I am the mom of a teenager. Ugh! What? Back that one up, turn around three times and say it again. Tried it. I still am.
Yep, that's right, I've officially been granted the rights to be a mom of a teen. It's not really that bad—yet. When my son turned 13 a month and a half ago, I'll admit it, I had to take a good hard look at myself and recognize that I am officially getting old.
I'm not sure where the time goes. Our blogger, Julie, from Family Fun in Omaha, wrote a couple weeks ago about kindergarten round-up and her feelings about her son going off to kindergarten. I remember that time so clearly. It really feels like it was yesterday.
I'm sure you all hear from older people (myself now included) that you should relish it now, time goes by so fast. And when my son was young, I'd look at those people and smile and think, well the stage we are in right now isn’t going fast enough. But then suddenly I woke up one morning and somehow 13 years had passed by. The memories of him calling pepperoni pizza strawberry pizza, the inability to pronounce the word regular to such an extent that we all started calling it reg-u-la-lar, the hugs and kisses at any moment when we least expected it. It's gone.
When I first found out I was having my older son, there was excitement, fear, and planning. Would we be good enough parents? Would he turn out out okay? Would he ever understand that we loved him so much that no matter what came our way we’d still love him and protect him? Those thoughts have never left me. They continue to grow every day.
Last night I sat up with him until 11:30 talking about life, friends, people, viewpoints, and everything under the sun. I was tired, but we hadn't had these talks in so long, I wanted to be there and take it all in. This was amazing. My boy, who I had held and loved and tried so hard to be the right kind of parent, was now experiencing the things that in a blink of an eye I can remember myself going through. We get each other. I see so much of myself in him that it's sometimes scary. I can almost look over the horizon and see him on his own, trying to figure out life, love and everything else on his own. But as I told him last night, he will never be alone, no matter what.
Do you remember that first year of your child's life? The nights and days sometimes seem to blend together. You wonder if they will ever sleep through the night, sit-up, not cry every time you walk out of the house without them. And then suddenly, like the heat we feel will never end in the summer, it magically turns to cool crisp days of fall and we've forgotten lamenting the heat and the sun that doesn't seem to stop shining.
Then we find ourselves in the next stages. The first words. The first step. The first everything. You are born again with each new thing. It's like spring when you see the new growth magically coming from out of what you remembered last week to be hard frozen ground. You tell yourself you will never forget that moment. But trust me, no matter how many photos, it fades.
School starts and again, things are all brand new. New friends, new parents, new everything. I remember that first day of kindergarten. If I close my eyes tight enough, I can see the photos in my head of my husband walking ten feet behind us getting those walking away pictures that not only seem to emphasize my rear but also somehow symbolized the walking away from that cozy familiar place we had lived for the previous five years.
Throughout those elementary years, there are new happenings every day. They come home and tell you about everything, and your house starts to explode in papers of not only art but homework assignments and tests. They start to really become themselves. They recognize injustice. They recognize cliques. They recognize stress. They recognize the moving away of friendships that they had held dearly because they now are different than they were 2, 3, or 4 years ago. They appreciate happy days and sour when it's been a bad one. And all the while, you become more and more acutely aware of how little control you really have of what happens in their lives. Like the storms that pop up from out of no where, no matter how prepared, you sometimes find yourself caught completely off guard.
And then it happens. They. Don’t. Want. You. Say what? How could you not want to hang out with your incredibly cool parents? But, it's true. They want to be with friends. They start to leave the house for more than just sleep overs. They go to the park, to the ice cream shop, for bike rides—all without you. And you wonder if you are being too lax. You wonder if they know how to defend themselves if need be. You wonder how they grew those little wings and started to fly.
Middle school has brought all new and some old things. The independence grows. There are new friends. New kinds of people that you hope they stay (very far) away from. There are parents of new friends that you don’t know. There are stories about other kids that make your jaw drop. And still, you hold tight in the belief that their judgment is sound. And sometimes it is. Sometimes it's not.
And so, here I sit. The mom of a teenager. It has gone by so fast. And yet I know there are still plenty more things to be had. I know that like the seasons, each phase of life for these kids is different. As a parent, some seasons you wish could last forever (spring, early fall) and others you just want them to go away (late summer, winter). And they repeat over and over but different every time. And sometimes you want to throw your hands up in the air and say, "that's it. If we have one more bad winter, I'm outta here." But you stay. Because you love and you care. And most of all, because you can't wait to see what happens next.