Yesterday I took Sarah to her babysitting job in Geneva and she was a little early. (She works for a local agency that holds a single-mothers support group at a church once a week. I figure seeing what young single mothers deal with on a weekly basis is about the best teen pregnancy prevention out there.) We walked around town and got some Starbucks to kill some time. We were sitting on a bench and I was absently watching a young mother with her adorable toddler walk down the other side of the street. The mom was pointing out things and the little girl was stopping and watching bugs and stuff like kids of that age tend to do. I looked away to say something to Sarah when suddenly my attention was drawn back to them as they reached the intersection. The little girl just dashed out into the cross-walk right in front of a minivan. I did that reflexive Mommy Gasp as the mother quickly grabbed her charge and whisked her to safety. Luckily it was a corner that even though it isn’t a 4-way stop most people approaching it from the non-stop direction at least slow down and the van stopped in plenty of time to avoid a tragedy.
That is just one small reason why I’m glad my girls aren’t that age anymore. If you hadn’t already figured it out, I am the mother of teens. Sarah will be 16 in early October so I am right in the meaty thick of teen-dom. Emma is 12 and is right on the cusp of the technically teen years but anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes with a 12 year old girl will know that it is all just a number. And guess what? It really isn’t all that bad. When babies are born and all through those wee years we mothers are constantly admonished to “enjoy it while it lasts” and “they grow up so fast” and “before you know it she will be a teenager *shudder*” etc. etc. While all that is true I must confess that many times I said to myself that I wish they would hurry up already and just grow up!
If I could slow the clock down now I would. I love these years. I enjoy being around teens (even other people’s teens! I know, right?) When the girls were younger I have to say I didn’t really like being around other people’s kids. I always did my duty volunteering in the church nursery and hosting play groups but I never enjoyed it. I don’t miss having a baby around. My now absent uterus never puckered when I saw a new baby. The end of my child-bearing years didn’t send me into a depressive tail-spin. (Lord knows I had enough other crap doing that for me!) But now I don’t mind being the house that hosts the pool parties, after-show cast parties, Girl Scout campouts and being the general hang out place. Teens are funny and very entertaining. Maybe because I can’t really remember much about being 5 but I certainly remember a lot about being 15 that I can just relate and understand them so much more. A few of the now teens that are hanging around I’ve know since they were in elementary school and it is really interesting to see who they are becoming. The boy who was obsessed with pandas has grown into a very polite young man with a smart sense of humor. The girl with the uncontrollable giggles and constant chatterbox has grown into a bit of an emo/goth girl with a heart of gold. The only ones that annoy me are the rude ones (luckily not many of those because my kids hate rude people as much as I do) and the ones that can’t communicate. I understand being shy, especially around someone’s parents for the first time, but if you’ve known me for 5 years and I speak to you and ask you polite questions at least try to answer me in complete sentences. But for the most part my kids’ friends are smart, funny, outgoing and friendly people that I enjoy having around. (Talk to me again in a year or two when they start dating, my opinion may change.)
Maybe it is just because I am inherently lazy but I’ve relished every step toward independence my children have taken. They now are expected to be able to feed themselves if necessary, do their own laundry, and put themselves to bed at a reasonable time. If they don’t they will be hungry, dirty and tired and it won’t be my damn fault and I don’t want to hear them bitch. (I confess I have failed with the housekeeping part of their upbringing and I apologize right here publicly to all their future college roommates, hotel maids and possible live in lovers.)
Sarah has her driver’s permit and will get her license in late October or early November. Am I worried? Am I nervous? Yes, I’m crazy but not insane. I know she is a good driver as far as young first time drivers go. She’s always been very mature and responsible. But she is inexperienced. Plus there is the added factor of the other stupid drivers on the road with her. I don’t know how many times around here that I’ve almost bit it because of other idiots doing stupid things. And either by the grace of God or my own fast reactions, I’ve avoided tragedy. All I can do is hope that she will have the same luck when she takes to the road alone.
I just look at it all like this. I was given a job by the universe when I was blessed with the job of being a Mother to these two precious girls. I put everything I had into it for over 16 years now. I started when I decided to try to get pregnant in the first place. I had very severe endometriosis and getting pregnant wasn’t a walk in the park for me. (It wasn’t even a simple roll in the hay but I won’t go there.) It took us about 3 years to get pregnant both times. I breastfed, read all the right books, bought organic cotton clothes when they were hard to find, used cloth diapers, read to them all the classics and then some, homeschooled Sarah until 2nd grade, balanced lessons and structured activities with down time so they could just be kids. I even limited tv time in the early years so much so that to this day neither of them are all that into wasting time watching tv. (Just try taking away their laptops though…) I had a job to do and I’m almost done with it. My ultimate responsibility was to grow responsible young adults that can function without me. They can think for themselves and take responsibility for their actions and the consequences. I’ve also cultivated a relationship with them so that over the years we have maintained mutual respect. That is why I don’t worry about them growing up and leaving me. That is what they are supposed to do.
Hopefully I won’t have to eat my words someday when one of them moves back in with me with her 3 year old twins and meth-addicted boyfriend while the other moves to the other side of the world and won’t come home for holidays because she feels that I didn’t love her enough and always preferred the dogs over her. But a mother does the best she can and hopes for the best.