Thursday, May 10, 2012

Not what I thought it would be

I wrote the post below three years ago, right before Kira was about to turn thirteen. I just came across it again, and felt like I had to re-post it. At the time I was filled with dread, visions of a teenage apocalypse running through my brain. I thought I was about to fall into the abyss, plunging into a world of teen pregnancy, tongue piercings and secret boyfriends. I imagined my beautiful daughter suddenly morphing into a dark, sullen creature who spent days locked in her room scrawling Black Sabbath lyrics on her arm with a Sharpie while I curled up into a ball and sobbed in the hallway.

Well, none of that came true. (Except for the sobbing in the hallway part, that is, although that's usually due to my internet being down or my inability to find a lint roller.) Both my girls are teens now, and are happy, well-adjusted kids with tons of ambition and great friends. The teenage apocalypse never came, and although there's lots of time for things to take an unexpected turn, I truly feel we're on a good path. And besides - they don't even like Black Sabbath.

(And get this – a couple of years after I wrote this post Kiyomi ended up taking drama lessons from Evan Rachel Wood's mom. If that isn't a circle-of-life moment I don't know what is.)

Flung into the mosh pit of teendom 

Five years ago a friend and I went to see the movie Thirteen .  It starred Evan Rachel Wood as a seemingly well-adjusted thirteen-year-old who falls into the wrong crowd and is seduced by a world of drugs, sex and petty crime.  At the time, my oldest daughter was seven and my friend’s daughter was five, but we both sat hunched in the theater, watching most of the movie through our fingers and horrified at what certainly would be our future.  I think it was the first time ever that I didn’t finish my tub of popcorn, and we both sat frozen, occasionally turning to each other saying hysterical things like, “I’m totally going to check her for piercings!“ and “No sleepovers ever!”  Forget Saw, or Halloween or any of those other horror movies; this was hands down the scariest film I had ever seen.

As you can imagine the movie didn’t let up in its gloomy portrayal of teen life.  And as we all know, Wood went on to date Marilyn Manson, and then was recently seen locking lips with Mickey Rourke. Oh wait – that was in real life.  Doesn’t matter – by the end of the movie my friend and I were convinced that the only sane choice we had was to invest in a couple of sturdy chastity belts and lock our girls in the house until they turned 30. 

Fast forward  five years and here I am, with a daughter that is about to turn the big 1-3 in just two months.  I’m happy to say she didn’t turn out anything like the girl in the movie; she gets straight A’s, has a group of nice, loyal friends and her interests lie more in music and art than in boys and piercings.  But I can’t help but feel she’s on the brink of a huge change, one that I don’t feel my husband and I are quite ready for.  Looking back, every milestone up until now – learning to walk, starting kindergarten, graduating to middle school – while huge, didn’t seem to be as heavy with the prospect of upheaval as becoming a teenager does.  And no surprise, since everything tells us that the teen years are some of the most difficult to navigate.  We’ve all heard the phrase, “Just wait till they become teenagers!” since our kids were born, and every show we see on TV depicting teen life makes it seem as if they’re all a bunch of hormone-crazed, drugged-out, skateboarding miscreants who like nothing better than to make their parents’ lives a living hell.  Why, if I didn’t know any better I’d think it was perfectly common for your fifteen-year-old to come home and announce they were moving in with their 35-year-old gym teacher.

My husband and I keep saying to each other, “So far, so good,” but as it inches closer to her thirteenth birthday our words are beginning to sound more like a panicked question than a comforting thought.  In other words, it’s really sounding more like, “So far she hasn’t told us she hates us or gotten a secret tattoo or stolen our booze but who knows what’s going to happen next week?”  See what I mean? Not comforting at all.

But seeing as I never got around to inventing that time machine, and altering a birth certificate is a crime, there’s no avoiding our beautiful daughter’s leap into the teenage years.  We’ll have to try our best to keep her on the right path, and trust that our parenting up until now has prepared her to make the right choices in life.  We're going to strive to keep the open, respectful relationship we've worked hard at cultivating, and hopefully by the time she's entered adulthood my husband and I will still be able to turn to each other and say, “So far, so good.”  And maybe then we'll even think about unlocking that chastity belt.

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  1. Sound like some good parenting going on at your house. My girl turns 12 next week. I hope I have the same luck!

  2. Isn't it funny? I have 3 teens now (twins in grade 9 and one in grade 11) and I actually love having teens. They're fun to talk to and a lot more independent. Who knew?


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