Why I Love Having Teenagers

1503975_10152126149174866_332585485_nI don’t know about you, but when our kids were little, we used to look ahead to the teenage years with much fear and trepidation.

“They are so cute,” strangers would compliment our toddlers.  Inevitably, they would then add,

“Just wait till they’re teenagers.”

If that doesn’t fill you with dread, I don’t know what will.

Well, today I am a parent of 13- and 15-year olds, and I can say with confidence that this is a really fun season around our household.  Here are some top reasons why I love my teenagers:

1.  They keep us up to date on pop culture

Honestly, if it weren’t for my kids, I’d still be listening to the BeeGees, wearing my mommy jeans with my permed hair and saying phrases like “Gag me with a spoon.” I’m grateful that they’ve helped me get a little more current in music and fashion.

2.  They are actually helpful

Remember when they were toddlers and they wanted to help, but it took too much time and effort to enlist their help, so you just did it yourself?  Well, now they are actually tall enough, strong enough, and smart enough to be of help.  Meg does wonderful makeovers on me, and Josh updates the OS on my iPhone.  They’re constantly teaching me something new.

3.  I get to relive my high school years all over again

When I walk onto the high school campus to pick Josh up in the late afternoon, the sounds and smells flood me with memories of my own high school years.  Add to the mix high school dances, student government elections, youth groups, and summer camps, and I find myself feeling like a teenager all over again…without the drama of puberty, of course.

4.  I get to have fun embarrassing my teens

It’s so easy to make my kids blush around their friends — and, better yet, strangers — these days.  Here is one example from when I was riding in the front of a trolley in Hawaii while the kids sat in the back, horrified to hear me humming along to the radio from up front:

1497538_10152147946759866_1538532171_nOr, this interaction with Josh:

1546275_10152179372414866_844975560_nMy kids really keep me laughing.  They, however, don’t find the same level of humor in my mommy antics, but that’s half the fun.

5.  We don’t have to plan, participate, and pay for expensive, themed birthday parties anymore

These days, my kids would rather just have a handful of good friends over for pizza and some games or go out to the mall for their birthday instead of a big bash at Chuckie Cheese’s, inviting the entire neighborhood and overpaying for entertainment. Glad that season is over!

6.  Vacations are much more fun with teenagers

When our kids were babies, David and I basically took turns watching the kids in the room while the other stepped out to “enjoy” the vacation.  It was physically exhausting to care for little kids while traveling, and we came home absolutely spent and needing a vacation afterwards.  Today, we can enjoy excursions together or even separately, letting the kids make their own vacation memories.

7.  Eating is much more varied and fun

For nearly a decade, our family went through a whole lot of mac-n-cheeses, pizzas, spaghetti, juice boxes, chicken nuggets, and Cheerios. Because David and I usually cleaned up the leftovers, we participated in a steady diet of kid foods for far too long.  Our teens now eat a lot more sophisticated foods such as filet mignon, haritcot vert, and pesto pasta.  We have good conversations around the table, and they also no longer throw food on the floor nor smear spaghetti all over their hair.  Eating used to be such a messy event; now, they even help with the cooking and cleanup!

8.  Best of all, we’re seeing the seeds of their own faith grow

All the years of taking them to church, reading the Bible together, and teaching them right from wrong are finally bearing fruit.  We are watching them make smart choices and choosing good friends.  Although they are still youths, we hope and pray that we have set them on the right course to a successful adulthood.

And that’s why we love having teenagers!

My Son’s Changing Voice

My marching band trumpet player son Joshua

My baby boy’s voice is about to change.  Actually, he’s not a baby anymore.  He’s 14 years old, and he’s at least 2 or 3 inches taller than me now.  He wears size 9 shoes — not toddler size 9, but men’s — and is starting to have a few pimples here and there.  His voice has slowly been sliding down the scale for the past few months.

But nothing defines puberty like a male’s changing voice that suddenly drops from soprano to baritone in a matter of hours.

He is straddling that fine line between childhood and adulthood right now, and I am standing right beside him…on the childhood side.  I keep looking back at the little boy he used to be.  I especially recall the newborn I held in my arms for the first time.  Boy, did he ever have a piercing cry!  He sounded more like a meowing cat.  I remember wondering, even back then, what Joshua’s talking voice was going to sound like.  The voice I imagined on that day was a sweet toddler’s high-pitched voice; I certainly never imagined my baby talking like a dude!

Indeed, Josh did have a sweet voice.  His tenderheartedness was apparent in the way he intoned every word.  And with his toddler voice, he called me Mama.  That was his personal choice for the various options one has to call his or her own mother.  “But MAMA,” he would protest, when I would ask him to put away his toys.  It is hard to harbor anger towards a little boy who calls me Mama.

I found out early on that Josh has his Private Voice and his Public Voice.  His Public Voice was always half an octave lower than his Private one, which he only used at home.  “Oh hey, Kai,” he would say to his friend in the kindergarten playground or “I’ll have the burger with fries,” he would order at a restaurant, suddenly dropping the pitch to sound like he’s much older, maybe a second grader.  I didn’t know where that voice was coming from, but I figured that it was a way for my son to separate from me, his mama, and to find his own voice…in more ways than one.

And now, he’s losing his Private Voice altogether, and we are going to be left only with his Public Voice, lowered not just a few pitches but a full octave and a half.  And that tells me that he is going to individuate and become independent of his parents and, in essence, become a young man. I’m not sure if I’m ready to walk to the other side of the man/child imaginary line quite yet.

That’s probably why I refuse to erase Joshua’s outgoing voice mail message on his cell phone.  “This is Joshua.  Leave me a message,” he recorded in his best 5th grader voice a few cell phone upgrades ago.  He used his Public Voice, but he still sounds like a cute little boy.  This cannot be the same child who is about to embark on a journey to adulthood.

But whether I like it or not, he will soon fully step over the line, grow an over-sized Adam’s apple and, after a period of wild fluctuations in tone and cracks at the most inopportune (and hilarious) moments, develop a completely deep tone.  After all the dust settles, my Josh will have his Adult Voice, and I’ll have no option but to join him on the other side of the line.  I will probably get so used to this new voice eventually that I wouldn’t be able to imagine what it was like when he didn’t sound like that.

He’ll be a grownup.  I’ll have to let him go.  And I’ll be reminded once again that I only get to mother a little boy entrusted in my care by God for a short period in my life.  And I will be grateful once again for that privilege.

Still, I hope that Josh will always call me by my official name in whatever voice he may have in the future:

Mama.