My daughter just turned 13. From everything I’ve been reading about what it’s like to parent a teenager, you’d think I’d be running for the hills or finding a good therapist. I’m not going to lie — it’s definitely more challenging to have an older child in the home who has strong opinions, heightened emotions, and rituals that may or may not coincide with your own (she rolls her eyes at me when I clear my throat). And on many days I vacillate between singing, “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof in melancholy about where my baby has gone to wanting to scream at the top of my lungs for her to just get out of bed and get ready already.
The struggle is real. I mean, a 13-year-old is technically a teenager. But it’s also one of the most fragile of ages, where they are really on the cusp of a child and an adult. I have found that my parenting shifts day to day based on whether the child or budding adult presents itself to me — and that can be nuanced and tricky. But, most days, it’s pretty great having a teenager in the house, despite the common myths about the dreaded teenage years. In honor of my daughter’s 13th birthday, here are 13 reasons why I love having a teen in the house.
1. She is finally sleeping in on weekends!
Like really sleeping in, until 11 a.m. or even 12 p.m. I never thought it would happen, as this child has always had a penchant for waking us at 5 a.m. on weekends.
2. She can babysit my younger two!
Like, my husband and I can actually go on a date night and not hire a sitter. Really! We can hardly believe that day has come.
3. She’s freaking smart.
She is, hands down, better at math than me (um, as of five years ago), and even though I’m a bit of a word nerd, she rocks a game of Boggle or Scrabble and is starting to surpass me and win most games. #takingthethrone
4. She’s officially moved from “play dates” with friends to the middle-school-approved term of “hangouts” and has rightfully taken her spot as an emerging teen.
5. She cooks dinner sometimes!
Not that she always wants to, but she can actually make herself lunch and has even baked brownies for us without my help. And she can cook up a mean fried egg for us for brunch.
6. I can have really in-depth conversations with her.
She has bold, interesting, and creative ideas, and we can really talk, which feels amazing.
7. Her palate is expanding!
Unlike the other two kids, who are still stuck on mac and cheese and pizza, my teen has branched out to explore other foods, like sushi, burritos, and steak tips and lamb at restaurants, among other delicacies. (Make no mistake, she still likes pizza.)
8. She holds herself accountable for getting to school on time, taking out the trash on Sundays, and doing her homework without us nagging every three minutes.
9. She’s starting to run with us on the treadmill at the gym.
I have a gym buddy!
10. She finally understands and commiserates with me when I lament about having a zit on my face during “that time of the month.”
11. She puts HERSELF to bed.
12. She has a sense of social justice and cares about the world and her place in it.
For her bat mitzvah project, she knitted scarves in order to raise money for two animal welfare organizations, and that made us feel pretty darn proud of her.
13. She does her OWN laundry.
While there are still challenges with having a teenager, and I suspect more rebelliousness and teenagery behavior will emerge, so far my concerns have remained at bay. That didn’t prevent me from buying umpteen parenting books on how to deal with a teen, of course. But, so far… I can breathe easy.
What has your experience been with raising a teen? Is it easier or harder than raising a toddler?