What is it about mother a 15-year-old that you like the most?
As I teach middle and high school, I feel really comfortable with this age. When my kids were really small, I loved their squishiness and their baby smell, but I really revel in the conversations we can have now that they are able to think critically, and have their own opinions and beliefs that differ from mine. It’s so much more fun to debate an adolescent and be able to employs logic than to do battle with the frustrating obstinacy of toddlers.
Obviously, teens have preferences and opinions that make life more complicated, too, but in the end, I would always prefer parenting teens over toddlers!
When did you know your child was a teenager?
When he became protective of his thoughts and his privacy. I knew that day would come, and it’s a natural part of growing up, but I was a little sad when it actually happened.
What do you wish you knew before you had a teen?
I’d heard how fast it all goes, but I didn’t know. I don’t think you can know how true that cliché is until it happens to you.
What advice do you wish you could tell your former self or a close friend about mothering a 15-year-old?
The best parenting advice for teens that I’ve ever heard, advice I keep on my desk at all times to remind me, comes from Dr. Laurence Steinberg, author of Age of Opportunity. “Protect when you must, permit when you can.”
What about motherhood inspires you?
When they are confident in their good decisions, particularly when they make these decisions without me, and without fear.
What do you hope readers will take with them from your piece?
Reassurance that the teen years don’t have to mean a withdrawal of communication, simply a change in communication. Be flexible, and willing to meet your teen where he or she is, and they may engage in novel ways.
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