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The Trouble With Turning 13

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One of my closest friends sent me a text this week, “Tee, my daughter ran away. She’s OK. We found her and brought her back home.”

I shook my head as I thought back to when my son mentioned to me that he was thinking of running away. He was 12 at the time, upset that his dad, who he lives with, was being hard on him and he thought that he could find a better place to live. When he told me he was thinking of running away, I laughed and told him to try his best and let me know if he can find a better house with better food and an awesome dad who takes him on vacations. When I said that he laughed and never mentioned it again.

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Now my younger son is six months away from being 13 and all of a sudden he’s different. He never really was the type to talk a lot, but I can tell he’s not so excited to speak to me. I’ll text him and he won’t respond. He’s short when he does answer the phone, always ready to hang up. I asked his big brother if he is OK and he says that he’s been being rude lately.

When I finally got a hold of my son, he assured me that nothing was wrong and he’s perfectly happy with his life. Of course he’d say that. Why would he admit anything to his mother? But I thought we were closer than that and it hurts my heart to know that he’s not interested in talking to me.

All I could think about was what a wrong fit I felt like for my family. I didn’t think anyone would ever truly “get” me.

I had to stop for a moment and think back to when I was turning 13. How did I feel about my parents? Ugh. I hated them. I thought they were so stupid and lame. I was so ready to get out of their house because I thought they were weirdos who just needed to leave me alone so that I could become my fabulous self, which was absolutely nothing like they were. They must have found me at the mall and kidnapped me because, ugh, there was no way I was actually born into that family.

I ran away when I was 12. One day my brother and sister and I were all in trouble and we were lined up to receive our “punishment,” if you know what I mean. I wasn’t interested in that. I quietly slipped on my white keds and bolted out of the front door, running as fast as I could until I reached my friend Kim’s house about five blocks away. I went inside and she gave me some water and I told her I was tired and wanted to take a nap. She let me lay in her bed, and before I knew it, Kim’s mom told me that my mom was at the door.

Rats! I was caught and forced to go back to that hellhole where I got everything I ever wanted anytime I asked for it and I always had new outfits and more cash than all of my friends and we always had lights and food and were safe and warm. But none of this mattered at the time. All I could think about was what a wrong fit I felt like for my family. I didn’t think anyone would ever truly “get” me and I figured I must be from another planet.

I don’t think I’m the only one trying to figure out why children turn into little angst-ridden fireballs just as they are about to turn 13. In this New York Times article Why Teenagers Act Crazy, Richard Friedman writes that adolescents have a brain that is wired with an enhanced capacity for fear and anxiety but is relatively underdeveloped when it comes to calm reasoning, which means that things are bigger than life for every teenager and every obstacle is a ferocious beast.

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My son and my friend’s daughter are going through growing pains just like we once did, but it sure does hurt me to watch as my son drift away from being my Sugar Pop to a teen who would rather play video games than talk to me.

I guess the real trouble with turning 13 is knowing there is nothing I can do about it.

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