As a mom of three, I have always tried to appreciate whatever age and stage my kids are in. I know they grow up fast and that each phase won’t last. I know it makes the most sense to appreciate the good things about the season we’re in.
At the same time, I have admittedly had preferences for certain ages. I loved the baby stage, though I could live without the sleep deprivation. I loved the adorable toddler stage, even with all of its meltdowns and power struggles. I loved the preschool and early elementary phase, with the burst of vocabulary complete with funny pronunciations.
Then, I hate to say, the enjoyment tapers off a bit for me. The elementary and preteen years are just sort of “meh” in my book. There are awesome things about them, and I love my children dearly no matter what stage they’re in, but the cons weigh a little heavier to me in the middle years. I know a lot of parents feel the opposite, that the big-kids-not-yet-teenagers are the best. But with my first child well into the teen years, and my second child on the cusp of them, I have to say, the teen years are turning out to be my favorite. Yes, I’m serious.
Teens often get a bad rap in our society. They are viewed as difficult and moody at best, and rebellious and out of control at worst. I haven’t found that to be the case for most of the teens I know, including my own. I’ve actually greatly enjoyed entering this phase and find it a relief after the truly moody tween years.
I love that I can have real, grown-up conversations with my 16-year-old without having to figure out how to word things in a developmentally appropriate way. I love that her sense of humor has matured past the rather annoying, that-joke-doesn’t-actually-make-sense phase. I love chatting with her on coffee dates. I love that she’s starting to take more and more ownership of her life and thinking about her future in real terms. I love that she has this whole wide world of options opening up to her.
Of course, it’s not all peaches and cream all the time. Struggles are weightier than they were when she was younger. As parents, we have to help her navigate rockier terrain with more significant consequences. But we can talk about those things openly, which makes them seem less daunting for both of us.
Open, loving, two-way communication has been a goal of our parenting since our kids were little, and I feel like we’re seeing the fruits of those labors as our kids are getting older. Our girls come to us when they are curious or confused about something. They come to us when they are dealing with a problem and they aren’t afraid to voice their thoughts or disagree with us. We certainly haven’t done everything right as parents (not by a longshot), but I feel like we did get this one thing right, and it’s made all the difference.
It’s also pretty fun to be able to see the “finish line” so to speak. You’re never done being a parent, but the most time- and energy-intensive work of parenting happens in the first 15 to 18 years. I love being a mother, but I’m also really looking forward to the years after my kids are grown and flown. As they become more independent, so do I. It’s bittersweet, of course, and sometimes I’d do anything to be able to stop time. But I like the smell of freedom wafting around the corner. By the time my youngest is the age my oldest is now, I will have been in the trenches of parenting for 24 years. That’s quite a career, and I’m excited to see what comes next — for them and for me.
I know a lot of people dread the teen years, but I’m here to tell you that it isn’t always as bad as people make it out to be. Obviously every family and individual is different, and there are certainly some challenging teens. But there are also a lot of pretty awesome teens out there. It’s not a universal truth that teenagers give their parents tons of grief. Worry? Sure, there’s naturally some of that. But grief? Nah.
So far, the teen years are turning out to be my favorite. I just hope and pray that it’s this enjoyable with our other two kids when they reach this stage. Fingers crossed.