This is my last night of being a mother of a teenager, a role I have had for almost 13 years. It may seem strange, but it makes me sad to think that my son will no longer be a teen in less than 24 hours. I have enjoyed these years immensely, actually this has been my favorite stage of child rearing. I know, it’s weird. But I have loved going to games and meets, plays and concerts and even having tons of their friends in the house. It made me feel like one of them, in a good way, without the crappy school part.
My son especially, has had a steady stream of visitors since he was in the first grade. As the boys grew older, the sneakers hastily kicked off by the door got bigger and so did the appetites. Sometimes I would get up in the morning and found that gallons of milk had been consumed as well as whole jars full of cookies. frozen pizzas, potato chips, any leftovers I had, and one time a whole jar of cinnamon for some ridiculous “cinnamon challenge.” I never minded this. I loved having them at home where I knew what they were doing and I also loved just hanging out with them.
My daughter’s friends were fun, because I could get the detailed information about school happenings that she was either unwilling or unable to give. Nothing major, just high school gossip, who was dating whom, who cheated on who, that kind of stuff. It was fun and helped me to see my daughter in a different light and it felt like I was back in school with them. Watching movies, taking them shopping, doing hair for prom, I loved it all.
My son’s friends were different. They came in packs, rarely alone. Most of the time, at least two that would spend the night, or that’s how many there were when I went to bed. Sometimes a few more would be dropped off later by their parents and I wouldn’t know until morning when I would stumble over several pairs of Nike’s that were littering the area by the door. Sometimes there would be so many boys, there would not be any available room to sleep on the bed, or the floor and some poor soul was forced to sleep on the couch. You might think that this would be better than than sleeping five deep in a smallish, slightly stinky bedroom but they weren’t there to sleep. Not unlike puppies, sleep was not on the agenda, until exhausted from a night of wrestling, rolling around, and teasing each other, they would fall asleep in what appeared to be a large pile of blankets, arms and feet. In more recent years, as the boys got their licences, a jumble of old sedans and a rusty SUV or two littered my driveway and spilled out onto the side of the street some mornings, making our property look like a used car lot until one by one, they stumbled downstairs at different intervals to go to work or an early morning practice. I loved it. I loved it when they would grab a freshly baked muffin on the way out or when they would sit in the kitchen to talk, some drinking milk, some drinking coffee.
The best thing about having a teenager though, was when we were alone. Watching one of our shows together, going out to eat, or my favorite, and the best, most comfortable place to talk, riding in the car. This is where our most organic conversations have happened. Music on, staring straight ahead, no pressure, that’s when the real stuff comes out.
Teens can be challenging, they can be thoughtless and selfish at times. It has not always been a joy to raise them. It certainly is not as easy emotionally as it is to have a preschooler who throws her arms around you and tells you that you are her best friend or the first-grader who grabs your hand and tells you that he will marry you someday. No, teens make you work for their affection and their time. They will not say either of these things to you and you are not usually their first choice to hang out with. But, if you cherish the pieces they give you, you will see a glimmer of the adult that they will become, and you will see that you have been raising your future best friend.