Believe it, teen years aren't all bad

This essay was first published in Newsday. People say some incredibly unhelpful things to parents. At the top of my list: When your child turns 11 or 12 or 13, he or she will become unbearable for roughly the next decade.

I'm here to tell you that my daughters are 14 and 15, and I actually like them most of the time.

A few years ago, people would often comment, "Well, you've got a couple more good years with your daughters before they turn into teenagers." And this comment is supposed to be ... what, exactly? Certainly not helpful. It's not even constructive criticism. I heard the comment so often that I began to truly fear the teen years.

I also receive email from organizations called "EmpoweringParents" and other such names. The organizations offer advice on how to handle hostile, angry, back-talking, defiant, disrespectful, anxious kids.

I know that the teen years can be rough. I was one difficult, angry teen myself. But this can be a wonderful phase of life, too. Tweens and teens are deciding whom they want to be. It's been magical to watch my daughters discover interests that light them up - marching band, acting, lacrosse, the Warped Tour. Sure, I sometimes wish they cared more about what interests me - community service, books. But they have broadened my world.

There's nowhere I'd rather be than talking with one of them when they have a decision to make about how to treat a friend, stand up for themselves or style their "look." They usually don't ask for my advice, but if I listen carefully, I know when there's an issue they might want help with.

So, now I make it a point to tell parents with younger kids, the teen years can be OK. In fact, exciting. One kind mom - out of dozens of moms and dads - told me that along the way, and I'm grateful she did.