Oh shit: I really am old enough to have a teenager

Guest post by Jenn

Photo by Tammy McGary, used under Creative Commons license.

I don’t know how my parents did it. Honestly, I’m not sure I know how any parent does it.

When you’re in the mix of diapers and tantrums and first grade plays and Toothfairy charades, you really can’t envision your children as teenagers. We get caught up in the thick of life in the moment — as it should be — and it seems impossible to envision our kids as these independent, intellectually expressive beings.

But then suddenly you’re staring at it. And, like me, you’re probably all “WTF?! When did I become old enough to have a teenager?”

Hell, sometimes I still get lost in trying to process the fact that the hospitals let me leave with them, let alone the fact that I’ve spent almost 14 years in the mothering gig. But here I am. The daughter is only 13, but in three short years she’ll be driving.

Presumably. I haven’t really decided on that just yet.

The years, they hand-to-heart go by incredibly fast. It’s a cliche for a reason, and it borders on cruel. Just three years ago she was knee-deep in Twilight and Justin Timberlake. Now she hates pretty much any thing teenage-girl mainstream — she definitely beats to her own drum. (And it’s such a beautiful rhythm.)

You don’t realize time has escaped until you’re staring at a child who — if you’re lucky — has these incredible thoughts, opinions, wit, and creativity. And it’s like, “WOW: who is this amazing creature and how did I have any hand in shaping her?” Then, suddenly, you’re face-to-face with reality of the terrifying milestones to come. Already I’m paralyzed with how I am ever going to let her drive and be responsible for her own life.

Then… there’s dating and sex and the gamut of worries surrounding peer pressure, alcohol, and drugs.

Seriously. What in the hell were my parents thinking in ever letting me out of the house? Perhaps that’s what’s so scary about watching her grow up: I remember what I was thinking and doing by the time I was fourteen. Thankfully, she’s not me and is so much smarter, independent, and exceptional than I ever could have hoped to have been at her age.

Now that we’re embarking on the big scary world of independence, I can only hope that my parenting up to this point has given her the tools she needs to be respectful, careful, and strong. As hard as it’s going to be, I know that I have to allow her the freedom to think for herself, to experience life, and even to make mistakes. This is the point when I have to start coming to terms with just how much I have (but hopefully have not) royally screwed up.

But I’m still not sure I’m letting her drive.


Comments on Oh shit: I really am old enough to have a teenager

  1. My son is only 5, but I still look at him and think, “Holy shit! He’s a real kid and not a baby anymore!!” He’s quite the handful now with debating EVERYTHING, so I shudder to imagine what he’ll be like as a teenager. 🙂

    • My daughter is nowhere near as scary a teenager as I feared she’d be based on what she was like as a child. (Admittedly, part of this, for me, has to do with the fact that she lives with her dad so I get to be the ‘fun parent’ a lot of the time.) But I think a lot of it is down to the fact that we hashed out a lot of issues when she was younger, also, I’ve always been a firm believer in two-way communication and making her take responsibility for herself.
      That, and I suspect dumb luck. I just happen to have an extremely awesome person as a daughter.

  2. Holy crap. My husband and I often muse that if we had gotten with this baby making when we first got married, we would have a 12 year old now. Instead, we have a 2 year old. So not ready.

    • Yeah, we have these moments too! I wanted to start having kids about four years ago… but to think of having a three year old now?? Can’t imagine it. Definitely not ready. Then again, I guess we’re never really ready until we do something!

  3. I remember looking at my husband one night when I was pregnant and going “Oh my god, one day she is going to be a teenager, I am so not ready to parent a teenager”. My husband just laughed at me and said “Its not like she comes out a teenager, we have a few years to prepare.”

    Thank you for relaying so beautifully how parents feel. I’m still not ready to parent a teenager, but hopefully I can look at it with the fantastic perspective that you have.

  4. My “kids” are 23 and 18 years old, and my wife is 35 weeks pregnant! Even after already doing it, I dread our baby getting to the age when independence is inevitable, but the smile on their face when they accomplish something by themselves is more than worth it.

  5. Since I originally wrote that entry, my daughter has successfully turned 14. *SCARY*
    Although we’ve had to battle with some fairly serious issues dealing with her depression (a future Offbeat Mama post in the making), she really is a fantastic kid and not nearly as “scary” as I think other 14 year old girls are.

    She’s still very much her own person and is more interested in writing comedic plays, novels, and watching anime than she is in dating or trying to fit some middle school social status quo. I think that’s pretty rad!

    Some days, though, I am still at a loss as to how we got here so fast. Watching old videos or looking at old pictures of her is the worst! I mean, I love it, obviously, but I see that little girl and it makes me so sad that she’s gone (well, that version of her).

    My son is only 11, so thankfully I’ll get to go through this whole teenager thing one more time before I completely lose my mind. 🙂

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