Parenting is a series of highs and lows. First few months, great! All you have to do is feed the little grubs and put them down to sleep, no worries that you’re ruining them psychologically with a stray curse word or by squeezing their cheeks and calling them chubby.
Then they become mobile, and learn the art of whining, and it’s all you can do to get through the next few years … the terrible twos and the threenage years.
Then four comes, and five, and they can suddenly get themselves out of bed and use the bathroom somewhat reliably and their brains start coming up with the goofiest ideas. They’re six and adore you, and seven, and you can do no wrong, and their teeth are falling out and their gap-toothed grins will light up a room.
Then they turn eight and wow, the attitude. It would be cute if it wasn’t so annoying. But they’re still a bit squishy, they still need you, they’re still shorter than you, even if they are now starting to think they’re smarter than you.
Ten and eleven are a bit better, they’re settling into themselves, becoming more independent. But then comes the bickering. Maybe this is a multiples thing, maybe a siblings thing, I don’t know, but where they all used to get along, now they’re constantly sniping at each other. It’s relentless and deeply aggravating.
At fourteen, fifteen, it starts to taper off. They no longer have to stand on a step to hug you. The likelihood of being able to help with their homework lessens. (Can you believe you used to know how to do some of the things they have to do? I’ve definitely forgotten how to graph linear inequality and create quantitative force diagrams and write critical essays about poetry.)
You think back to the early months, when they were just hairless blobs that you could tuck into the crook of your arm. Now they guard their privacy fiercely but will still sit next to you on the sofa and allow you to tuck them under your arm for a very brief cuddle, before they head off to play a video game or write a lab report or text their friends.
You remember when you were a teenager and there was nothing worse than being different. Now you see kids embracing what makes them different from their peers, whether it’s their mental health struggles, their sexuality, their disabilities, or their unique fashion sense. It’s beautiful.
It’s almost time for them to learn how to drive. These babies who you were just buckling into car seats will now be sitting in the driver’s seat while you slam your foot into the imaginary brake on the passenger side. Soon you’ll be watching them drive away. In a very few short years, they will be leaving you.
How did it go by so fast? You can still vividly remember finding out you were pregnant, but eighteen months, three and a half, nine years old, those flew by in the blink of an eye. They started high school a few hours ago and they’re almost done with the first year.
So yes, I like having teenagers. Even though they might want to make you tear your hair out sometimes as they drain your wallet and mess up your house, this is it. We only have a few years left with them so close, and I want to soak it in as much as I can.