I look at my daughter as she hovers over her phone. Her earbuds are in and she’s smiling the kind of smile she used to share with me when she was little and I’d take her hand, buy her a cookie, or snuggle with her on the sofa.
When she looks up at me these days, though, it’s as if I squeeze all the happiness right out of her. Some days, it feels like I’ve ruined her life without doing anything at all.
She’s moody and short with me, yet seems to forget that when she wants something. While I’d like to think I was better behaved than she is when I was 13, if you asked my mother she’d probably tell you I was terrible.
I bet she’d say she was ready to tear her hair out because I strutted around like an ungrateful brat who thought the world revolved around me and my feelings. I know she remembers me taking to my room, only wanting to be with my friends, and thinking she definitely didn’t know a thing about life — especially my life.
I’m beginning to think the terrible twos have nothing on 13. At least when they are toddlers, your kids will still hug and kiss you. Maybe they could throw down a showstopping temper tantrum in the grocery store, but you saw signs they still loved you: like when they fell asleep in your arms, scraped their knee and only wanted you, or couldn’t wait to show you their latest piece of artwork.
When my oldest child turned 13 a few years ago, it was dark. There were times I wondered if someone came and took over his mind and body — surely this was not him and I refused to believe our relationship would be like this forever.
Thirteen is when the nostalgia of mothering little kids sinks in deep. It can feel lonely as you reach for them, craving for something — anything that resembles the way things used to be.
But they don’t need that right now. They need to sprawl out with their independence, their “I know everything” attitude, and just be.
I’m not saying you don’t try and parent them out of it; you just learn to do it differently.
My kids used to be soothed by candy, or hugs and kisses, but they now ask for expensive shoes and more time with their squad. Sometimes they get it and sometimes they don’t — their privileges still need to be earned.
As soon as you think you’ve made some progress and some of their selfishness has been peeled away a bit, you are suddenly slapped in the face with their dirty dishes spread over the kitchen island, and are met with backtalk when you ask them to clean it up.
Then you wonder, what happened to all that hard work you did when they were little? Was sticking to all those rules and timeouts for nothing?
What happened to the thousands of reminders you gave out about manners? Also, why are you still apologizing for your kids’ behavior sometimes?
It doesn’t seem fair.
I love my kids, but 13 can leave. I’m not into these phases that are supposed to be “normal” but leave you feeling crushed, with no idea what you’re doing as you try to squirm your way back into their life.
They come back to you — they do. But 13 takes your child and morphs them into an unrecognizable creature, all the while, turning you inside out.
I wasn’t ready for 13 the first time around, and I certainly am not ready for it again.
So if you find yourself at the junction of “I miss you so much, please come back to me,” and “you cannot move out soon enough,” just know it’s not you, and it’s not them. It’s just 13.