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The More Teens Change, The More They Don’t

Apr02

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It’s not as though I wasn’t aware that my kids are well on their way to adulthood; I’ve had teenagers in the house for years, now. It’s been happening right in front of my eyes. But you know how you don’t realize that a kid is getting taller, but you go away for a weekend or a week and when you get back, they seem much taller, all of a sudden? This week was kind of like that, for some reason. (I don’t know why; I didn’t go anywhere.)

Maybe my long habit of denial just reached its breaking point. Maybe it was the IEP meeting at school where someone said, “And next year, when he’s a sophomore…” and I thought to myself, “There’s no way my baby is nearly a sophomore in high school…” But he is. Incontrovertible evidence of progression toward being actual grown-ups is all around me.

My daughter is now taller than I am. (Her little brother will be taller than both of us before the school year ends, I suspect, and by the end of summer he’ll be towering above us.)

My son is now shaving. Because he needs to. Because hair is growing from his face at an alarming rate.

My daughter is legally allowed to drive. She never smiles for photos, but the grin on her face in her permit picture is as wide as any I’ve ever seen.

My son goes and does things… for fun… with other people… without me having to coach him on how to behave or why it’s a good idea.

My daughter and I had a conversation the other day where I had to interrupt and say, “Wait. What does that mean?” And she looked at me like I had five heads because how did I not know that some other girl running up to her and saying, “You straight! You straight!” was a reassurance that my kid hadn’t done anything wrong, but nonetheless, this other girl’s iPod earbuds had somehow gotten tangled on her backpack? (For a moment there, I felt so uncool, all I could think of was the episode of Modern Family where Phil is explaining that he is “hip to the lingo” and so he knows that WTF means “why the face?”)

They’re growing up, I am growing more embarrassing by the second; sunrise, sunset, swiftly go the yeeeeeears…

And yet… at the very same time, it’s amazing to me how much hasn’t changed.

When I started blogging 10 (!!) years ago, I used to write fairly regularly about doing a deep-clean of the kids’ playroom only to find it trashed anew the very next day. “What happened in here?” I would ask them, stunned and incredulous. My son would always look around like it was a surprise to him, too, and just shrug. “We were just getting stuff we needed,” my daughter would say.

… now if I walk into my son’s room, I’m impressed with how organized it is… until I peek on the far side of his bed. “Is that… an entire week’s worth of dirty laundry?” He shrugs. “Can you not smell that?” I’ll press on, unable to contain myself. He shrugs again, maybe mutters an apology as he carts his socks to the bathroom hamper. Walking into my daughter’s room simply renders me speechless. “I was looking for something,” she’ll insist, before I’ve even regained control of my gaping mouth. “And then… ummm… my dresser exploded?” Indeed.

My son used to regale me with endless tales of what Thomas the Tank engine or Pikachu or the Teen Titans were doing, either on the television or in his mind, it was never entirely clear to me. I would “uh huh” and nod and try to act interested. While my ears bled.

… now if I ask “How was school?” I’ll get thirty seconds about a mistake a teacher made or a classmate who was annoying, followed by half of hour of how he realized that this or that Magic card can actually something-or-other or he’s decided that his next D&D character absolutely has to be a different class because such-and-such. I swear I listen to these litanies fully expecting him to conclude, “… because he was a very useful engine!” It never happens, though. And because he’s growing up, at least now I can sometimes gaze upon him lovingly and say, “It’s strange, because I feel certain that you are speaking to me in English, and yet this is making no sense to me at all.”

My daughter used to fill me in on all the “gossip,” thrilled to report that these girls chased this boy on the playground, or this boy reportedly had a crush on this girl who thought he was totally yucky. She’d cry to me when her friends were mean and I would try to find a way to make it better.

… now I bite my tongue any time she speaks freely to me about the world she inhabits, even if the stories are about who’s sleeping with who, and which girls are pregnant, and which boys are complete dogs, and who’s smoking weed. Sometimes she still comes to me when life’s not fair and she feels like she can’t stand it. I listen, and listen even harder when she’s not talking, and there’s not a lot I can make better. But I can still make her laugh, sometimes. When she does, I can see her former preschool self—hidden inside that teenager shell.

In other words, teenagers are a serious head trip.

About the author

Mir Kamin

http://wouldashoulda.com/
Mir Kamin began writing about her life online nearly a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she's become one of those people who talks to her dog in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she's continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she's bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.


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11 Responses to “The More Teens Change, The More They Don’t”

  1. My Kids Mom Apr 02 at 4:54 pm Reply Reply

    I’ll have my first teenager in… 39 days. He’s still so young and immature, but I see the changes in his friends. No shaving yet, but the babyish curves on the boys faces are gone, replaced by angles. I hear voices of men in my house when they come over and I still startle. It scares me because it means the end of the tunnel exists. As tough as it all is, I don’t want it to end either.

  2. Rasselas Apr 02 at 6:21 pm Reply Reply

    Wait, Monkey shaves! I swear, it feels like it was only yesterday that I first stumbled upon your post, “It Came from Under the Sink.” He was still a baby there.

    You’re making your readers feel old! :)

    • Mir Kamin
      Mir Kamin Apr 02 at 7:16 pm Reply Reply

      He was… four or five? In that post? It’s making me feel old, too!!

  3. Wendy Apr 02 at 9:59 pm Reply Reply

    I can definitely relate as my first teenager is taking her senior prom dress to get altered by herself, deciding on college and ordering graduation announcements. But worst of all was when dad and I had to be out of town, one with each of the siblings, and I couldn’t think of one good reason to not let her almost 18 year old self stay home alone.

  4. Katherine Apr 02 at 10:52 pm Reply Reply

    Congrats to Chickie on the permit! And, wow, Monkey is shaving!? My younger son is about a year older than Monkey (15 in Jan) and he has 2 (maybe 3) hairs on his chin long enough to shave. 

    • Mir Kamin
      Mir Kamin Apr 03 at 9:22 am Reply Reply

      She won’t actually get behind the wheel until this summer (though she’s been eligible for her permit for nearly a year, so this is all very late by our state’s standards…), but it feels like a huge step.

      As for Mr. Hairy, I can’t believe it, either. I’ve always said we were descended from eastern European Yetis. Dude is going to be able to grow a full lumberjack beard in another year or so.

  5. Emily Huston Apr 03 at 5:36 am Reply Reply

    Reading your story, I’m remembering my teenage when my father saw changes in me while I was dressed up for my school fest. I’m also desperately waiting for my son to pass out this age . Though he is too young right now……just 6 month old.

  6. AKD Apr 03 at 12:37 pm Reply Reply

    I’m glad to hear you haven’t stopped thinking about the very useful engines. I was hoping we could keep using that as my son grows, and also the inflection the narrator uses on, “Thomas WAS surprised.” (Do you remember that?)

  7. not supergirl Apr 03 at 7:24 pm Reply Reply

    My first teenager officially began her teens on Monday. So far, so good. The attitude is still generally pretty amusing when I don’t take it personally, but i have had the first occurrences of not wanting me at school for something. That was a bummer…. except for the free time which I received in exchange. :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Attack of the giant toddlers | Woulda Coulda Shoulda - Apr 02

    […] Over at Alpha Mom, I’m expounding on this great revelation, because my teens may be LOOKING more like adults, but their behavior is giving me deja vu. […]

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