I have been struggling lately. You see, my firstborn is suddenly a teenager. I knew it was going to happen, but I never saw it coming. It feels like he went to bed one night as a little boy and emerged as a young man—complete with a deep voice, hairy legs, and hormones. He is blossoming in the most incredible way, but I am sad. It feels like I missed it even though I know I was there for it. And now I will never get it back. Time is funny like that.
Life is busy and our family is no exception. We have four kids, and I have been endlessly consumed with babies and toddlers. A lot of those early years are a blur, and I feel guilty that he was on the front end of the haze. I forced him to grow up a little faster than his siblings because I needed him to. He was always helpful and responsible. He is a typical firstborn in those ways.
I feel like his childhood just wasn’t long enough.
Did my mom feel this way about my childhood? Does everyone feel this way? I feel like I missed the parenting sweet spot with him because I was so engrossed in the early years with everyone else. Some days were so chaotic that I looked forward to nothing more than bedtime. Suddenly, I find myself longing for the days when he wanted to play with his Army guys in the bathtub for hours or the fleeting period when he was an eager and engaged babysitter to his younger siblings.
There are a few years I would consider “the parenting sweet spot.” The issue with them is that you likely won’t recognize they are happening until they are gone.
He spends a lot more time in his bedroom these days. My boy who always woke before 7 a.m. craves more sleep than ever before. He is navigating eighth grade after a strange COVID middle-school experience. He is making so many new friends and mentioning names I have never heard before. He carefully picks his clothes and styles his hair. He still wants to talk, but it’s on his terms now.
I wasn’t ready for the profound feeling of loss that comes with this teenage stage.
The hardest thing about it was how suddenly it happened. I guess I imagined a more gradual transition and am having a hard time accepting that the kid phase is over.
I am consciously trying to embrace this phase instead of resisting it. He is exactly where he should be, and I am endlessly proud of him. As a first-time teenager mom, I am learning how to navigate this phase too, just like I learned to be a first-time mom when he was a baby and then a toddler. If only there were a way to rotate the kids so they took turns being the first ones to go through stages, and they all got to see their mom through the lenses of their siblings at different points in time.
Time will go just as fast with my next three. This I am sure of. I know my experience and relationship with each child will be different as well. I just hope I can appreciate the ride as it’s happening because I have learned that the window slams shut when you least expect it.