Today my firstborn turns 13. Last night I tucked him into bed for the last time as a child and today he woke up as a teenager. A teen. No more pre-, no more child. A teen. The years of adolescence. Going from childhood to adulthood. The teenage stage has begun. I have always wondered how it would feel upon entering the teenage years as a mom.
Growing up myself I was always made to feel like becoming a teenager was some horrible milestone. Once I was a teen I’d hate my mom, become rude, and rebel. Even just looking on google and searching the word teenager you shudder at the results about how to parent the tough teenage years. How to survive with a teen. How to discipline a teenager. How to cope with disrespectful teens.
Overall as a society, we look at the teenage years of parenting much as we look at the toddler years of parenting. Terrible twos. Terrible teens.
When it has come to my own children I have associated the teenage years with a sort of sadness. The end of the era of childhood. My babies growing up. Needing me less. Wanting me less. Disconnecting from the little kid I had under my feet for so long into a young adult who I will be longing to hold onto just a little longer.
Leading up to this parenting milestone I have expected tears. I’ve anticipated having a sort of mommy meltdown where I lay in a puddle of self-pity while surrounded by pictures of my teenage son as an infant. Where I wish I could go back. Where I worry that I didn’t do enough, prepare him enough, or failed him in some way during the last 13 years that will impact how he copes through the tough years ahead.
I’ve been waiting. And waiting.
But the tears have yet to come.
Maybe they will. Maybe it will hit me later. Maybe I will have to come back to this post and share an update about the sleepless night where I sobbed into my pillow.
But I honestly don’t think that’s going to happen.
I’m surprised by this. I’m surprised that this hasn’t felt sad. Hasn’t felt emotional. That I haven’t been filled with worry about how the next several years will be.
I’m surprised by how much confidence I feel. I know with confidence that my son hasn’t had some magical mystical switch flipped that’s turned him into some teenage monster to fear or try to trap.
The last thirteen years have been wonderful. It’s been a true blessing and gift to be his mother. The most surprising thing for me? Is that I wouldn’t go back. I am more excited for what lies ahead than I am missing what was in the past.
A couple at church recently went through the transition into empty nesters when their youngest went off to college. I was shocked to hear them say that they were happy and excited for the next phase of life. Of parenting. They said that each stage of parenting only gets better, is only more fun.
So often we hear that the days of having little ones are the best of our lives. That we need to slow down and leave the dirty dishes in the sink and enjoy the moments of having our babies wanting us, needing us, loving on us. We are made to fear the future as a mom. Made to believe a dark storm cloud lays ahead just waiting to pour down endless rain in the form of moody teens, distant relationships, and feelings of sadness and grief for those “best days” behind us.
I love the deeper conversations we’re able to have with our teen. I love that we can watch movies and shows and read books together that are more entertaining as adults. I love that his level of humor is more on our level and truly funny. I love that his problems and concerns are ones I can better relate to. I love that he is his own unique person and the perspective he brings to our lives.
Yes, there are moody moments. Eye rolls. Frustrations. Puberty. Sometimes he says things that make me wonder who I’m even talking to. We’ve even had the occasional knock-down drag-out over the fact that “everyone” has a phone except him.
And I know there will be even more to come. School problems. Social media drama. We’ll likely face self-esteem struggles and have to be constantly aware of any potential mental health concerns. I know more freedoms will result in moments of disappointment as a parent. I know he will face heartbreak and letdowns that a kiss and a bandaid can’t fix. I know it will be so difficult at times.
I know my tears will fall too. I know it will be hard watching him transition from this boy to a man. The process of young adulthood. The ups and downs and the big milestone moments. Driving. Girlfriends. Graduation. I know I will have my mommy meltdown moments from time to time.
But it will also be so good. So fun. A new parenting challenge that I feel well equipped to face. An opportunity to help him navigate through life while giving him the strength that comes from knowing you’re not facing the scary parts alone.
I still matter. I still have work to do. Parenting doesn’t end when childhood is over. In many ways it is just beginning.
This is the good part. The deep part. The stuff that really, really matters. This is also where the reward comes. The groundwork we’ve laid as parents over the last 13 years gets to be put into practice. We get to see and enjoy, the fruits of that labor. And I get to be here for it all.
I think it’s so important to change the narrative when it comes to entering the teen years as a mom. Instead of dreading it, let’s look forward to it. Fellow parents need to hear the GOOD about raising teens! Instead of letting our kids hear us complain about the teenage years, let’s talk positively about it. No groaning or moaning or “bless your hearts” as a friend goes through the milestone parenting moment.
Our teenagers need us to be excited. They need to feel celebrated and cherished. Not just for the babies they were, but for the people they are. Right now. Let’s not look at the teenage years as a period we’re rushing through. They feel that pressure. To hurry up. Be an adult. Put all the childish stuff aside and grow up already. Let’s slow down. Let them slow down.
Enjoy this stage. Right now.
I hope by embracing the now and focusing on enjoying the next years of parenting a teen that it will not only encourage him and support him and help him navigate this time in his life but will also help me. Help me be prepared and ready for the next stage of parenting ahead. My goal is to face the college years with the same joy and excitement that I feel for the teenage ones. Continue learning and growing together.
Yes, he’s still my baby. But even better – he’s my son. I’m so thankful for the healthy relationship we have and know it will make all the difference in parenting teen life. He will always know I’m his mom and that my love for him is unending. Through it all, he has his family. He has us all. And he has me. I will be here. Smiling. Arms open. Embracing the now and the future with joy and thanksgiving and so much love.