We start messing up when our children are born, or perhaps before. Pregnant mothers don't eat enough broccoli during pregnancy. We drink too much pop. We play the wrong music. We read the wrong newspapers. And we don't breathe right. From birth on, things just get worse. Fathers are too absent. Too present. Too stern. Too lenient. Virtually everything parents do is wrong. Yet somehow most of our children grow up to become reasonably responsible citizens. Then they produce children of their own who are just as messed up as they were.

Depressing? Not at all. What's depressing for parents is teenhood. If our children survive ages 13 to 19, they (and we) can survive anything. We're sure of it. So even though teenagers pay no attention to us, we keep talking.

How can you help your children survive the teen years? You can't. No matter what you do, you'll mess things up. But don't feel bad, other parents are messing up their kids, too. What follows are stories of how my husband and I messed up our teenagers. Believe it or not, they turned out to be delightful adults who seem to actually like their parents, in spite of everything. Hang in there.

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