As the mother of teens and tweens, I sometimes miss their younger years. Sure, the baby and toddler years are physically demanding. There are times when we're in the middle of diapering, feeding and sleepless nights, that we may yearn for our children to become more independent. Then there's a lull that lasts a couple of years, somewhere between ages 7 to 10, where they are more mature but still children. They still say "I love you," they want to cuddle with you in bed, and puberty is still a vague notion for the entire family.
And then, before you know it, they're more independent than perhaps you, as a mother, are prepared to accept.
With puberty come growth spurts, peer pressure, and boundary-pushing. One day, the child that was once a darling, cooing baby, irks you. And maybe that same day, in her eyes, you go from adored mother to irritating parental figure.
As my eldest, who is now 14, progresses on her journey to young adulthood, I'm experiencing all kinds of emotions. I'm also learning a lot about my own childhood and teenage years, and about the family members that raised me.
2. I get my parents better.
When I think back to my teen years, when I would go into fits of rage and crying spells, I couldn't understand why my father would walk away. I thought if he loved me, he would stay in my room and figure things out with me. Now I know exactly how it feels to have a teen (and a tween) talk back to you and go into moods for no apparent reason. And sometimes I'm so caught up with my own concerns that I don't have the time or the energy to deal with them. And for a few minutes, I do walk away. Talking comes later, when they've both simmered down.
My 14-year-old is eager to get her learning permit next year. And of course, I'm scared out of my wits. I had a bad accident at 18 (the year when I got my driver's license in Spain). I totaled my dad's car. I didn't suffer any serious injuries. Still, he didn't talk to me for a couple of months. And he never let me drive his car ever again. When my daughter speaks excitedly of driving with her friends, I think back to how cocky I was behind the wheel and cringe. And that was before teens had cell phones!
Photograph by Phillippe Diederich
4. I need to brace myself for the future
Maybe because I feel a deep connection with my own feelings during childhood and the teen years, and because I was not exactly a model teen, I'm gearing up.
I know my father, who had me at 24, was perhaps young and naïve and did not expect me to change when I became a teenager. I know better — perhaps because I had my first baby at 37. I've seen the changes in friends' children. I remember what happened with me. I watch my children. My husband and I discuss them often, and we can see glimpses of the challenges each of our children will bring as they grow up.
Right now, I'm enjoying the eye of the storm, that moment of calm before our younger ones, 11 and 12, will also become teens. We'll deal with it as it comes. In the meantime, we hope for the best but are certainly prepared for the worst. Of course, we don't tell them that.