The Rockwood Files: Note to self

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Sometimes when I look at my 14-year-old son and his 12-year-old brother – the one speeding down the on-ramp to join his brother in the teenage years – I think they’re pretty brave. We grown-ups like to moan and groan about how tough it is here in the real world – and it is – but we forget sometimes that being a teenager isn’t exactly a walk in the park either.

Sure, it looks easy when they’re sleeping until noon or playing their third consecutive hour of video games. But when I think about whether or not I’d want to relive that time of my life, the answer is a resounding “no.”

In fact, sometimes I wish I could write a letter to my teenage self and send it back through time – save that poor kid some needless drama. If that kind of time-hopping correspondence was possible, here’s what I’d say.

10 things I’d tell my teenage self:

  1. Regarding your hair, higher and wider is not necessarily better. I have the photographic evidence to prove it. Put down the hairspray.
  2. While we’re on the subject of appearance, just because there are six different shades of blue eyeshadow in the compact does not mean you should use them all at one time.
  3. That volcanic pimple on your chin feels like a social death sentence. I get it. But the truth is that people think about you far less than you think they do, mostly because they’re busy thinking about themselves and their own volcanic rupture.
  4. You know that giant phone your parents gave you to use in case of emergency while driving to college? The one that’s roughly the size and weight of a brick with the ridiculously long antenna sticking out? Believe it or not, that thing will soon morph into a thin, sleek phone-slash-computer that you’ll use almost constantly. You’ll wonder how you ever lived a day without it. Scrape together some of your birthday money and invest in Apple stock right now.
  5. Your mother is not an idiot, so just cool it with the exasperated sighs and the eye-rolling. Trust me, that stuff will come back to you one day in the form of wicked karma when you’re the one driving a kid to school and you have the audacity to ask an innocent question like “You got all your homework done, right?”
  6. Acid-washed jeans are a terrible idea. Just don’t.

  7. Surround yourself with good, kind friends and hang on to them even when life takes you in different directions. The friends who know and love you even when you’re a moody teenager often make the best life-long buddies.
  8. Even when it feels like your parents “don’t get it,” they probably do. Maybe they don’t understand it completely because, after all, things can change a lot from one generation to the next. (See phone comment above, for example.) But people (even parents) never forget the feeling of being a teenager who’s just trying to get through the day without being embarrassed or ridiculed or made to feel stupid. We all worry about not being “enough.” Stop sulking and talk to them. It might actually help.
  9. If you think your jeans might be a tad too short, they are.
  10. Your parents’ job is not to make you happy. It is to help protect you, teach you and do everything in their power to grow you into a kind, self-sufficient person. Even on your most frustrating teenage day, never doubt for a second that you are loved with an intensity and ferocity you will never understand – until the day you become a parent.

Hang in there, kid. It’s going to get easier.

gwen-headshot-2014Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.