t do it, but through His grace you can. <3

  • Smiling and grimacing; I have teens and there are days when I still want to install ear plugs and blinders before we leave the house. But then . . . I was never cool to begin with.
    So thankful for prayer and for Holy Spirit filters on our kids’ brains.

  • Very funny. My two kids (21 and 20 now), never did stuff like that because they were too busy to have time to hang out at the park. That is a problem, some kids have too much time on their hands. My two played sports and did a thing called homework.

    • I played sports too and stayed busy. But then I look at kids now and they seem crazy busy, more than I was, so I don’t know where the disconnect is.

  • I so agree!!! My kids may not remember what they did in school today, but they remember the dirty picture painted on the inside of the slide at the park! Insert eye roll. Seriously.

    • Hahahahahahahaha, yep. Just like they will tell anyone who’s listening that one bad word you said that one time in traffic.