What is it about mothering a 13-year-old that you liked the most?
I love to laugh, and so does my teenager. By age 13, my son’s sense of humor had matured enough that he and I could share an abundance of movies, books, and television shows. We talked more, texted our favorite lines, and emailed clips we each knew would make the other laugh. It bonded us in a new way. It was unexpected and fantastic.
Once my son turned 13, he engaged less and less frequently with his younger brothers. He shares a room with his brother who is 19 months younger, and my 13 year old’s silence changed the dynamic of their relationship. My second son felt that loss keenly. While this withdrawal was developmentally appropriate, the effect of it on his siblings was still difficult to witness.
When did you know your child was a teenager?
When he began surfacing for breakfast at 11:00 a.m., four hours after the rest of the family had finished eating.
What do you wish you knew before you had a teen?
I had no idea how much a single person could eat between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. every night. I have never witnessed anything like the teenage appetite.
What advice do you wish you could tell your former self about mothering a 13-year-old?
Hug him every day. He may act like he doesn’t need or appreciate the show of affection, but don’t let that stop you. Embrace him every day.
What about motherhood inspires you?
Knowing my children are connecting with people outside our immediate family inspires me. From their first acquaintances in pre-school to their newest teammates on the soccer field, every time one of my children makes a friend I smile.
What do you hope readers will take with them from your piece?
Once you have a teenager, life changes for everyone in the house—parents, teenager, and siblings. Some of those changes feel like a kick in the gut. But there is still space to connect. It’s worth identifying that space. It helps you, as a parent, feel bonded to your child and able to celebrate his growing independence.
Purchase Brain, Child’s Special Issue for Parents of Teens, which includes the This is Adolescence Series – Eight essays from America’s leading writers on ages 11 – 18.
Read an excerpt: This is Adolescence: 12