My teen Dennis has the most magnetic smile ever. It is impossible not to smile back when you see it. He has had that effect ever since he was little. Recently though, I have noticed that I don’t see that smile at all.
When he is around me, all I seem to see is distance. I do overhear laughter when he is talking to his friends or looking at his phone. I can’t help but feel a bit jealous that I do not get that same smile. I have even asked him if he can smile, which brings me the half-hearted, forced smile.
I can’t help but sometimes feel that I have done something wrong. I wonder if asking him to do his chores and homework has somehow damaged his ability to smile or be happy. I have even thought about all the things that I could buy him to get that smile.
The other night I mentioned something to my husband about my concerns, and he responded that it was just a phase that all teenagers go through. Although I was hoping for some genius plan from him to help coax a smile out of our teen, his response got me thinking. I have noticed that all of Dennis’s friends have the same reaction. I see them at soccer practice all laughing and having a good time, but as they all walk to their parents’ cars, it looks more like a funeral procession. It was somewhat comforting to know that I was not alone with my teen.
As I went to sleep that night, I thought back to my teenage years. I remember my parents asking all the time if I ever smiled and their constant reminders that my face may get stuck like that or that it takes more muscles to frown than smile. I could not recall how long that lasted, but I do know that I now smile frequently, so there must be hope.
I decided that I was going to hold on to that hope. I will continue to look at those pictures of my smiling baby and know that the smile is still there. I am going to listen to his laughter from his bedroom fortress and know that he is smiling. I will savor those half-smiles that I sometimes get and think about how hard it must be to try not to smile at your parents as a teenager. I will continue to hold hope that one day I will be the recipient of that magnetic smile. After all, this is just another phase he is going through, similar to potty training and learning to ride a bike.
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