You turned 13 this month.
You are now a teenager.
I don’t know how that happened either, but it did. I swear it was last Mother’s Day that you came roaring into our lives…but it wasn’t, was it?
Before I became a Mom, all I really knew were babies and toddlers. Those were the ages of the kids I babysat for, the ones I liked the most. When I envisioned being a mom, I pictured chubby cheeked infants (which you were), sturdy-legged toddlers (also you) and that was about it. I didn’t give much thought to parenting a child, let alone a teen. I realize it seems silly when I write it out, but that’s the God’s honest truth.
This year, you started 7th grade. You moved out of your small, protected Catholic school with 14 kids in your entire grade to the public middle school with 200 kids in your grade. You know your father and I battled about this – he wanted to send you to a Catholic school 45 minutes away to keep you safe and swaddled. And I did too- but the logistics just didn’t work so instead, I became the cheerleader for our local public school hoping hoping hoping you would thrive there, all the while so freaking nervous about it, I couldn’t sleep some nights.
When I think back to my middle school years, I just remember how precarious things were. Friendships were constantly shifting, bodies were morphing, voices were changing – nothing was static and, for someone like me, who loves to know what’s going on all the time, it was scary as all get out. But middle school in 1991 is very different than middle school in 2019 so I held out hope that your experience would be better than mine.
I warned you that things would change this year. Friendships may not be the same, dating was going to become a thing and expectations were going to be a lot higher. We established some ground rules, let you (little, slight, small YOU) join the modified football team and prayed things were going to be OK.
And you know what? They weren’t OK.
They were amazing.
You, my funny, goofy, amazing kid, thrived in 7th grade. Yup, friendships were challenged, dating was a thing (not for you though – sorry, your parents are mean) and expectations were a lot higher – but you met them all. Except for that 43 in Orchestra- but you fixed that fast enough and took allllllllll the teasing that went along with it (because, really, who gets a 43 in Orchestra?!) with good humor and determination to do better. You learned how to schedule your time, take responsibility and make things happen.
You made new friends, learned a whole hell of a lot of new words, saw a lot of fights, decided both your father and I were cringy at various times during the year, learned that just because your friends “shipped” you with a girl doesn’t mean you have to date them, saw that the world is made up of a lot of different colors and sexualities and took advantage of a lot of the opportunities offered to you.
You have always been one of my favorite kids in the world, but, to my absolutely delight, you’re growing into one of my favorite people in the world.
So now, 7th grade is almost done and you’re 13. We’re seeing glimpses of the part of teenagedom we were warned about- the hormones, the dramatics, allllll the feelings. I know it won’t always be sunshine and rainbows, but I’m hoping we’ll keep talking to each other, sharing our experiences and working forward. I’ve promised you this a million times – your family will always be the first to support you when you try new things, the first to correct you when you’re being a jerk and your safe place to land no matter what.
Here’s what I hope for you in your 13th year:
While I couldn’t have imagined raising a teen 16 years ago when we we started trying to expand our family, now I can’t stop being amazed over how very lucky I am to be doing so. I’m so excited for you, Scorch. It’s a privilege to watch you grow, knowing how many fun things are coming for you – new friends, first loves, learning to drive, going to dances, heart breaks, discovering what makes you happy, finding your true tribe, going to college.
So, here’s to 13. May it be your best year yet, my boy – and if it’s not, know that we’ll love you no matter what.
All my love,
Back in the fall, I took Scorch to one of the varsity football games. He was settling into middle school and feeling like the big man on campus wearing his modified football jersey to hang out with all his friends under the lights. Oh, he thought he was hot stuff and he was feeling it…
…until I made him leave before the game was over because he had a 3 hour long practice starting the next day at 7 am.
He wailed, he pleaded, he tried to bargain – he was pissed at me like never before because I was making him leave early. He was in SEVENTH GRADE and he was NOT A BABY and why was I SO MEAN?!!? He ended his fit asking me if I wanted to be a COOL MOM because this was, unequivocally, not cool.
Fast forward 3+ months and Scorch, the Bean and I have had lots of conversation about the fact that I am not the cool mom, the Hubs isn’t the cool dad and we’re all OK with that. Because right now, to my kids, being the cool mom means letting them do whatever they wants….and nope, not going to happen.
Here’s what kind of mom I am though:
Maybe one day I’ll earn some cool points, but I’m not losing any sleep over it if I don’t.
School has been back in session for a few weeks now and, so far, the transition has been a smooth one. Bean is still in her beloved school – only this time – for the first time ever – without her brother there with her. In her words, it’s amazing. And Scorch transitioned seamlessly from his tiny Catholic school to the much larger public school.
I think it helped that for the first year ever, we’re letting Scorch play tackle football. Trust me, we debated this decision over and over and over – but what finally got me to say yes is the fact that my kid thrives on a team. He soaks up everything about being a teammate- having kids to hang out with, having a set schedule, being forced to manage his time. Football here meant summer conditioning sessions and practices that started the week before school started so he went into the new school already feeling like he belonged, which is a really good thing.
Last week, Scorch was supposed to have his first game so the Bean, Hubs and I went to the field. There was a tennis match going on below the football field and a cross country meet happening on the far side of the field. The Powder Puff game was going on after Scorch’s game, so the entire athletic area was packed. Warm up music was blaring and kids were hanging out in groups – teasing, laughing and carrying on. It was a loud, chaotic, fun community atmosphere.
It may be 22 year later, but damned if the sounds, sights and smells weren’t exactly the same as when I was in school.
I freaking loved my teen years. Not in a Glory Days way where I want to go back and relive those times again – but those years were a lot of fun. Sure, there was the typical drama that all teens go through – first loves, fights among friends, pushing boundaries and figuring things out – but overall, those years rocked. And as I looked around at where my kids were going to be living out their teenage years, I became excited for them.
I know that being a teen today is a hell of a lot different than being a teen 20+ year ago, but I’d like to think that the foundational things aren’t that different. Social media adds a whole new levels to things, but at the core, middle school and high school years are about starting to figure out who you are and who your tribe is. It’s about exploring your interests, stretching your wings and taking those first steps to adulthood.
Sure, it can also be about drama and angst – but, thanks to social media and the news, it’s easy to think that’s all it’s about. But it’s not. It’s also about joy, friendship and crazy love. Come on??? Don’t you remember that first exhilarating car ride you took with your friends with no adults in the car? Finding new friends that you clicked with? Discovering a new activity that you loved? Riding the bus home from games, celebrating the big win? Taking class trips? Sneaking out of your house to meet your friends and getting away with it (or not- thanks, Mrs. Wilson!)? Picking out your outfit to your first formal dance? The thrill of your first kiss?
*sigh* I want my kids to have all that and more. I want them to be 40 years old and look back on that crazy time with a smile on their face remembering amazing friends lost and the amazing friends still in their lives. I want them to laugh over the stupid things they did and realize how those years helped to make them into the amazing adults they will become.
So, instead of freaking out about all the horrible things that the media tells me lurks for my kids as they get older, I’m going to concentrate on all the awesome things that will also happen. My eyes will be open to the bad – I can’t pretend it’s not out there – but that fear won’t take away the joy that I know will be there too.
You turned 12 a few weeks back. You- my first born, my baby, one of my greatest loves – turned 12. As you like to remind me a lot this puts you firmly closer to a teenager than not.
I feel like I should be sad about this. I should be gnashing my teeth and wailing that you’re not a baby any more. Facebook tells me I should feel this way, as do all the sappy blog posts telling me to cherish everything. And I do cherish them when they are happening- I love that you still love to snuggle (even though we all know I don’t). I love that you still chat with me about anything and everything and that your stories still never end. I do miss your toddler cheeks and your squeaky voice – the way your little body used to melt into mine (now you come up past my chin, so if you melted, I’d fall over). But that doesn’t mean I want to go backwards.
I’m too excited about who you are becoming to wallow in it. Because life, my sweet boy, is about to take off for you.
11 was a tremendous year for you- full of school and friends and sports. You broke your first bone and handled it like a champ 99% of the time. You pushed yourself academically and athletically and started new things like boxing and academic games. You read the Hunger Games series, went to a camp where you knew no one and took first place in a state competition with your classmates. You learned how to argue fairly with friends, perfected the art of rolling your eyes and had more then a few meltdowns of epic proportions as your hormones monster started to grow (don’t worry, we’ll let you watch Big Mouth when you get much older- you’ll get that reference). You learned to care how you looked (still doesn’t mean you match, but you try) and spent more time combing your hair than anyone else in this family.
So, now here you are at age 12. You gradate from elementary school this month and start Middle School in the Fall. You go from a class of 14 to a class of 200 and you.cannot.wait. While I’m just as excited as you are, I hope you savor every minute of these next few weeks because come Fall, nothing will be the same again. Hold on to these friends because there is great power in friendships that start when you were 3 and carry on throughout your whole life. You’re going to look back on these years and realize how truly amazing they were.
So, as we’re on the precipice of so many changes, I wanted to share my hopes for you.
1) I hope you stay in contact with your elementary classmates and you use them as your touchstones when you move into the big school next year.
2) I hope that Middle School is kind to you and that you handle the changes about to be thrust on you with grace.
3) I hope you fall in love. Hopefully not with a girl yet- but with a class, a sport, a friend. I hope you take all the opportunities given to you and try something new and you love it with every fiber of your being.
4) I hope you stay kind. You, child, are a leader. Kids like you and they gravitate towards you. I hope you keep that charisma and never, ever turn mean. It’ll be tempting. You’ll see kids picking on others and sometimes it’ll be just so easy to make a joke at someone else’s expense. While I hope you’ll be perfect and never slip- you will. That’s part of growing up- but I hope you realize it when you’ve done it and you’re big enough to apologize and try better the next time.
5) I hope you keep caring- about your friends, your grades and your loves. I hope you keep striving to do better and reach higher. Apathy is a terrible look.
6) I hope as you navigate school you find your core – your ride and die group that has your back no matter what. I remember how the sands shifted in middle school, but at the end of the day, those who really loved you were there when the ground settled.
7) I hope you remember that words have power. The power to build up – and tear down. Try to use yours for good. Compliment instead of complain. Offer solutions instead of whining. Use your voice for good, for the betterment of yourself and others. Use your voice to stick up for others, to advocate for yourself and to call out the wrongdoings you see. You’ll be shocked at how loud you can roar, child.
8) I hope you never put too much stock in “cool.” Cool is overrated, over appreciated and ever changing. Staying comfortable in your own skin is the ultimate cool. Don’t be afraid to shake your butt to the music, show your enthusiasm and laugh until you cry.
9) I hope you know that we will always, always, always love you. Forever. No matter what. We are going to fight and we are going to argue and we are going to want to pretend that we don’t know each other some days. There will be slammed doors, eye rolls and crying – from all of us. But we’re still going to love each other fiercely, have each other’s back and always build each other back up.
Child, I cannot wait to see where things go from here. I cannot wait to see you stretch and grow. Stay true to yourself, stay bold, roar loudly and always, always aim high. I can’t wait to watch you soar.
The calendar tells me it’s Spring. The kid’s sports calendar tells me it’s Spring. Mother Nature didn’t seem to get that memo though- it’s cold and grey and sleeting outside my window. It snowed on Easter Sunday. This seemed like a particularly bitter pill given that we had arrived home from Fl the day before.
We had a fantastic trip – hitting the West Coast…
and the East Coast…
There were feet in the sand, Mickey Ice Cream Bars consumed daily, trips to numerous pools and tanned faces. There was also one trip the ER (the Hubs, sinus infection), one puking kid (the Bean, low blood sugar) , two teeth lost (Scorch, they were loose) and minimal tears. We drove 1115 miles* on the way home and no one lost their minds until about 45 minutes from home, so I consider that a win. There was lots of family time with some of our favorites, a date night that turned into sharing a table with two drunk fishermen with lots of funny stories, and lots of movies watched over and over and over to make the drive down and back bearable.
All in all it was perfect and the Hubs is on his annual campaign to convince us all to move south. Maybe one day…
Full confession- I wanted to fly to FL this year. So did the kids. But a combination of a last minute date change and the Hubs iron will meant we drove. And while it’s a pain in the butt (2 days in the car both ways), I’m so thankful for these times. When we travel, we usually travel with people or to see people – but those days on the road are just the 4 of us at dinner and crammed into a hotel room. We only have 7 more of these end-of-winter get aways with both kids (!!!!!) so I’m feeling the need to savor them.
The kids are also amazing travelers. I’m sure it’s a combo of their personalities and the fact that they have no choice- but they really are. Road trips with them are a joy 90% of the time (the other 10% involves vomit and/or sibling death matches). Because they are so very awesome, we’re driving cross country with them in 2019 for a few weeks…
…and I have no idea how to plan this trip. I mean, I know how to plan the route and where to stop, but I don’t know how to plan how we’re doing this. Taking our car and staying hotels or cabins? Renting an RV? If so, do we tow our car?? That part baffles me. So hit me up, peeps, with any thoughts you have on that topic!
When Scorch was in 3rd grade, he started snowboarding. He worked so freaking hard to learn- it took him all 6 weeks in row of weekly 2.5 hour lessons to finally- FINALLY- get his green pass. He hasn’t looked back since. Last year, the Bean and I started skiing. She’s fantastic, I stink- but we are, officially, a family that skis. (Except the Hubs- he wants nothing to do with it thanks to his previous 5 knee surgeries.). We love our Thursday nights on the slopes- Scorch heads off with his friends while the Bean and I stick together and she makes fun of how slow I go. We meet up randomly and then have a fun dinner out. #bonding
Last week, just as the Bean and I got off the ski lift at the very top of the mountain, I heard my cell phone ring. I ignored it and we continued on with our group lesson, slowing inching our way down the hill with our instructor and 8 other kids. All was going well enough until I got a tap on my shoulder from another chaperone who some how tracked me down to tell me Scorch was hurt and that I needed to go check on him ASAP.
Which was doable – in theory. Except that I was stuck at the top of a trail I didn’t know with my 9 year old who promptly fell over, lost a ski and started to sob that she was never going to get up again. So I called the head chaperone who was with Scorch, determined that no bones were jutting out, EMTs were not called and he was calm – then I more more less told the Bean to calm down, pull herself together and get moving.
15 agonizing minutes later I rushed into the room where Scorch was to find him acting completely fine. Sure, he had ice on his wrist, but there were no tears, swelling or bruising. It was rather anti-climatic after our rush down the hill.
We headed home and had the Hubs (a former EMT) look at Scorch’s wrist where he deemed it fine. We asked Scorch to perform a bunch of mobility exercises, that he did successfully and then basically shrugged our shoulders and figured he was fine.
The next day, the wrist was still sore, and, given that Scorch had a basketball game and two football games the next day, we decided to get him x-rayed just in case. The doctor we saw agreed that it was probably nothing but ordered the x-ray just in case.
You know, just in case his wrist was broken in two places. Which it was.
Scorch handled this rather well all weekend long – until Monday when the cast was put on and reality set in. That night, my sweet, patient, loving child lost his ever loving mind as we drove to the gym (something we so every Monday, Wednesday and Friday so the Hubs and I can work out). There were tears, yelling, stomping of feet- and then finally, after getting the Bean all riled up – The List.
My kiddos spent the last 15 minutes of our drive to the gym outlining all the things that I don’t let them do that I should:
For the record, I defending myself against the “lying” accusation by noting that telling my kids that they can do something, only to find out what they wanted to do wasn’t offered at the time they wanted to do it (something out of my control) was not lying (that happened the week before). I also told them I’d stopped yelling in the morning (why do I yell? So we get to school on time. I didn’t yell yesterday once, we were 20 minutes late). The rest? Well, they’d just have to suck that up- that’s called parenting.
Bottom line: Scorch is in a cast for the next 3 weeks, he’s a resentful mess over it and I’m wondering how much a kid with a broken wrist would get me if I sold him to the circus.
Happy, happy holidays! After a lovely Thanksgiving where the only food I had to provide was a pie from the local cider mill, we’re smack dab in the middle of the holiday craziness. Shopping is more or less done- but wrapping? Well, let’s not talk about it. The kids played in 3 basketball games between 9 am and 12 pm today, I’ve forgotten to buy eggs the past 2 times I’ve been at the grocery store and the stomach bug cycled through the house this week.
Let’s all just agree to pretend that I 100% have my life together- it’s easier that way. To distract myself from the wrapping I’m still not doing, I want to tell you a Scorch story (shared with him permission). Why? Because tweens are my most favorite!
About a year ago, we had The Talk with Scorch. We debated and hemmed and hawed over when the right time was, but he was going to learn about puberty in school (something we had already discussed) shortly there after and he had been making enough comments that we knew he was curious about how babies were made. So one cold winter night, he and I had a very frank discussion about the mechanics of sex. I prefaced the conversation by telling him that this would be one of many, many conversations we’d have about the subject – but that I wanted him to get his info from us and not around the lunch table.
You guys- it may have been one of the funniest conversations we have ever, ever had. The shock and horror when he realized that the Hubs and I had “done that disgusting things TWICE?!” was something I’ll never forget.
A week or so ago, Scorch and I were out running errands and we ran into a family friend in the store. When we did, she was in the middle of telling the person she was talking to a story about her teenager. Said teenager has a significant other and my friend came home and realized the teens were making out thanks to the “remnants” they had left in the house. My sweet friend was trying to be discreet and used that exact word in front of Scorch instead of the word “hickey”, trying to protect his 11 year old ears.
The minute Scorch and I were alone together in the car, he very quickly blurted out the following all in one breath:
“Mom- what’s a remnant? Because when the cat poops outside of the litter box, Dad calls that a remnant! Are you telling me when those teens got done making out, the boy pooped on the girl’s floor?! When we had the talk, you NEVER said anything about pooping!! Were you saving that for another talk!?!?!?!?”
I almost drove the car off the road I was laughing so hard! The poor kid was so earnest and so confused and so, so disgusted. I had to very quickly explain why our friend used that word and exactly what she meant, otherwise I shudder to think what would happen a few years from now when Scorch gets his first girlfriend.
Way back when I dreamed about becoming a mom, I dreamed about babies. Sweet, smushy, cuddly babies. Babies with chubby cheeks and heads I’d want to sniff for hours (it’s a thing, trust me). I didn’t picture having a kid with anxiety- I mean, who does?
This is Mental Illness Awareness Week. I hesitated to write that. I hesitated to link my child with words like mental illness. It makes my gut clench and it makes me second guess the writing of this.
But that’s why I am sharing this. Because I have to get over myself, my prejudices and my fears. Because I’ve talked to more parents this year than I ever have who have shared their stories of kids who are struggling and their feeling helpless, sheer exhaustion and frustration that comes with that. Here is what I wrote a year ago on a community blog I contributed to about why therapy was the best decision we ever made for our kid.
When my son Scorch was 5, he saw a movie that he had seen before but, this time around, the villain in the movie- a hairless cat- terrified him. It sounds silly when I write it out, but it’s the truth. Scorch was petrified of that cat and his fear went from something that we joked about lightly to something that took over our lives very quickly.
It started with not wanting to go to bed by himself. The lights had to be on and we had to sit in his bedroom with him. My child who went to bed relatively quickly turned into one that took hours to fall asleep. Once he did fall asleep, nightmares became commonplace and all hopes of a good night sleep for Scorch, the Hubs and I went out the window.
We would sit in his bedroom as Scorch’s brain whirled on over drive – Mommy, what if the cat gets in the house? He won’t, go to sleep. But what if he does? Scorch, he can’t- all of our windows and doors are locked. What if he breaks in? Daddy is a police officer- no one is breaking into our house. But what if? The questions went on and on and on- it was like his brain was on a track that he simply could not get off.
A month or so after the worries about hairless cats popped up, Scorch watched my daughter Bean get sick in the middle of the cafeteria at school. She was fine (minus the 24-hour stomach bug), but it was like his fears jumped tracks and now he obsessed over getting sick. This fear became even more consuming and Scorch would have panic attacks before school because he was so worried he’d get sick there.
I remember going to dinner with my girlfriends one night and crying the minute that I sat down. I was so tired. The Hubs and I were fighting with each other and Scorch every night as we begged him to go to sleep. Please, child, just relax and sleep. Nothing we said to him made a dent though- we couldn’t rationally talk to him about why he wouldn’t get sick, or what we’d do if he did, and how getting sick was no big deal.
My mother had been gently hinting for months that Scorch’s anxiety level was a lot higher than most kids, but I kept brushing her off. He was 5- just about to turn 6 for goodness sake- what in the world would we do? He’ll get over it. Then another close family member on my husband’s side of the family shared that she had developed an ulcer at age 9 due to her anxiety. An ulcer at AGE 9.
That stopped me in my tracks and really made me evaluate how the Hubs and I had been reacting to Scorch’s fears. The child had had at least 3 legitimate panic attacks. He had missed school because he was so scared that he was going to get sick even though he was completely healthy. His sleep – 8 months later- was still horrible. And our approach wasn’t helping a darn thing.
At times, it felt like Scorch’s anxiety was going to pull us under.
Had my child had long-lasting fevers, unexpected bruises or crazy insulin readings, I would have been camped at the doctor’s office 24/7 as we tried to figure out what was wrong. I would have called specialists and driven all over God’s green earth to get him healthy. But because his issues were in his mind, we excused them and assumed they’d resolve on their own.
We were idiots.
When we finally called a therapist, they were very open about things. First, they’d meet with us, then they’d meet with Scorch (with or without us in the room- it was up to us) and they’d let us know if they thought he needed to see someone or if this was simply a case of a worried kid and overreacting parents. After these appointments, they were pretty sure Scorch was dealing with generalized anxiety and would benefit from talking to a professional. We agreed and Scorch saw his therapist for well over a year- first weekly, then bi-weekly and then monthly.
Scorch’s therapist did Play Therapy with him and gave him a safe space to talk out his worries. She also gave him tools to handle his anxiety- worry dolls, rhythmic patting, breathing exercises and the like. These tools made a world of difference. It’s been 4 years since we started therapy and we have had to go back to see his beloved therapist a few times when things seemed overwhelming, but for now, Scorch knows how to handle his worries. He knows how to talk things out and self-sooth. Sure, some of this may just be his increased maturity as he got older, but I credit 90% of his coping abilities to his therapist. We haven’t seen his therapist in over 2 years, but the number is still in my phone just in case.
I know that anxiety may rear its head again as Scorch gets older, as diagnosed anxiety disorders run in our family, but now I feel like that we – he, the Hubs and myself – have a clear vision of what’s going on. I’m as committed to making sure my kids are as healthy mentally as they are physically and I refuse to be embarrassed or worry about the stigma of my son being in therapy. Scorch is wonderful, intelligent, funny, athletic, kind and anxious- all these parts of him help to make him completely perfect.
Thankfully, Scorch’s anxiety is well in check right now. Certain things will still trigger his panic, but it doesn’t rule our life like it did when he was younger. But he’s growing and puberty is going to hit us all in the face soon and I don’t know what that will do to his brain chemistry. What I do know is that I (with Scorch’s permission) will keep sharing, keep talking, keep normalizing any struggles he may have.
After one of the craziest, most fun, busiest summers ever, we’re firmly back into the fall routine. The kids are happy with their teachers, school is going well and we have a nice rhythm going on. This is actually our quietest time of the year with minimal after school activities and I’m enjoying every.single.second of the peace – because you know it won’t last long.
So, the summer. We did a lot – we visited Lady Liberty…
Saw a professional ballgame (or 3 – baseball was big this summer)…
Visited with hundreds of our friends at a local music fest…
Spent The Best Week Ever in the Outer Banks with family…
Visited a Fort…
And drove a dragon in a Harbor.
The kids went to different camps each week- school camps, nature camps, sports camps. The Bean learned to sail a boat and Scorch got to hang with friends. In short, the summer was really just about perfect and I was beyond sad to see it go. But you know was solves your dread of summer being over? Having your kids home for 2.5 weeks before school starts while you’re working full time. Trust me, that’ll teach you to embrace a schedule.
So- 6th grade and 4th grade.
This picture of their feet makes me laugh every time I see it because it captures them perfectly. Scorch will stand still and do what’s asked of him because it’s easier and he likes to please. Bean is literally trying to back away out of the picture as quickly as possible because she wants no part in following an order and cooperating. His feet are 2.5 sizes bigger than mine and she’s still obsessed with all things gold.
I love those freaking kids so much and I’m so very excited to see how they grow this school years. But honestly- I’m even more excited for next summer, because summers are the best.