When people would ask what I was having, I’d answer, “I’m hoping for kittens.”
I was recently married, and I was in the middle of moving across the country to start a new job. It wasn’t exactly the best timing. Besides, kittens are cute and have tiny heads.
I don’t think all babies are cute. To me, babies look like a cross between grouchy old men and aliens.
Nine months or so later, I gave birth to a boy that I thought looked like an elf. He also had an enormous head. He kind of resembled a lollipop.
Throughout my pregnancy, I had lovingly referred to him as “the parasite.” When he emerged, I renamed him “Aidan,” which means “little fire.” Maybe I should have chosen something that means “tranquil spirit,” or “loves to do chores for his mom.”
I was very familiar with kids. I had babysat all types since I was 12. This was different. This was one I couldn’t give back after a few hours, and they sent me home with no instructions.
I like instructions. I’m the type of person that will really “read this manual in its entirety before assembly.”
They Said it Would Get Worse
I’m not really a “baby person,” if you hadn’t gathered. I felt as frustrated as Aidan was with not being able to do anything on his own. He reminded me of a turtle or beetle, stuck on his back with arms flailing in the air. He was easily bored, as was I.
Being ambitious at that young age, Aidan decided to start the Terrible Twos about a half year early. Then they didn’t stop at three. This was also when he was in a non-verbal stage, due to autism. For a few years, he was lost in a world in his mind, unable to express himself in words.
After a few years of intensive therapy and early intervention education, he began to talk (and has rarely shut his mouth since). I really enjoyed watching him evolve into a real little person, with a unique personality and ideas. I was very grateful that he was finally able to express himself, and to say simple things like “I love you,” that a parent longs to hear.
Through all of this, no matter what we overcame together, people just had one thing to say: “Just wait until he’s a teenager!” So, I spent his adolescent years dreading what lay ahead.
Having a Teenager isn’t so Bad (After All)
Today, we are in the throes of the teen years. I am both shocked, and secretly delighted by how much I am actually enjoying this stage. I am so proud of, and amazed to have this larger-than-me person calling me “mom.”
When I see friends with newborn babies, I don’t feel jealous. I went through all the developmental stages once, and it was interesting but I didn’t feel compelled to go through them again. Maybe it’s because I am a very independent person myself, that I appreciate his sense of independence. Instead of feeling unneeded, I am happy when he learns to do things on his own. I’m even looking forward to being the one to teach him how to drive.
10 Great Things about Having a Teen
- He has his own unique personality. Sure, I used to want a “mini me,” and for a couple years we even looked similar. Now that Aidan is older, I can really see the person he is becoming. He’s not like me. I’ve joked at times that if it were possible to create a person as unlike me as possible, it would be him. A couple times I considered getting a maternity test. Aidan is not like me, he’s like himself–and that’s a good thing. He is full of self-confidence, which has been a struggle for me. He is outgoing and fearless.
- He is interesting to talk to. He has gone from not talking, to echoing phrases, to repetition, to now being able to debate any topic. That is a huge amount of progress. Although I may not agree with his ideas sometimes, I love that he has a point of view. I am grateful to be let in on his thoughts, joys, worries and dreams.
- He has developed a sense of humor. My child can make me laugh. Sure, I used to pretend to giggle at his jokes when he was younger, but they weren’t actually funny. Now he can just make a comment and have me rolling.
- He has greater understanding and empathy. I know it was very difficult for him to understand why I had to leave his dad. It has also been hard to have a mother battling chronic illness. So many days, he has to see me too sick to do anything, and unable to take him places. I’m sure a lot has been confusing and frustrating for him over the years. Now, at least, he understands a lot more. He can see what I am doing, rather than resenting what I cannot do.
- He helps out in real ways. It is nice to have his help in ways that really do help. Unlike when kids try to help, but end up making more work for the parent. With my illness, this is also great at getting us through my bad days more easily. He can make himself a meal and carry heavier items. He thinks pumping gas for me is fun still, and I can’t wait until I can send him out to do an errand.
- He is interested in things I find amusing as well. Recently, I noticed that Aidan sings a line from a song frequently, so I casually asked if he’d like to listen to the CD sometime. I happen to own the album, and we can sing along to it together in the car (maybe). He’s been really getting into music this year, and I enjoy seeing his tastes change and develop. He also now plays games, watches movies and reads books that I enjoy as well. We set aside time to watch certain shows together.
- He still needs me sometimes. Although I love his new-found sense of independence, I also do like to feel needed. Now, instead of needing me to do everything for him (which sometimes felt overwhelming when I was sick), he needs me in other ways. He needs me to support and believe in him. As long as he is honest and tries his best, he knows I will have his back as far as school, dealing with teachers and peers.
- He’s pretty cool. Aidan has his own image and style. I let him have his hair long, help him dye it different colors, and take him to Hot Topic to buy clothes and accessories he likes (with his own money). I get that it is important in the teen years to fit in (or stand out).
- He gets why he can’t have everything he wants. It’s amazing how quickly kids learn about money when you put them in charge of it! Once he had to make decisions about how his money is spent, he caught on to why we say “no” to many requests so we can save it for other purposes. He has even learned some of my frugal ways: comparison shopping, buying used, and saving up for stuff he wants more than immediate gratification.
- He has his own friends. One problem a lot of parents have is they keep trying to be their kid’s best friend. When the kid becomes more interested in hanging out with, or confiding in, their peers, the parent feels left out. Being there for them and having a close relationship does not mean you are their buddy. They need their own peer group, and they need parents that they can look up to as parents. I’m happy my son can play Mario Kart with friends and chatter over Skype. I have other stuff to do, and my own friends to talk to.
I don’t feel as insecure about parenting today, or that I wasn’t a good mother. I finally seem to have hit my stride. He’s almost grown up now, and his overall health and happiness tells me something has gone right. I can’t wait to see what happens next for my son. I’m looking forward to getting to know the young man he is becoming.
Note: The photo and story were used with Aidan’s permission. Oddly enough, teens do not like having their picture taken, but will send a thousand “selfie” pictures to their friends.