Today I became the proud owner of a brand new teenager.
Yep, my baby, turned toddler, turned tweenie, turned tween, has evolved through some sort of miracle into a teen.
Yay! Great! Now what do I do?
Yes, yes, I’ve been expecting this, of course I have, and yes, I’m alert and alarmed. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready. And where’s the instruction book, the hands-on manual? The one with the step-by-step guide to navigating the bouncing hormones, the fluctuating moods and sour surliness everyone tells me I’ll encounter? My usual sources of reference, friends with older children, have proven very disappointing. Each time I broach the teenage years they give me weary smiles, or roll their eyes, offering completely unhelpful comments like “you’ll see” or “good luck”.
Apparently, climactic changes are imminent. What, like some sort of ill wind? Or are we talking a tsunami of devastating proportions?
I’m not completely clueless, after all, I have lived with my daughter for the past 13 years. We’re a tight little team enduring the occasional spat and hissy, but overall we’re very close. But will that only intensify our dramas?
Sure, I have noticed changes in her over the past six months, but so far these changes have been subtle, and to be honest, more refreshing than crushing. Sometimes I can’t quite pinpoint them, I just sense she’s different. Or, she comes out with an observation so sophisticated, or a comment so dry in its humour, I’m struck speechless, wondering when and how it happened, this “growing up all of a sudden” bit. And where was I during the process?
Funnily enough, while I’m without an instruction manual, my cutting-edge teen seems to have a comprehensive one on tap, particularly about her perceived new rights and privileges. In fact, I strongly suspect she thinks the rules in force just a day ago, won’t be valid today. And not only does she believe she will be the enforcer of these new rules, she will also legislate them … at whim. Can’t wait for that clash.
I had no idea when my teen was born that I would end up a single mother living thousands of kilometres away from her father, nor how much effort and support he’d put in to ensure she always knew daddy loved her, no matter the distance separating them. I had no idea how much my own father would step up to the plate and help me parent her, provide for her and protect her from a cranky mummy moment.I had no idea that one day I would be so pushed to the limit, I’d run away from home, drive my car around the block and listen to the radio for half an hour while I cooled down and she fretted at home, frantic with worry that I’d gone for good. I had no idea how much I’d hurt when she was hurt, nor how much I’d want to hurt someone else who hurt her. Little did I know also how much what my own mother said was true about parenting, that line about how “you won’t understand until you become a parent yourself”, and how much I wish I’d appreciated that while she was still alive.
I knew nothing of all of this. And I really know nothing about what lies ahead, except to strap myself in tight and go along for the ride, bumps and all.
There’s still a very long way to go, my job is clearly far from over. I’ve raised the child, now it’s time to raise the adult.