My teenagers are growing up but does this mean we have to grow apart? Growing up generally involves a defining moment in everyone's life. For my daughter, this was not when she hit puberty, but when she turned 13. This was the magical number to her. It signified her official exit from one world into another and the start of my mine as the mother of two teens.
Growing up and becoming an adult meant many things for her, primarily though it meant us acknowledging that she was "one of us". This was no ordinary milestone to her, this was THE time that everything would start to change. It was a fanfare occasion and she was going to make sure we didn't forget it.
In the days approaching her birthday last year, she reminded us how she had asked us to take her shopping for her brother when he turned 13. Then only 8, she had decided that to mark the occasion he needed a skateboard. Of course we went along with her plan and bought the skateboard on her behalf, which she then duly presented to him with great aplomb on the morning of his birthday saying "Now that you are growing up, you need one of these!"
The skateboard was a symbol of this important moment, no matter whether he agreed or not. Quite frankly this milestone didn't mean as much to him as to her, but if he wasn't going to make a fuss of his growing up she was. We should have realised back then, that when it was her turn, she was not going to go quietly into this "grown up" world.
- Responsibility and Independence
For her the single most important move to becoming "one of us", was to be instantly recognised as being "responsible". This translated itself in a number of ways which had been clearly explained to us in advance. Top of the list was her own house key and alarm code. Her friends had asked to get their ears pierced, but this was too frivolous in her opinion. She wanted to be able to let herself in the front door of her house, by herself and if we weren't there, that would be even better so she could "do" the alarm too.
There was also a request to allow her to take the public bus home from school, to take trips to the local shopping centre to meet friends and see a movie without one of us shadowing her. She also requested that we assigned her a regular household job that was her sole responsibility. Independence, was the name of the game for her.
This is of course all very endearing, yet the flip side of this quest for independence is that there is an element of pulling away from us and this is the bit, which although inevitable, every parent dreads. As adolescents their friends take centre stage and we start to take a back row seat, learning to satisfy ourselves with the remnants of their time.
In her post "A note from a needy mum" Kelly at Daydreams Of A Mum, appreciates the independence enjoyed by her teens and relishes those times they "choose" to be with her and seek her out in their busy world. Those moments are treasured and indeed precious.
Equally, I know that my teens have to spread their wings and develop as individuals and I want them to grow up safely and move on with confidence, just not to the detriment of our relationship as a family. I want to make sure we have those building blocks firmly in place that will ensure my teens, like Kelly's, will always seek us out, not because they have to but because they want to and that is a fundamental difference.
- Family Values
Ultimately, as they grow up I don't want us to grow apart and as my eldest looks ahead to University this year and my youngest prepares to turn 14, this is particularly pertinent for me right now. I love that my teens come to me and say "Mum can I talk to you? I need your advice," I don't want that to stop, wherever they are in the world or if we have to resort to electronic communication.
To this end we always come together during the week to sit down to an evening meal to catch up and set the world to rights, sometimes more effectively than others. The weekends are more challenging as their extra curricular interests mean we are often running on different timetables but invariably it's the family meal that pulls us together again and sometimes we might strike gold with a movie that ticks all our boxes.
Friends who have been through this already have told me there is a moment when your children don't want to go on family outings or holidays anymore and this year Teen 1 will strike out alone on his own adventures, but we will still find some time to have that family holiday together. It is difficult sometimes to get the balance right in finding something we will all enjoy but we do manage it and last year our Californian Road Trip was a huge success delivering something for everyone.
On top of this, I also don't want my teens to grow apart. They are half brother and sister and are like chalk and cheese in many respects but we are lucky that they click. Teen 1 always spends time with Teen 2 chatting on her bed at the end of each day and binge watching on Netflix together is commonplace.
Of course it's not all perfect. They argue just like any other siblings but there is a bond between them. They confide in each other and look out for each other. Last year during my daughter's friendship crisis Teen 1 stepped up to the mark and really helped with some wise "teen on teen" advice. I want that to continue beyond the teen years and throughout their lives, wherever they may end up.
We all revel in moving on to the next best thing in our lives and I know there is a point when we have to remove the safety net and let our children go so they can become more autonomous and thus ready for the full responsibilities of adulthood, but I am keen, to make this journey of them separating from us one which does not result in a gulf growing between us.
Editor's Note : This post was first published last year when I started my blog to chart my parenting journey through the teenage years. The content has been refreshed but a year on the message remains the same, if somewhat more pertinent as I prepare for one teen to leave home.