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Ask Ellie: Find the humour in parenting a grumpy teen

Advice: Find the humour and keep it light during the cranky teen phase. But if you have any real concern that there is actually something wrong, then find someone for your teen to talk to.

Dear Lisi: My teenager is so grumpy!!! She can’t wake up in the morning, refuses to eat breakfast and leaves the house with a trail of papers, gum wrappers, and phone chargers dripping from her bag. Somehow, she’s always late for school even though we live three blocks away and I force her out with 20 minutes to get there.

She never lets me know if and when she’s coming home for lunch, so the “right” food is never on hand. I’ve learned to avoid lunchtime meetings (I work from home) as much as possible because it’s inevitable that those will be the days she brings eight friends over.

But when she does, those are the best days. I see her smile, I hear her laugh, and I know that she’s happy. Of course, I avoid being seen because I’ll get the “look” for simply existing in my own home.

By the time she gets home from school, she’s grumpy again (still?) and I can barely talk to her. The day usually ends with a door slamming, heavy sigh, and lots of eye rolling.

Was I this bad? Could anyone have ever been this grumpy? How long does this fun stage last?

Excerpts from a Mom’s daily journal

You made me laugh, so thank you! As Philip Philip’s sings, “Know you’re not alone….” Many mothers of a teenager — son, daughter or otherwise — know what you’re going through and feel your pain. There are loads of Instagram accounts created solely about this stage.

But remember — it’s a stage. I can’t promise it’ll get better, or how long it will last, but it will change. So, hang in there. Find the humour. Keep it light. And commiserate with all of your friends on the same timeline.

My only caveat is that, if you have any real concern that there is actually something wrong, then definitely find someone for your daughter to talk to.

Dear Lisi: I think my girlfriend’s dog is racist, and it’s very embarrassing. I am a short, non-athletic white guy in my early 40s. I’ve never been married, and don’t have any children.

I recently met a woman online and we quickly chose to meet in person. She suggested we go for a walk as she has a big rescue dog that needs to go out several times a day. We hit it off and the dog seemed to like me too. We walked almost every night for the next month, getting to know each other. It’s been great!

The problem is her dog. He almost always barks and snarls at tall men of colour. My girlfriend is very cute, petite, with a really big smile. She always apologizes and the men walk on, but not before giving me angry looks.

I don’t think I can ever walk this dog on my own. How do I handle this situation?

Not a Seinfeld episode

I don’t know the dog’s history, and maybe your girlfriend doesn’t either. There could be a reason behind her dog’s fear and aggression. Or not. My dog doesn’t like my mail carrier. I thought it was his yellow jacket, but he doesn’t react to all yellow jackets. He also doesn’t like garbage trucks. Go figure. I hold the dog tight when the mail carrier is near and he’s very understanding and friendly.

It sounds like your girlfriend is aware of the problem. Bring it to her attention from your particular point of view. I’m sure she’ll see it from your perspective and you two can figure out how to handle the dog walking moving forward.

You may not be able to change the dog, but it’s a great way to learn how you two can work together as a couple to problem solve.


“I am curious why there is such a difference in the way you each respond to advice letters?

“Regarding the kidnapped pyjamas (Feb. 14) your response was that the kidnapper sounded immature. Is there no chance the PJ girl could have driven to his place to get them or they met half way? Perhaps it wasn’t important to him?

“More worrying was the reply to the self-righteous dad who disliked the nine-year-old girl staring at him. The dad figured out that there was something not quite right about the girl. One possibility is that she has a condition that she cannot control.

“You could have enlightened/educated him (and other readers perhaps) about the increase of autism in the western world. You could have sensitively offered some insights and reminded the father about compassion. Even if the young girl has no diagnosis, you could have encouraged respect.”

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: [email protected] or [email protected]