October 27, 2023
My oldest daughter was home sick yesterday. I was working from home and frantically trying to throw laundry in the washing machine, unload the dishwasher and do all the other things that seem to pile up when I’m working at school. After getting some work done, I joined her on the couch to fold laundry and watch another baking show about amateurs trying to make something beautiful and also edible in the kitchen. Over matching up socks and folding sweatshirts, we laughed at their ridiculous attempts. At one point the conversation turned to being a kid and how hard it can be to make the transition from being a little kid to a teenager. And then my daughter said, yeah it’s hard because teens are treated like kids but expected to act like adults.
I stopped mid fold. It took me a second to fully grasp what she said. Then immediately I said I need to write this down. She went on to explain that sometimes it feels frustrating, like she’s caught in the middle of two worlds: being a kid and a grownup.
I remember those years. Feeling like you are in this new body and oftentimes a new, bigger school, changing classes and teachers. It’s not like elementary school with one teacher and one desk. Life is faster, more homework, more sports practices, the intensity to win games is higher along with the expectations to do the “right” thing. From getting good grades and standing out academically to fitting in but not falling in with the “wrong” crowd. It’s a tale as old as time. Our parents have similar stories. But the discrepancy between my parents and my own childhood was the pressure starting to mount. The grades, extra curricular activities, volunteer hours, etc. There was always more to do. The expectation of getting into and graduating from a prestigious university and a world of success on the other side.
Fast forward to my daughter. At 13 she’s thinking about college and life plans. Career paths and advanced classes. I remember similar thoughts, but the biggest difference is I couldn’t see what everyone else was doing. I didn’t have BeReal to remind me of the latest and greatest of all my friends were doing/seeing/eating. So on top of the pressure to do well, there is also social comparison too.
I could go on. Social media for kids creates nothing but a rabbit hole leading to distraction and disappointment. Under the guise of being connected, we can easily see how connection turns into FOMO. Of course it is wonderful to see our friends being happy, but what happens when we aren’t? When we have to stay home during spring break because Mom and Dad are working and allllll the friends are on fabulous vacations. Maybe it was always there, but in my generation we didn’t see it. We weren’t at the pool, or ski slopes or riding Dumbo at Disneyland alongside our friends. We weren’t watching videos of our peers while we were in our bedrooms. We didn’t have a front row seat to someone else’s life, instead we were forced to live our own lives and use our own minds. Maybe that is how I ended up singing in my room for hours. Or reading just about every book I could get my hands on. I had time to pursue me, get to know me, without the distraction of watching everyone else.
I think my daughter pointedly hit the nail on the head. Being a teen is a lot like balancing between two worlds. We expect our teens to be tiny adults. We want them to be responsible and rise to the occasion. We want them to be mature and hard working. And yet, we also want them to be little. There are rules and curfews. Bedtimes and chores. Navigating the boundary lines and even writing new ones. As a parent, it is easy to forget they are still kids. Kids who look like adults and borrow my clothes! Kids who still want to hold my hand and tell me the details of their day.
As a mom of little kids, I didn’t believe my babies would someday be big. I guess somewhere in my mind I knew it would happen, but I didn’t fully grasp it until I had big kids. In six months, I will have a 14 year old in the house! That doesn’t seem possible. Looking back at pictures, I can still see the same sweet face looking back at me that I do now. She’s a bit taller these days, but the smile is the same.
Raising kids will grow a person and change them in immeasurable ways. As a parent we are constantly learning alongside our kids. From the baby stage to the teenage, it requires a level of awareness and understanding that can only be fulfilled if it’s fueled by love. The truth bomb yesterday hit me square between the eyes. The realization and reminder that my teen is big and little. She is a kid navigating her changing world. As her mom, I have the pleasure of being in the front row to watch her grow up but I also have the responsibility to remember that she is very much in the growing phase. Not quite an adult, but also no longer a small child. As I walk through this season of life alongside her, I pray that her words may echo in my ears so that I can show up and parent in the best ways possible.