I remember when our first baby was born the teen years seemed like a faraway mission field. We figured when we were the parents of an 18 year old child things would have figured themselves out and that the parenting gig would be simple.
NEWSFLASH: it gets harder as they get older.
Parenting teenagers is not as physically strenuous as the years when you’re chasing crawlers and runners through the house, but it is much more mentally exhausting. It’s not the fault of the kids, though. It’s just part of the process. We have awesome kids. I recognize that I am biased but total strangers tell me all the time that we have great kids. (That is mostly true). You just have a lot more to juggle is all. Instead of worrying that their carseat is properly installed you worry that they won’t buckle their seatbelt or that someone will crush their soul, or that they’ll decide Australia ( or wherever the other side of the world is for you) is the place they won’t to call home.
There is just so much that you don’t know as they get older.
I may be a little melodramatic today because my firstborn, Kiley, has turned 18. Officially the change won’t take place until 8:50 p.m., although my 15 year old daughter tells me that if we factor in leap years her birthday would have already happened. That kind of thinking gives me a nosebleed, though, so back to the subject at hand.
My kid is an adult today! She can vote and get married and rent her own apartment. She cannot, however, rent her own car because you have to be 21 to do that.
I could just gush and gush about my girl. I could share so many stories about me and her. Kiley taught me so much about myself, the way the firstborns generally do. I learned that my body could do so much more than I thought when I insisted on laboring naturally with no epidural in spite of the pitocin being pumped through my veins. Let’s not even talk about that. I learned that I had a passion for breastfeeding because of this girl. Kiley was not easy to nurse for the first few weeks but thanks to an awesome lactation consultant we made it through. I learned that I loved parenting and child development. I learned that I could spend hours and hours just watching her.
This girl of mine has always been tenacious with a capital T. Our pediatrician called her scrappy. When she was a toddler and I was doing my business (with the door open because there’s no other way to go when you’re a mom) Kiley toddled by the bathroom door holding a butcher knife with an apple stuck on the end. I’m not even kidding. She was not quite two. Another time, when she was about the same age, I walked into the kitchen to find her sitting on top of the fridge. She had shimmied up the cabinets using the knobs as footholds and was so proud of herself.
Kiley has always figured out how to do what she wanted. She’s figured out to use books and the internet to learn to do so much, from crafting to coding. I just know that once she sets her mind to something it is going to get done. Period. Lately, though, she worries. It’s normal, I keep telling her, to wonder what it’s going to be like, to worry that you won’t always land on your feet. I’ve tried to worry about her, but I just can’t.
Kiley was about 6 when she wanted her training wheels off. My dad, her dad, my mom, me – everyone had advice for her. She just got more and more mad. Like, screaming kicking mad. Finally I said, “You get on, you find your balance, and you go.” We all went inside to watch through the blinds.
Twenty minutes later she was peddling like a pro up and down the sidewalk, a proud grin on her face.
I learned so much about her that day, and so much about the truth of life.
My Kiley, she will always get on, find her balance, and go.
This I know.