Being told you are “cringy.” Having your hugs dodged. Exasperated looks. One-word answers. 

Welcome to the teenage jungle.

Enjoy, cherish, eat up the time when they are exuberant, chubby-fingered, adoring children. When they fly across the room to give you a hug. When they ask a billion questions and tell you ad nauseam about every detail of their day, their drama, their bowel movements.

Because these times have an expiration date, my friend.

Trust me. You won’t see it coming. You’ll just be trotting along, head in the clouds, loving your precious little babies, and BAM! out of nowhere, your kid is walking 20 steps behind you because he is annoyed you made him get out and enjoy nature instead of letting him hibernate like a bear in his room cave for a week straight. The audacity!

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Soon your daughter who tried to dress like you, talk like you, and BE you will suddenly be slamming her door and drowning her sorrows in bad Netflix shows and TikTok. You will go from being the keeper of her secrets to the one banging on the clubhouse door, only to be denied access because you don’t know the password.

Sigh.

You will imperceptibly go from Mama, to Mommy, to Mom, to BRUH. 

They will hug you less. Only say “I love you” when prompted. Cease to exist in common spaces, preferring to hole up in their rooms. They will smile tight-lipped smiles and laugh less. They will speak weird slang you’ve never heard of, and by the time you figure it out, those phrases will be dead. If you say them, they will roll their eyes and say, “Mom, stop.”

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As kids, you were their entire world; as teens, they will confine themselves to their own headspace. 

It will be endlessly frustrating and heart-wrenching.

But occasionally there will be glimmers of hope. Rays of their former, unencumbered selves will break through. When they ask for help proofreading a paper. When they unpack the dishwasher without being asked. When a friend makes them laugh uncontrollably. When they get the flu, and they want you to hold their hair back. 

As much as they will deny it, they will still need you. Even if they don’t say it. 

Be there. When they tell you to go away, be there. When they tell you they want to be alone, be there.

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When they say, “Nah, don’t bother,” do it anyway. When they complain about family time, make them participate. 

When they stop telling you they love you, keep saying it. 

And kiss them goodnight. No matter how old they get, always kiss them good night.

Melissa Neeb

I'm a Minnesota native and lover of nature, WW2 memoirs, rescue dogs, photography, and thrifting. My husband and two teenagers are the great loves of my life. I am passionate about advocating for addiction recovery, writing about parenting, life, faith, and everything in between.