The Teenager

Dear Eddie,

Oh my goodness, you’re a teenager! It feels cliché to ask where the time went or how did we get here so quickly. I know very well where the time went, but dang. It doesn’t feel like that long ago that dad and I were talking about “the teen years” and then brushing it off with, “but that is a long way off yet.”

And yet, here we are.

I scrolled through my Timehop memories on my phone yesterday morning thinking about how the night before you declared, “tomorrow is my last day of being 12!” When you were turning 6 I asked if you if 6 was too old to cuddle your mom and you told me you would never be too old to cuddle your mom. This proved to be false. You do not, in fact, like hugs or cuddles of any kind from anyone. You will hug your grandparents because you can’t say no to your grandparents, but that is it.

It’s hard not to think back to our beginning–dad was the first to hold you and then everyone else who was waiting for me to come out of recovery: Grandma and Grandpa, Granny, your aunts and uncles. I was too exhausted to know that I should have advocated for holding you first (after dad). I was too tired to know that we shouldn’t have had visitors that quickly.

I often wonder if our start would have been different if dad and I had set up some boundaries. Would you have been so colicky if you and I had had the quiet time to bond after your birth? Would my postpartum depression have been so severe if the birth wasn’t so traumatic?

Last night at bedtime, I told you your birth story. Every year I tell it, and every year you look forward to it. In fact you asked me to tell it to you last night rather than tonight on your birthday because you have friends spending the night. When I finished the story this year, I told you my questions about what if it had been different?

You said, “Mom. I was first. How were you and Dad supposed to know what to do? You did your best. We are all fine now. Well, maybe not all of us…” (as you looked at your brother, who responded, “HEY!”).

If you would have let me, I would have hugged your face right off.

I thought I would be sad that you are growing up. I thought I would spend this week all bummed out that my first baby is a teenager.

I do spend a lot of time looking at you, marveling at you, wondering when you got so dang tall. Dad and I chuckled looking at our new family photos as we agreed you would look back on them and wince–not because you look bad–not at all! You are quite a handsome fella! But because you are middle schoolishly awkward. You clearly haven’t figured out how to embrace your tallness or what to do with your hands or how to smile authentically on demand.

But you are so very you. You are still goofy just like as a little dude, but now you are just quieter about. Not that you are quiet, because DEAR LORD we can hear you playing videogames with Joe like you’re in the same room as us. Dad and I often look at each other and shake our heads. I guess your goofiness is more in your facial expressions and random quips. It’s not arm-flailing acrobatics anymore.

You are turning into an actual person with thoughts and ideas and dreams that are outside of me and inside of you. You don’t tell us every detail of what happens on the playground anymore (partly because you don’t have a playground anymore, but also because you are developing your own private world of friends and building trust with them). You don’t ask me deep philosophical, ethical, or theological questions in the car or at bedtime anymore. You shrug when I ask you questions more than you give verbal answers.

But your actions speak louder than the words you don’t say–and even in direct opposition to the words you do say.

While you get frustrated with your brother, and even say mean, thoughtless things to him at times, you will still check on him and ask about him when you know things are rough. You still get proud of him when he reaches a goal or milestone in his own personal growth areas.

Even though your sister annoys you 98% of the time, you are quick to step up when we need you to be there for her because your dad and I have to focus energy on your brother. You check on her while she sleeps, you make her lunch, and whenever you babysit her while your dad and I are out in the evening, you make her popcorn and watch one of her “kid” shows/movies. I know we can trust you to be there for her.

Your dad and I know being the oldest can sort of suck. You are the first, so that means you are sort of the guinea pig. Dad and I have no idea what we are doing as parents, and naturally all three of you are totally different when it comes to parenting you. I know it feels like the younger two get a ton more attention. I promise you that you also took up this much of our time and energy when you were that age. You just don’t remember because you were busy being annoyed that we were dealing with a 7 year old and a baby.

Dad and I are so proud of you, Eddie. From what we can tell, you are growing up to be the kind, helpful, patient person we hoped you would become.

Hopefully the teen years will be kind to you in return. Remember–Dad and I are always on your side.

I love you to the moon and back,

(Hey) Mom

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.