Why I'm Not Wishing Away The Teenage Years

by Lori Istok
Lori Istok

On my daughter’s fourteenth birthday, I posted two photos of her on social media: a current photo, alongside an adorable picture of her as a toddler. I captioned my post “How time flies!”

Logging into Instagram later that day, I saw that my daughter had also posted a photo of herself in honor of her birthday. Her hashtag read “finally14.”

“How time flies” versus “finally 14.” The irony of this did not escape me. The years, which had passed for me in the blink of an eye, were truly a lifetime for her.

These days it’s hard to get my teenage daughter out of the house before noon on the days when she doesn’t have school. She sleeps late, lingers over breakfast, and then likes to climb back under the covers to check texts and emails, watch YouTube videos, or take BuzzFeed quizzes. It seems like only yesterday when she, not yet two-years-old, would toddle over to our apartment door, shoes in hand, and say, “Out?” eager to go on an adventure the instant she awoke.

How does that saying go? “The days are long, but the years are short.” I remember a beautiful fall day in Brooklyn when my fourteen-month-old and I collected acorns in Prospect Park for hours. She delighted in picking them up off the ground and stuffing her pockets full, carrying the overflow in her shirt. When she could no longer hold any more acorns, we took them out of her pockets one at a time, counting them, and then put them back in her pockets again.

My daughter could have repeated this task happily all day. In fact, when we finally returned to our apartment, she invented a new variation on the game, placing the acorns one by one in a bucket, and then dumping them out on the rug to count before starting all over again. The days are long, but the years are short.

I go into my son’s room to tuck him in, savoring the task since I imagine it won’t be long before my eleven-year-old no longer wishes to be tucked in. As I pull the blanket up to his chin, I am amazed at how tall he’s become! His body stretches the entire length of his twin-size bed — my boy who was only eleven inches long, weighing a mere one pound, seven ounces at his extremely premature birth.

“You’re bigger than the bathtub!” I tease, reminding him of the time he’d exclaimed this very thing in delight, upon realizing he’d grown and his body now reached from one end of the tub to the other when he bathed.

He grins, still my little boy for at least this one moment. And yet, he will groan and roll his eyes the next day when I forget the preferred terminology and ask if he’d like a play date with a friend, rather than asking if he’d like to have a friend over to hang out. The teenage years, with their eye-rolling and sarcasm, are just around the corner.

Sure enough, that eleven-year-old boy recently celebrated his thirteenth birthday. “Is William turning thirteen?!”my daughter asked in disbelief. Even to her, it seemed impossible.

“Yes,” I replied, “Soon I’ll have no more little kids…only teenagers.”

Almost at the same time, my daughter cried out, “Sorry!” and my son, “Good luck!” Their reaction made me laugh, and although it is difficult raising two teenagers, I would not have it any other way. For isn’t that our job as parents: to raise our children from infancy through childhood, into the teenage years, and finally on to adulthood and independence? I am not sorry to have teenagers; I am sorry not to have young children anymore though.

The days are long, but the years are short.

My mother used to shake her head and exclaim over the way the years seem to pass faster and faster the older one gets. “Seems like just yesterday…” she would begin. I would nod, pretending I understood, but it’s only recently that I’ve actually begun to feel what she was describing.

We live in an area which is home to several colleges. Each fall, we watch as the sidewalks get busier, the traffic increases, the student parking lots fill up with cars. Each May, there is a slowing down and an emptying out, as college winds down for the year, summer approaches, and many of the students head home.

Lately it seems like the interval between fall and summer gets shorter and shorter. My mother was right. May arrives faster with each passing year. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but as I get older, time is passing more quickly.

My daughter just finished tenth grade, and my son seventh. All I have to do is blink, and the remaining years of high school and middle school will have flown by, and they will be the ones packing up to go off to college. I try to keep that in mind on the days when I find myself arguing with them over makeup, clothing, or time spent on phones/computers/video games, and wish the difficult teenage years were past.

The days are long, but the years are short…shorter than ever. Savor every moment, and don’t blink.