What Happens As Your Son Turns 16

by Claudia Caramiello
16-year-old boy in a green shirt and dark-olive jacket leaning on the wall and looking up
Claudia Caramiello

As he turns 16, he will be quick to tell you that you’re not needed anymore, and slow to ask for help.

As he turns 16, he will spend less time with you. Quality over quantity will become your mantra.

As he turns 16, his friends will outrank you. Make sure he is surrounded by good ones, but try not to judge the “bad” ones.

As he turns 16, he will be entrenched in social media. Likes and follows are worth gold to him. Be a present figure in his online life, but do so at a distance. Resist commenting on all of his posts. A few low key likes on his Instagram pics is acceptable. Anything more will embarrass him. If he follows you back consider this a win.

As he turns 16, he will want pricey clothes from American Eagle and Hollister. He will beg you for 200 dollar Timberland boots. This is totally fine. You prefer Lord & Taylor’s over Wal-Mart as well. Have him get a job. This will not only instill a sense of pride in him, but give your wallet a break. He will quickly learn if eight hours of washing dishes at the local diner is really worth those expensive shoes.

When he saves his money consider this another win.

As he turns 16, he will suddenly covet abs. With his rapid growth in height, he will be long, lanky and criminally handsome, yet insist on being “cut.” You will find yourself cooking low carb recipes for him as he gets leaner, erasing all physical signs of that kid that used to call you mommy.

It’s strictly Mom now.

As he turns 16, invest in Clearasil, Panoxly foaming wash, and salicylic acid. Pimples will bother him more than he lets on. When he gets one, or seven, don’t say a word. Just leave the products on the bathroom counter.

As he turns 16, he may unnerve you with his blatant cocky swagger. You may question “Where is my child — the one I raised to be a decent young man?” He’s there Mama, but honestly, he lives for pushing your buttons. The less reaction you give, the less he will push. But never tolerate disrespect. Remember you’re raising someone’s future husband.

As he turns 16, you may feel bemused with the amount of time he frets over his hair. He will use your hairdryer — the good one with the Italian motor, your olive oil infused comb, and anything else in your hair care arsenal. Do yourself a favor, introduce him to men’s hair wax and paste. Teach him the difference and then let him decide between touchable, controlled hair, or high shine.

Have him avoid hair gel. He will look outdated. Remember the show Growing Up Gotti? Consider yourself lucky if you don’t.

As he turns 16, he will be able to sleep 14 hours. He will wake at noon, announce he’s tired by 3, and take a snooze at 4:30. Is he depressed? Lazy? Possibly lacking an essential vitamin? Most likely no. Like an infant, the teenage species needs large amounts of recuperating sleep. A teen brain is complex and growing. Sleep allows cells to be refreshed and the frontal cortex to mature. Yes, your teenager is maturing!

As he turns 16, have him read The Scarlet Ibis by James Hurst, watch Life Is Beautiful by Roberto Benigni, and listen to “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. He will be a better person for it.

As he turns 16, his reasoning skills will ever so slightly improve. Finally. He may actually understand why it was a bad idea to skip studying for his chemistry midterm. Take this opportunity to rejoice.

As he turns 16, don’t be so quick to save him from his mistakes. It will go against every grain of motherly instinct, but let him fail once in awhile. This will teach him to handle that uneasy feeling when life is less than perfect. And it often is. But let him know you got his back when things get too rough.

As he turns 16, he will think a lot about sex. There’s a good chance he may even have it. Talk candidly with him about values, responsibility, feelings, and any religious beliefs. Make your expectations clear, but avoid scare tactics. If you want him to wait until he’s in college to become sexually active, communicate this to him, but be accepting if he doesn’t. He needs to know he is loved unconditionally.

As he turns 16, he may be anxious about his future. Adulthood is just a stone’s throw away. A man in a boy’s body or a boy in a man’s body? That shift from child to grown up isn’t just hard on you. A chapter is closing. And although a new one is opening, change is hard.

As he turns 16, you will mourn and celebrate. Equally.