The Teenage Years
I’ve heard their warnings, read many pieces, seen the movies, and yet nothing prepares you for the teenage years. I’ve only barely begun to experience them. My love turned thirteen this year. Her body is fully developed, no more remnants of baby fat to linger, her height will not see another growth spurt, and her hair is more brittle. I can still steal a peck on the lips, though mostly I bury my face in her head, inhale the scent of Redken shampoo as I kiss her each night. The familiarity of Johnson’s baby wash a fleeting memory of the past. I haven’t been able to help with her homework much for the past several years, her academic intelligence already exceeding my own. We’ve reached the era of acknowledgement of the opposite sex’s level of attraction, and yet have not entered the era of dating just yet. We’re experiencing hormones, tears without explanation, severed friendships, bullying, drama, and millions of memes and makeup tutorials. My baby can do her makeup better than I. There are a great deal of things she does not need me for any longer, and yet a whole new category of things she does.
You see, here is what I was unprepared for in the teenage years. I never understood the comment, “My child is my best friend”, “He’s my homie”, “She’s my little bestie” etc. By definition, a best friend is a person who fully understands who you are. Someone who knows the real you, the bad and good, the accomplishments and failures. A companion you confide in. A child could never be this to an adult for lack of understanding. There are things we must protect our children from as the parent. My daughter has an old soul, she is sculpted mostly from my demeanor, with the best parts of her father mixed in. Over the course of the past two years, and as my daughter has matured, entering her teenage years, we have developed a new relationship. A friendship. One that has blossomed into “Best friend” status. She is now my go-to conversationalist of every daily topic, religion, politics, movies, Hollywood, school, her friends, writing, emotions, and most importantly, life lessons. Now, she insists that it is overwhelming to listen to my life lessons on the regular in conversations of importance, however, I know it is mostly her inner teenager rolling her eyes. She will one day find herself relaying my messages to others in her life.
They say you cannot draw a line when you make your child your friend. I can assure you, I’ve learned this is not true. It has not always placed me in her favorites corner being her mother during this transition, though I will forever parent her, before a fear of hurting her feelings when necessary. She talks a lot of smack to me since the evolution of our relationship, something I tolerate because she is quick with a quip, and on point with humor. However, it has not granted her an adult status in our household. She is still turned down for sleepovers, hangouts, staying up late, and other family dynamic expectations. You can ask anyone who is familiar with my home life, I run a tight ship that is sometimes viewed as too strict. I had to make a decision last year, one it seemed she would hate me for, and for a time, she did not speak to me. They say the fear of your child hating you will redirect you from certain decisions. I’ve seen friends and family revoke decisions made after the aftershock has taken place. I understand their reasoning. Explaining to her that her anger affected me and yet would not gain her any leverage in the outcome, was a difficult time to press through. I did, and in time, she got over it which is the importance of this statement.
I’ve dreaded the teenage years as this inevitable abyss of moping and “bleepy” attitude. The truth is however, I love it. I cherish this time, the good and bad, the ups and downs, the depression and sarcasm. I relate to this version of adolescence. Is she a little a-hole at times? Indeed, but hey, she comes by it honest. It’s my job to help her embrace every emotional high and low, to let it flow, channel it, and understand when and where to hide it. I’ve got this, I live this, I understand this. When she decides to sneak out of the house, heck I may just go with her! I need a break too dang it.
I embrace that era too. I’m not so arrogant as to say my child will never cuss me, I promise she’ll only do that &*% once. I know she will likely sneak out at some point, be tempted to try drugs, call me drunk from a party to pick her up, and date a partner who will break her heart. All of this is okay. Through every mistake, she will know that I’m in her corner, ready and willing to clean up her puke, detox her, pick her up, and get nose to nose with someone while whispering words they’ll never forget. I will also be there with reminders of my stories, my mistakes, my heartbreaks, and harsh words of reality because I’m not afraid of hurting her feelings. Life lessons.
It is my job and goal as her mother to ensure life doesn’t take her off guard. To educate her to every possible scenario she may encounter, to prepare her for her reaction. I hope to spare her bad decisions and heartache, however, this is HER life. She is going to live it, she is going to learn at her own pace, and that may be linked to bad choices. The bottom line is that she learns, and that she KNOWS, without a doubt, I’m here to aid in the betterment of her life. Even if that is through tough love.
I think there is far too much pressure for parents in the teenage years. Society terrorizes us in preparation, judges us for mistakes our teens make, and yet never credits us for the good ones. It’s always dismissed as, “Oh they’re just a good kid”. Bologna. The teenage years are like everything else in this life. It is what you make it, how you react to it, and an underlying understanding that no matter what, it’s okay my friends, you did a good job!
Your child is the head cheerleader, the quarterback, straight A student, popular, has a scholarship. That’s great! You’ve done an outstanding job, bravo 👏
Your child is a geek 🤓 An outcast, a B student, shy, a loner, seems to only have one hobby or interest? That’s okay! You’ve done a good job, they are going to be fine, promise! We need computer programmers, independent workers, trade graduates, yes, even gamers! This is a technological world we are in! It doesn’t take straight A’s, college degrees, and popularity to excel in this life!
Oh your child is failing school? Mixed in with the wrong crowd. Running wild? A bully? Yes, it is still okay my friend. You’ve done a good job. Sometimes these things are attributed to bad parenting, the parents are bullies, abusive, didn’t want to be parents, etc. However, there are GOOD PARENTS who have children who simply need to push their limits. They cannot take the word of another for a life lesson, they need and will learn better hands on. The reality is, every wrong in this life, every mistake, every harm, was all originally learned the hard way to become a, “Don’t”. It is a blessing to avoid a negative experience by the wisdom of others, though it takes a level of maturity to embrace a lesson solely on words. They are not bad, they are learning the hard way, help them. They are not stupid, they are ignorant, educate them. They are not lost, they are exploring, lead them to safer roads. Be patient. Patience is a virtue and the most difficult attribute to embrace at times.
Do not fear the teenage years my friends. They are a blessing, a reminder of youth, the explosion of outbursts we desire to have as adults. Life is more exciting, heart-wrenching, and mundane in your teens than all other years. Embrace the excitement, heartache, and relentless boring routine. You’ll find more common ground, joy, and understanding for your baby. And yes, they are still just babies. So much to learn, and you will forever be, their favorite teacher no matter what they say.
All my love,