My daughter is about to leave middle school and embark upon the adventure called high school. In recent days, I’ve been traveling back in my memory to different parts of her childhood, completely against my will. I try to live in the moment, but I keep having to look through old photos for slide shows, which are nothing more than clever devices meant to make me cry. During these forays into her virtual babyhood, I have come to the realization that having a teenager is VERY similar to having a baby. Now, I’m not talking about having one around the house. I am talking about the ACT of HAVING a baby/teenager. Let me explain.
Before you become a parent, you mentally prepare yourself as best you can with stories, books, and advice from other parents. Before you become the parent of a teen, you do the same. In both cases you think you are getting a pretty good handle on it, and then when the process begins, you realize that only about 4% of what you learned applies to your situation, and your time would have been better spent reading fantasy novels. You spend a lot of time and money buying “stuff” that you will “need” for a baby, such as a crib, and diapers, and little gadgets to put in their room so you can hear them if they need you. You spend a lot of time and money on “stuff” you will “need” for a teenager too. But now it’s an Ipad, neon socks (which will not be worn as matching sets), and a smart phone so you can hear them if they need you.
When labor begins, it starts with a pain. This pain is usually centered in your abdomen and radiates out to the other parts. It comes on with little or no warning, and it changes who you are…until a moment later, when the pain disappears as if it never happened. This process of alternating earth-shattering pain and complete lack thereof progresses until the little person inside your body is finally pushed out into the world…the real world, where you can only do so much to protect them from harm besides love them and offer them the shelter of your arms.
When teendom begins, it starts with a pain. This pain centers around your heart and radiates out to all the other parts. It’s usually in the form of a rude comment, a friendship breakup that you can’t fix, or the fact that your little sweetheart wants to do anything that doesn’t involve you. It comes with little or no warning, and it changes who you are…until a moment later, when you are joking and laughing, and your kid gives you a hug, and the pain disappears as if it never happened. This process of mind-numbing pain, and complete lack thereof continues until your child is finally pushed out into the world…THE world….the REAL world…where you can barely do anything to protect them besides love them, and offer them the shelter of your arms.