Kristen James: Entering a new phase: parenting a teenager

Back in 2000, I became a mother a week before Mother’s Day. I can still remember my daughter’s tiny face. She was a fat little newborn with red, heart-shaped lips.

This May, I’m embarking on a new phase: parenting a teenager.

Sometimes, I watch my children and think about what stage they’re in, and I try to remember myself at that age. While some of my early childhood memories stand out, I don’t always remember everything about being 5 or 10.

However, being a 13-year-old girl is crystal clear in my mind. That’s partly why it’s so funny to hear my daughter celebrate her freshly minted teenagerhood with, “All the girls wear their shorts like this, even to school.”

I so remember pulling the same line on my mom, and having my mom call my bull honkey.

Now, I wonder if my mom used the same line on her mother. What could they have argued over — a skirt that didn’t go below the knees? I’m not sure what each generation tried to pull on their mothers, but the struggle seems to be a rite of passage.

It’s both reassuring and scary to know what my daughter’s going through with up and down emotions, rotating best friends and a feeling that life is changing but she's also stuck in the same place. I know the feeling that I might die if I don’t get to go to a slumber party, or how it feels to say something at school and wish I could melt through the floor. I also remember all the stuff my friends and I tried… and sometimes got away with. That might be the scariest part of raising kids, especially as they get older. What if my daughter is afraid to tell me about something that’s going on? Will she know when she’s in too deep?

Teenagers seem to have all the same issues I dealt with, and maybe a few more. I was reassured when my daughter told me her friends all swallowed a spoonful of cinnamon, but she told them she wasn’t doing it. She was worried it would irritate her asthma if she inhaled any. It turns out eating that much straight cinnamon induces vomiting. It’s hard to understand why someone would do something that seems, well, stupid, but then I remember doing some pretty stupid things, too. Still, it’s scary when you think about kids doing dangerous things for the fun of it.

This incident just reinforced my belief that I should talk to my kids, and listen, about their lives, what they do with their friends, the games they play and what they think about everything. Sometimes, I have to turn off my initial reaction and let them tell me about something. Then, we can talk about choices and consequences. I want them to learn to be responsible for their safety and for doing the right thing, not just to avoid “getting caught.”

Of course, sometimes it’s just fun to hear what my kids think about things and how they see the world. It's fun to see how they’re growing up and understanding more and more. One of the biggest joys of motherhood is watching our babies grow up and turn into their own person with ideas and dreams of their own.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Kristen James is married with six children. Read her Mondays on Douglas County Moms. Also check out her personal site here.

I so remember pulling the same line on my mom, and having my mom call my bull honkey.

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The News-Review Updated Nov 18, 2013 07:29PM Published May 21, 2013 09:22AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.