The Other Side

Her shoulders were tense and her mouth was set in a line, as she recounted the conversation she’d had with her teenager that morning.

I smiled. “Thirteen is the worst, isn’t it?”

“Yesss!” she said on a sigh.

“There’s hope,” I told her. “Seventeen was a turnaround age for my kids. I was sitting on my bed folding laundry, when my daughter came in, sat down and started telling me about her day. I thought, Who are you? And where have you been for the last few years?”

Her mouth turned up, but she still sighed.

This is what people dread when they say they never want their little ones to grow up. But every age has something we’re happy to leave behind.

Well on the opposite side of those teenage years now, I’m dwelling less on the rough conversations, late nights, and drama. I’m glad the full calendar, endless events and rides, my-needs-come-last time is over.  I do believe that kids must pull away from us to become adults, and that’s hard for everyone involved. But there were amazing moments from that time too.

Last week a coworker showed me a video of her son’s solo in the school musical. And I remembered many other recitals, plays, impromptu performances.

I recalled one daughter’s grace and speed, as she leaped through the air, legs perfectly parallel to the floor.

I thought of my other daughter’s purposeful drive down a soccer field, her powerful kick, coordinated team passes, aggressive play.

I remembered stories told from first jobs, caring for others. I reminisced about proms, lovely dresses and makeup, and where-did-my-little-girl-go?

When else in our lives are we both skillful enough and free to try on roles like hats: scholar, dancer, artist, athlete, singer, star? How many of us continue any of these identities past those tumultuous teenage years?

While you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my own adolescence, now I can look back at my daughters’ teen years with a sense of wonder.

But for the mother of a thirteen-year-old, there’s nothing to do but wait.



28 thoughts on “The Other Side

  1. I don’t have kids, but I have two nephews who are still 7 and 8. And, from what I read in your post and what I hear from other parents, we – their parents and I – need to brace ourselves, for sure! Time flies by at such a speed. Today they are not yet 10 and tomorrow, just like that, they will be in their teens! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, this makes me so sad, and somehow simultaneously hopeful. Kids grow and change so fast. Mine are seven and two, and I try to appreciate their life and exuberance each day. But as parents we are so busy and distracted with things like dishes and laundry, I hope I don’t let the little moments slip by – like you mentioned those impromptu living room dances. Beautiful job, Margaret.

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  3. Raising kids–it’s like making a big old pot of soup that you tend to so lovingly, spicing it just so–a pinch of this, a sprig of that–except you’re not the only cook and sometimes a person who has NO freakin’ idea what veggies go with what and that you DO NOT PUT certain spices in until the end and soon the soup turns out to be nothing like you had envisioned, but somehow, somehow it still turns out completely warm and amazing. (Or, I guess, in some cases, sour and turned). Anyway, you get my point. I would have liked to know who “she” is sooner in your story. But, other than that, I really enjoyed reading this and found it so relatable. I often tell my 9-year-old son to cut it out with the growing already!

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  4. As you read last week, I’m right on the edge of 13 in my house. And I’m doing my best to remember that my almost-teen is just as bewildered by all of this as I am. I do, however, look back at the baby/toddle/preschooler stages and remember when…

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  5. I have a 21 yo and a almost 14 yo (both boys though). We’ve had surprisingly little drama, much to my surprise. It will be nice to put myself first but with the age gap, I’ve a ways to go. Very relatable though – even with little drama, we have had some!

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    1. Moms of boys have told me that rather than drama they get silence and/or very occasional angry outbursts. Also there seems to be a theme of eventually challenging their fathers. Glad yours have been almost drama free. Best wishes on your way to go! 🙂


  6. I had the joy of being around right at the moment when my husband’s kids started shifting from needy to showing up only when there is free food. It was jarring for me. I have no idea what it was like for hubby and his ex, but I imagine exactly as you said above. hehe

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  7. I loved the way you sort of wandered through ages and moments, but ended back where you started. The changes felt connected yet much like the way your memories would seep in during a conversation like that. And the last line made me laugh. Thirteen is a pretty awful age for girls!

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