as soon as someone finds out i have a 16-year-old, especially if they are also a parent, they almost invariably ask, with fear and trepidation in thier voice, "how is it?"
truth is, it's fantastic, fun, and exciting.
i love having a teenager. in fact, i love teenagers in general.
sure, teenage years can be miserable - we all know that. they can be full of confusion, pain, misery, and difficult social interactions, times when you feel more alone and uncertain than ever before. i guess eventually, one gets used to those feelings, and that's what enables adults to just sort of put thier heads down and continue on in life, knowing that the world won't actually end - that it really will be ok. the first few years of feeling that, though, it's scary.
yet, it's also a time of fantastic discovery. it's the beginning of when we start to look critically at what we've been told about the world and ourselves our entire lives and decide what we like, what we'll actively cultivate, and what we reject.
parents never really let go of their images of us as children, it's true. it can still be frustrating, decades later, to be around family, and have them continually project to you an image that you have turned away from. old habits die hard and people resist change. i'm generally forgiving of family on this one, even though it still aggrivates the holy hell out of me when my family does it to me. and yes, i wonder if i'll just do the same damn thing to my kids. i hope not. but i understand it'll take a lot of intentionality for me to not keep seeing him as i defined him in my head from the moment he was born, but instead as he sees himself - and surely there'll be times when i will fail.
but still, this is the magic time when someone starts to define themselves for themselves. when a kid gets to look around at all that life offers and start to pick and choose what they want to be.
is there anything better than trying to decide who we want to be?
it's also great being the parent of this, as it turns out. not just because they are more independent and self-sufficient; they no longer require constant meal preparation and wake up calls and rides to places they want to go. the time of direct shaping is over.
but also because they are becoming adults. and you're going to be dealing with them as an adult for the vast majority, hopefully, of your lives together. kid time is short, relative to a lifetime. most of our relationship with our children, time-wise, will be as adult to adult.
and how freeing it is to be able to be an adult yourself! not that i'm not still being a parent in very direct and concrete ways, setting rules and boundaries and all that. but i'm able to be a little bit more of myself all the time, of the real adult me. the one i've chosen and am still choosing and perfecting. the one with more complicated feelings, that has deeper discussions, a richer sense of humor.
it's not that i don't worry. i worry all the time. i don't think i'm a naive person - i feel like i've got a pretty good grasp on what the dangers are, and lord, there are so many! but i do still believe that people live up to or down to what we tell them about themselves. why project a negative, fearful, worried idea of teenagers? why not choose to project the idea that this is the beginning of a wonderful transition time to a different part of life? painful sometimes - sure. disappointing sometimes - absolutely. but all your own.
and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
note: ok, i always like to include images with posts, just to make reading things on a screen more interesting. for this post, a quick goole images search turned up a bunch of crap all about the stereotypes: cheerful happy beautiful kids in large groups, singing and laughing or some shit like that, or totally grey-scale pictures of depression. i was going to dispense with the image idea altogether when i finally found teenagers from outer space. ha! saved by pulp science fiction - again!