What is it about mothering a 12-year-old that you liked the most? The least?
What I love about age 12 is that sometimes my child is now a true companion, in that he understands some of the movies and books I enjoy, and he appreciates travel and restaurants so much more than he did when he was younger. However, I also love that sometimes he is still a child who wants to hang out with me, or who does not mind going to an animated movie or playing on a playground with his siblings. I enjoy the in-between-ness of 12. What I enjoy the least is the attitude. He already thinks he knows everything. I shudder to think what the next few years will bring!
When did you know your child was a teenager?
I knew my child was a teenager (well, he’s 12, but still) when he didn’t want to dress up for Halloween this year. It wasn’t that he was against it or thought it was babyish; it was that he truly wasn’t interested. Oh, the abundance of armpit hair is a big tip-off too.
What do you wish you knew before you had a teen?
I wish that I had known exactly how fast this moment comes. It’s so cliché and trite, but seriously, how did this happen? I wish I had known, when I was crying because I was so sleep deprived, or when I was crying because he just would not potty train, that I would so very quickly be crying because he’s so grown up. And I know it’s not over. It’s still the beginning of the crying because he’s so grown up.
What advice do you wish you could tell your former self or a close friend about mothering a 12-year-old?
I wish I could tell someone that mothering a 12-year-old is so good. It’s not the same as mothering a baby or a toddler or a child, but it is so good in its own way. You smile because you never expected it to be this fun. Even when it is maddening and tough and heartbreaking, it is still so rich with emotion and the magic of watching your child change so much. These years are teeming with life, good and bad. But the life is what is so good.
What about motherhood inspires you?
Everything about motherhood inspires me. My highest highs and my lowest lows spring from the act of mothering. It makes me feel completely alive.
What do you hope readers will take with them from your piece?
I hope readers will take away that the “just wait” warnings that we catch so often when our children are toddlers are not curses. Tweens and teens can be wonderful. There’s so much to look forward to. I hope that they can look forward to this time.
Purchase Brain, Child’s Special Issue for Parents of Teens, which includes the This is Adolescence Series – Eight essays from America’s leading writers about mothering kids ages 11 – 18.
Read an excerpt: This is Adolescence: 12