Motherhood

On Parenting Teens

A Cup of Jo: On Parenting Teens

Oh, teenagers. The growth spurts, the hormones, the awkwardness, the drama. We asked nine parents of teens to share their thoughts, anecdotes and advice. Here are their funny, touching answers…

On entering new terrain:

I had no idea it was going to be like this, living with teenagers: all the scalp-smelling love affair of my babies, but with these hulking long-limbed beauties who know how to critique capitalism and drive each other to the dentist and make eggs. (And who still don’t know how to clean a bathroom or answer the phone.) Catherine, mom of Ben (18) and Birdy (15)

One day you are meeting their every need, and then, almost overnight, they are closer to independent adults. It’s both startling and rewarding! —Marisa, mom of Jonny (17) and Jackson (14)

When they were smaller, I always thought the teen years would be the hardest, as that is how the story goes. But as I watch them develop into young adults, I love them even more, if that’s possible. I found motherhood to small children quite difficult, while these two young people make me laugh, brim with pride and feel happy every day. Yes, they can be a real pain, but they are mine and I love them. They have great taste in music and keep me on the right track with fashion. They are excellent company. —Nicola, mom of Amy (18) and Rory (15)

On navigating ups and downs:

Teenagers are notoriously moody, but they come by it honestly. It’s a natural part of their development. Another thing about moods: It’s almost always because someone is overtired. An extra hour of sleep usually does everyone a world of good. —Patty, mom of Charlie (28), Sam (26) and Nina (20)

I can say one thing about raising teenage girls: This book is invaluable. —Diane

These days, I keep reminding myself of advice I was given by a friend whose kids have graduated from college. She said, ‘I even miss the hard times.’ I’ve found the past few years of parenting to be really hard. Not all the time, but often enough. We’ve all been teenagers, so we know what an emotional rollercoaster it is. Jenny, mom of Phoebe (16) and Abby (14)

The temper! That was unexpected. But I remember how my sister and I fought with our mom all the time when we were in high school, and now the three of us could not be closer. So, I know the animosity and eye-rolling are just a phase. —Bevin, mom of Sean (16) and Lauren (13)

I always imagined I’d have a child whose adolescence more or less resembled my husband’s and mine — studious/music-obsessed/theater-geeks. But my son is struggling through a particularly difficult adolescence. As a parent, you have to think outside your own expectations and do what is right for your child. Lisa, mom of Owen (14) and Beckett (11)

On fostering independence:

In terms of household responsibilities, I never say to do anything ‘right now!’ I say something like, ‘before you go to bed tonight’ or ‘before Dad gets home from his trip.’ It’s a little way of respecting their autonomy. —Patty

Knowing when to bite your tongue is hard. This can be when your son is eating potato chips and drinking Coke in bed at 11 p.m. Or when he’s watching TV inside on a beautiful sunny day. Or when he should be studying but he’s not. Or when he spends all his money on the world’s ugliest pair of basketball shoes. We have learned from experience that nagging kids at this age just doesn’t work. They need to find their own motivation from within and learn from their own (small) mistakes, which, amazingly, they do. —Bevin

There is a pull to helicopter in and rescue them. But at the same time, you know the right thing to do is let them figure things out for themselves. You have to let them grow into adulthood. —Liz, mom of Cole (17) and Mason (15)

Treat them with absolute respect, even if they have different goals and priorities than yours — that’s how they end up respecting you back, and listening when you have something to say. —Catherine

On talking about sex:

I got each of my kids a book on sex education (this book for my daughter and this book for my son), which were recommended by friends.—Nicola

When my son was nearly 12, he had the stomach flu. While lying in bed, he said he had something important to ask me. It took him a long time to work up the courage. He finally said, through tears, ‘Mom, if a person feels guilty about something, can they give themselves the flu?’ I forced myself not to smile, and said, ‘No. Only germs are to blame.’ He was deeply relieved. In not so many words, he admitted that he had been ‘exploring’ for the first time and feared it had made him sick. —Lisa

Before you have teenagers, you imagine some kind of capital-t Talk. And then you realize that it’s not a noun a static thing that will happen in the future or has already happened in the past. It’s a verb: talk. You talk and talk, because they are always changing, and sometimes they need to understand more about safety, sometimes they want to learn more about pleasure or trust or being queer. —Catherine

Sometimes I bring up tricky issues that are happening in the news — like sexual harassment — to see what my kids know. A great place to do that is in the car with the parent at the wheel. Kids are more open when they don’t have to look directly at your face. —Liz

On finding common ground:

It’s rewarding to see them stumble across a film or book that gets under their skin and becomes a part of their emerging sense of self. Exciting when it’s something you also loved when you were their age — but even cooler when it’s not. I have a new appreciation for things I never liked before, like Pink Floyd. —Lisa

My son and I have always loved the same kinds of movies. (When Arrival came out, we went to see it together twice in one week, his idea!) We have deep talks about the films and ideas around them. Those conversations are so meaningful yet easy for us because we aren’t talking about his life. —Bevin

My Spotify playlists have never been better. One of my daughters has wide-ranging taste — from classic rock to funk to punk to indie — and the other is really into pop, so I know every line to every Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, and Chance the Rapper song and I can also discuss the finer points of Real Estate, Kurt Vile and The Killers… something I’m oddly very proud of. —Jenny

On technology:

On the one hand, you’re fighting for attention with cell phones and iPads, setting (and re-setting!) limits for their use, worrying about kids posting hurtful things, and fretting about kids not being active enough. But, on the other hand, I love being able to text my son on the ski hill or when he’s out in someone’s car and have him tell me where he is. —Bevin

When I fight with my kids, 95% of the time, it’s rooted in technology. Why did you post that? Why are you on your phone so much? Get off your phone. You know you’re not allowed on your phone past ten, why did you sleep with your phone in your room? And they’re good kids, but it’s exhausting and confusing because there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer. You can’t just take this stuff away from them — it’s how kids talk and make plans. My 14-year-old actually used Instagram to spearhead her school walk-out for gun control next week and that’s amazing. Plus, it’s their world, so they need to learn how to navigate it. —Jenny

On savoring every moment:

If you do it right, the end goal is for them to leave. How can that be the reward for successfully nurturing a beloved person inside your home for the better part of 20 years? The song ‘Linger’ comes on the radio, and I cry and cry, even though I know it’s about a romantic relationship, not a mom and her high-school kids. —Catherine

Be prepared to lose your quiet time in the evenings as they stay up later and later. Your house will seem very small when they bring their gang of tall friends over. Your son’s voice will change practically overnight and he won’t sound like your baby anymore. Your daughter will never have enough makeup brushes. Next they will want to drive! Finally, one day, you will be where I am, and your baby girl who has become a kind, strong young woman, will be leaving for university and you will wonder how you’ll ever manage without them in your home. —Nicola

Walking into my son’s room the other week, I stopped in my tracks at the scent: Old Spice mixed with candy wrapper, leather, stale sweat and sneaker fug… the not-altogether-unpleasant musk of teenaged boy. I hadn’t smelled it since I was a teenager, and it made me think of those boys I crushed on, who had seemed so tough, so powerful, so unknowable (they were probably just as confused and clueless as I was), and they had moms, like me, who stood in their rooms with aching, bewildered hearts as they watched their little boys grow into men. —Lisa

A Cup of Jo: On Parenting Teens

Are you the parent of a teenager? Do you have anything to add? We’d love to hear…

P.S. Talking to children about sex, and five ways to teach kids consent.

(Top photo via My So-Called Life. Bottom photo via Freaks and Geeks.)

  1. yvonne says...

    My children are now 31, 30, and 24. As teens, I can tell you, they were all completely different. Drew (31) was predictable. He never gave me any trouble. He had a great core of friends – both male and female – that he hung out with. We grew up in a small town, so I knew all the parents of his friends because we had all gone to high school together. He was a breeze – except when it came to schoolwork. He would do the homework but never turn it in. From 5th grade until the end of senior year, this was a constant battle. I even went to school and sat in on all his classes with him to make sure he turned in his work. This seemed to be very effective. Especially in high school when they had break and he was walking ahead of me to get away and I yelled out, “Wait for me Drew. I’ll be right there.” That was all I needed to do.
    Jessie (30) was a different story. Teenage girls! Wow! There isn’t a book for them and their drama. She fell in with the wrong crowd and took a turn for the worst. My mom was no help. She coddled her (and still does). We had moved back home and when I needed to go out of town or to a late night event, I would tell my mom not to let her go anywhere. Of course, she let her go, and it always backfired. I would have to come home and clean up the mess. Now that Jessie is a mom of three, she understands why I gave her the rules I did. Hindsight is 20/20.
    Matt (24) was my kid genius. He was unbelievably smart. By the time he was in 5th grade, he had 12 units of college credits under his belt. He studied Ancient Greek & Roman Civilization in 3rd grade. And then, two weeks into freshman year in high school, he came home and said, “I don’t want to be gifted anymore. I’m tired of being gifted.” And he stopped doing homework . . . for four years!!!! I called the school, but the principal said, “That sounds like a family matter, so I cannot get involved.” We didn’t know until the day before h.s. graduation if he was going to graduate. Thankfully, he did.
    Now, they are all doing very well as adults. They got all that rebellion out of their systems in their teen years (thank you, Jesus!) and I couldn’t be prouder of all three of them.

  2. Rachel says...

    Oh wow. My son is only 18 months, and yet I feel I need to somehow mentally bookmark all these pieces of wisdom for use many years down the road! The comment “If you do it right, the end goal is for them to leave. How can that be the reward for successfully nurturing a beloved person inside your home for the better part of 20 years?” already seems so poignant, and I’m less than two years into this parenting journey!

  3. Nicola’s comment on entering new terrain really hits home. So does every comment in savoring the moment. We have one getting ready to leave for college and I can’t imagine when both our girls are not living at home. It’s an amazing thing to enjoy your kids as adults which is what the goal was all along. Which makes them leaving all the more bittersweet.

  4. Nikki says...

    Liz’s comment about talking in cars… I hated this as a teenager. My mum would use every car journey as an opportunity to discuss everything I didn’t want to talk about… Boys,sex,periods. I remember deliberately thinking of ways to get out of going in the car with her. Our relationship now is wonderful and treasured, but God, how I think back on those car rides and cringe! It’s the one thing I’ve promised myself I won’t do to my kids X

  5. Cora says...

    Catherine’s comment about the reward being that they leave you captures how I feel about parenting. I need these little people to be happy, successful adults (in whatever way success means to them). But helping to create their capable selves is heart breaking as I watch them get a little bit farther away from me with every step towards independence.

  6. J.J. says...

    Mom of an amazing nineteen year old boy (er, man). My advice, is to be available to listen when they want to talk. My son used to call me every day when he was walking home from school (starting in middle school and it lasted through high school and even now to a certain extent between college classes and his job – yes I am grateful). I found that if I was available to chat with him for a few minutes, I would learn all about his day. If I wasn’t free to talk to him on his walk home, once I got home after work and asked how his day was, his reply would be ‘fine’ and I’d get nothing else. I needed to be available to listen when he wanted to talk. And I made/make sure that most of the time I was/I am available. This time is so fleeting – it’s a great investment. All relationships require nurturing.

  7. Irina says...

    In the Russian-Jewish culture that I grew up in, a lot of parents, including mine, have a really hard time letting their children go, allowing them to grow up and become their own person while being supportive and gently guiding rather than controlling. On top of that, we were dealing with a scenario that appears to be common in immigrant families, where my parents (my dad especially, as the driving force behind our move to the US) felt like they took us out of a terrible situation and I should take full advantage of being in this wonderful new country and not mess up my chances to succeed, with success being defined in pretty materialistic/conventional terms, i.e. job security, good pay, a well-respected profession, a marriage (with kids), when the time was right, to someone with similar socioeconomic and educational status, a house, etc.

    My parents were pretty good at parenting my sister and me when we were young, but from the time when we hit our teenage years and into our adulthood, they really had no idea what to do and made a lot of mistakes. Currently I have no contact with them and I feel like they could benefit from some therapy before we can resume talking, or even some sort of “Parenting in Western Culture 101” course if there was such a thing, but I doubt that they will ever seek out this kind of help due to the misconceptions they have about mental health and counseling. It’s unfortunate that they are unable to realize that a parent does not always know best simply by virtue of being a parent and that sometimes parents need help to be the best parents they can be.

    • Olanda says...

      Wow, that must be so hard. You’re very brave. I may be completely off mark but what if you sent them a parenting/relationship book that speaks to you with key passages highlighted and write. “I miss you. Would you read this?”. Maybe a bad idea, just one that came to me.

  8. Joanna says...

    Oh my gosh, Catherine’s final comment brought me to full on tears. I have a 13 year old stepson and 1 year old baby, and I’m terrified to imagine what my life will look like when they are not the center of it. I can’t fathom that my stepson will only talk to me when he wants, on his terms, and not every single day. It does feel so unthinkably cruel that our reward is their departure!

  9. Meg says...

    There were many unexpected things about becoming a step mother a couple years ago, but anticipating the day when my husband’s boys leave for college (the first in just 4 years!) is so upsetting. The eldest is 14, and the way he deals with life seems to be to keep his inner world very guarded, which is also so upsetting (where is he? I want to know him!), but it is also so beautiful watching him grow and change and figure things out. I didn’t expect that love of children would contain such a variety of feeling – it took me a while to realize it was love. Agh! BRB gotta go cry in a bathroom stall.

  10. Maureen says...

    Love all the comments. No one told me how sleep deprived I would be throughout the teenage years. Waiting up for 3 different kids to come home on the weekends, worrying about where they were and what they were doing, brutal!! My husband always could fall asleep but I had to wait up until they were all home safely. But besides that, we loved it. They have grown into my favorite people besides my husband. When the 5 of us are together, all is right with the world. My 24 year old daughter is coming out to spend the night and watch the Oscars with me, “because her friends aren’t into it as much as you and I are!”

  11. Amanda says...

    This hit me right in the feels.

  12. Diane says...

    My three are all grown and on their own (ranging from 23-34). For me, it was about avoiding a one size fits all approach and letting them dictate their needs. My oldest wasn’t particularly talkative, but about once a week as I was heading to bed and exhausted, he’d want to talk. I would fight my urge to sleep, knowing that this wasn’t time I would get back. With my youngest, I became very involved with her color guard activities, which gave me more insight into her world and friends, and more shared experiences. With my middle child, it was all about watching and talking about foreign films. And I asked them all about their music preferences, so that they are still suggesting “music Mom would like.”

  13. Nicole says...

    Having just emerged from the tumultuous waters of teendom myself, this article brought to mind one of my mom’s greatest pieces of advice: that she would not always agree with me or my decisions but that she would love and respect me just the same. Its a sentiment that most parents would probably echo, but as a teen it really helped to hear it spoken out loud.

  14. A Martin says...

    I also needed this. I have been having a tough time with my 3 year old and wish I was more patient. He says “Mama” like over 100 times a day and he wants to be with me all day and night. It can be draining…but I know I will miss this phase but yeah, it is tough when you are in this phase buuuut focusing on the positive (ahh such a mind game!). However, after reading all these comments, it reminds me that one day, he will be along on his adventure, far from home and my heart will ache for him. Someone today told me that soon enough I’ll have a quiet and tidy home but it will be empty. I look forward to romanticizing the toddler years and it gives me hope for the upcoming parenting phases.

  15. Izzy says...

    Might be the only teenager reading this but it’s nice to hear/read a post that appreciates us! Feel a lot of articles only highlight how much we argue or can’t do anything for ourselves so lovely to see something refreshing. Thank you.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, izzy! that is so, so nice to hear. :)

    • cgw says...

      Teacher to highs choolers, and a mom to a new teen, you’re awesome, your mind, your heart. I sometimes have to remind my students/advisees that you and your parents are at a crossroads of sorts. You’re looking ahead at adulthood, freedom, figuring out your individuality. There’s a lot of unknowns, and you’re trying to carve out who you are. Your parents are looking at you realizing that you’re a real individual with your own mind, and wondering, fretting if they’ve given you enough of the right tools to move forward and not get too banged up. Wondering if we’ve done our job right, while watching, in awe the beautiful person you’re becoming. It’s a very exciting time for teens, but a truly strange, and bittersweet time for parents (and even high school teachers)!

  16. Anathea Ruys says...

    As the mum of a 14 year old and 11 year old, I tell people all the time that every stage is the best. When they were tiny babies I wondered how any other stage would be as good, then when they were toddlers, primary school kids, tweens I wondered the same. But always thinking the nightmare teens would change that thinking. But they haven’t. My 14 year old is awesome and this is the best time (just like all the other times). He is interesting, funny, challenging, and I love to be with him. He is also a pain in the butt and I even enjoy that side.

    • Chelsea says...

      Thank you! I so appreciate you saying this, Anathea, and loved Nicola’s comment in the post about enjoying the teen years. I have three children between the ages of one and seven and I am always having random people tell me how I should enjoy them while they’re young because when they become teenagers they are so terrible.

      I have enjoyed every stage of parenting (some more than others), but something that has surprised me is how much I have truly enjoyed seeing my children grow into unique individuals. Plus, it’s so much fun to be able to share more of the same interests and do new things together like play a board game that isn’t Candyland or watch a movie together that isn’t targeted toward toddlers.

  17. Is that Claire Danes in the photo? What show/movie is it from? Thanks!

    • Kate says...

      OMG – I feel so old! Anyone my age can recognize Angela in a heartbeat! Amazing show.

  18. Amanda J. says...

    I am pregnant with my first child and as I read this I became teary-eyed! It feels like I was a teenager not long ago myself. This has reminded me that, before I know it, my little baby bump will grow into their own true individual self. I am reminded to enjoy and appreciate every moment that is to come, even the hard ones.

  19. Man, I still feel such a twinge of guilt every time I think about the way I was toward my mom as a teen. I was a really good kid (straight As, class vice president, etc) but I was SO MEAN to my mom. We’re best friends now though! Teenage angst is temporary.

    • I wish every Mom of teens could read this comment Dayna! You offer a lot of hope that the bumpy season will pass. I bet she’s so proud of your friendship now.

  20. Sasha says...

    No experience parenting teens- i just can’t get over how young Claire Danes looks here! I remember watching My so-called life when it came out, and she seemed so old to my 12-year old self! I rewatched it a few years ago on Netflix (highly recommend it!), and now her mom is a much more sympathetic character to me..

  21. I might be the only man reading this.. but I still find it insightful- especially with three daughters who in less than 5 years will be teenage!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hi xander!! welcome to our coven, haha! :)

  22. I don’t have kids yet, much less teens, but I have been teaching them for the past six years in high school English class, and let me just say: parents are not nearly–NOT NEARLY–as concerned as they should be about digital technology and its hold over their children. NOT NEARLY.

    • Elizabeth says...

      Any ideas or suggestions you have for action steps we can take to deal with this?

  23. Kyla says...

    I love this so, so much. One of the million things I did not expect about having three boys was that the sight of teenagers would reduce me to tears. At 5,3, and 1, I am everything to them right now. And those gangly 13 year old boys are a walking, talking reminder that there is a time limit to that. Especially at this moment, when teens are stepping up and reminding us that the world is theirs… and man do they deserve it. My mother always told me she aimed to be my soft place to fall, so that when the world got cruel or sad or confusing, I had someplace to retreat. I try to do that for my boys now, so they know that even if they are a foot taller than me, they can always lean on my shoulder.

    • Liv says...

      Oh this made me cry- having three boys myself, (7, 5 and coming up on 2), I relate so much. Thank you!

    • B says...

      Ahh Kyla – I have three girls the exact same ages as yours! and the teenage years seem to be getting exponentially closer! I’m worried I don’t have what it takes to raise teenage girls, to champion them and understand them and nurture them, and yet keep them safe and whole? It seems so scary to me! I guess I don’t have anything to add, just I’m with you all :) and I so appreciate everyone’s comments and encouragement and advice in this post…. you’re making it seem more natural and slightly less terrifying ☺️ Haha

  24. january says...

    Teach boys how to keep house, esp the cleaning, ie: toilet area for obvious male-related reasons, laundry and how to shop and cook at least three go-to meals. And teach them to be responsible for birth control – and why -around age 12, way before they will hopefully need it. They also need to understand that their sexual needs are not the same as their same age female friends and that girls tend to equate sex with committed love, not…sex, so they should learn how to take care of their sexual needs on their own until they feel mature enough to respect a girl’s heart.

  25. Elizabeth says...

    Just had to comment how fun it is to see a picture of Claire Danes from her My So Called Life days, as I love her so much in Homeland!

  26. martha says...

    Great post! And very timely, as my twins have been changing before my eyes in all ways imaginable (they turned 13 last October). The Cup of Jo community never disappoints when it comes to beautiful stories and loads of support. Thanks!

  27. Shelley Fox says...

    Jeez, I’m sitting here at work, crying and crying over these comments. I have a six year old son, and four year old twin girls – we have a ways to go before the teenage years…but still. I want nothing more than for them to be successful, independent adults but, oh the thought of it…my heart is in my throat. I loved reading all these comments – thank you!

  28. This was so good to read; I feel like there is so much focus on babies and toddlers, when we get to the older stages as parents, it’s easy to feel like you’re on your own.

    My oldest is 13 although it feels like they’ve been a teenager for about 3 years now. They are so fiercely independent and opinionated most of the time but in a way I so admire. I’ve actually liked this stage quite a bit so far. The moods are difficult sometimes and they’re also navigating some gender identity issues which is a complicated conversation, but overall, it’s really great to be able to have deeper conversations with your kid, watch them start to make sense of the world, to make their way in it. I fear for them all the time but I’m also so proud.

    I completely relate to the comment about missing even the hard times. I already miss all the things, even the hard things, about little kids and I feel like our home is so full of life right now; it’s hard to imagine my kids gone and my husband and I rattling around here alone.

  29. Kelly says...

    I have a newly 13 year old and what a ride it has been! She goes to a French immersion charter school and each year, the school takes the 6th graders to France for 2 weeks where they live with a host family and fully immerse themselves in the culture and education. They can’t take their cell phones or any electronic devices, and I have to say, I had reservations at first, but it was the best decision the school could have made. My husband and I decided to take our own European vacation during this time and pick her up in Paris on her last day that she was with her class. The whole experience is something you can never fully imagine until it happens. They seem so young and so incapable. Everyone who had done it before said that the kids come back as different people, and you know, they were right. Picking her up in Paris will be one of the greatest memories of my life, but seeing her after such a worldly adventure, one I had very little connection to, was incredible. She was just 12 at the time, but she seemed somewhat other worldly; more mature, well traveled and it was the first time I looked at this little human and realized she’s becoming who she will be. It was emotional, it was humbling and it was truly awesome. She had this whole experience that I knew nothing about and it was equal parts sad and exhilarating. As we enter the teenage years, I am trying to remind myself that she is indeed her own person and that I have to learn to let go of the experiences I want to be a part of and let her experience her own things too. I think that can be challenging for parents, but especially for parents of only children. Like all families, we have our good days and bad. I was somewhat of a young and inexperienced mom, so in many ways, we are growing together. She is so much like me and so different than me all at the same time and I haven’t quite figured out how best to harness and empower that. I will say the one thing I am holding onto now is just hope. Hope that I’ve done things right. Hope that she’s learned enough to make good decisions. Hope that she’ll not hate me for being the “mean mom” and hope that as she continues to have adventures separate from me, that she’s safe, happy and grounded. Isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day? To know that we did the best we could and our kids are gonna be alright no matter where they go and what they do?

    • DIANA says...

      I want you to know that I’m 28 and I love (and have always loved) my mean mom.

    • Sarah says...

      What an amazing experience for your daughter! And kudos to you for letting her have it. You sound like a great mother.

  30. Beth says...

    My friend at work has 3 teenagers. She always jokes that these are her teen parenting tips:
    1- No blankets in the basement
    2- Nothing good has ever happened in a basement
    3- Don’t ask questions if you aren’t prepared for the answer

    • Cara says...

      Hahaha I love #1 and #2

    • Robin says...

      Ha my teen years are decades behind me but I remember enough to second all three :). I was a comparatively easy teen and still I shudder at what I put my parents through. I’m turning 40 this year, and my oldest will be five. I’m ten years I’ll be 50 and he’ll be 15. Doesn’t seem so far away any more!

  31. Lisa says...

    This “who stood in their rooms with aching, bewildered hearts as they watched their little boys grow into men.” made me tear up. I’m very far from having teens – I have a three month old and a NEARLY 2 year old. I veer from dreaming of the day when they’re much less dependant on me and my most played songs are “the wheels on the bus” and “five little monkeys”, to being terrified at how fast it’s gone. I can’t believe it’s been nearly 2 years since I gave birth to my baby boy, and now he’s a big brother. It feels like I was pregnant with his sister for only 9 minutes, not 9 months. I wish they could be babies forever, or I could occasionally freeze them at a particularly cute point, like today when she laughed for the first time and when he learns new words.

  32. Chels says...

    This made me cry at work, and i’m a 27 year old childless female with no child rearing in the remotely near future. My heart is fully warm and it’s before 10AM. Thank you for this.

    • Ditto! I’m an unmarried 24 year old having a moment at her desk right now.

  33. Stacey McDonnell says...

    Oh my gosh!!! I needed this post today. I have 4 teenagers in my house right now – 18, 16, 14 and 13. The last post about the son’s room and the smell hit me the hardest. The same exact thing happened to me about 2 days ago. After I went into my oldest’s room and got that whiff of boy/man, I walked over to him staring at his computer, sitting on the couch, twirling his curls hanging over his forehead and kissed him on the cheek and inhaled so deeply. I am going to miss him so much when he leaves for school in August – oh my am I going to miss the baggy jeans, the stinky feet, the lanky walk and late nights falling asleep while I can still hear him strumming guitar in the basement.

    • Noreen says...

      Annnnnd I’m sobbing. Beautiful words, Mama!

  34. Rosa says...

    As the parent of a 16 year old young woman and soon to be 13 year old girl, I find that I’ve had to ease up on my expectations and try not to hold my daughters to a higher standard than I hold myself to. Transitions, mental health, sexuality, academics and just general well being are all things that have come to the forefront over the past couple of years and I’m doing my best to help her (the eldest) through it all (the youngest is pretty chill). We’ve had some very hard conversations and all they really need to know in the end is that you love them, completely and totally without conditions. I also sometimes have to remind myself to shut my mouth and let them be.

  35. Manuela says...

    I *love* this! Some posts for the adults that are not parents, but still looking for content that reflects their lives, and the importance of their roles as aunts, sisters, daughters, best friends….

  36. Luci says...

    Here I am…crying at my desk at 8am! What a beautiful, hopeful, heartbreaking, funny post. As the parent of an 18 month old, my heart goes out to all parents preparing to have their babies leave the nest and can’t even imagine what that will be like for us…feels like light years away yet it will probably come faster than I imagine!

  37. Victoria says...

    I´m so grateful for this post!!. In need to laugh about this not-that- beatiful stage of life I´m going trough with my 14 daughter wich used to be the sweetest girl. Will she ever come back?? Hope so…miss her. Warms my heart to read all these wonderful comments. Thank you from Madrid, Spain!

  38. Elle says...

    Here I am cuddling my very last baby boy. A moment ago I felt sorry for myself bc of sleep deprivation and feeling a bit lonely. Now I am crying and feeling grateful instead. I will really try to savour these precious moments. Thank you for putting things into perspective.

  39. Suse says...

    I do not have children, but I work in the upper division of an all boys school (some would call it privileged). Here is what I have observed over the past 2 or 3 years: the pervasive use of smart technology combined with social media, they have grown more aloof even disrespectful. I wonder if it’s because of what they can get way with on social media platforms and is now transferring into interpersonal relations?

  40. What an interesting post!

    My daughters are still only 6 and 8, but both rather precocious. I often see in them the adolescents they will become soon and it is touching, but also stressing at times.

    Put simply: as a mother of a child, you expect it to accept your authority, even if they don’t like it, because you are her mom period. I am not saying you don’t take the time to explain and argument even with your young child. But at the end of the day you are not putting on a short-sleeve T-shirt, cause your mom said it’s -10 outside.

    As they grow though, I am having more and more trouble to end a conversation with the same argument. I can still impose my decisions on them, but I am starting to wonder whether I should. At the same time they are still kids and still need to be framed. I feel this balance constantly shifting though. And I imagine it will keep doing so until adulthood.

    I was wondering how parents of teenagers have experienced this transition.

    Thanks again,

    Aliki

  41. Meg says...

    As a parent of a toddler, I appreciated this post on things ahead. One note: while including the names and ages of their kids was a humanizing idea, but it makes me uncomfortable for Lisa’s son with the direct link to her/him and the later story about exploring from presumably the same Lisa. That seems like something private? I’m not opposed to reading about it as happening to “someone”, and I appreciate seeing all sorts of stories included here, but as a 14-yo boy with a particularly difficult adolescence, I’d be upset to see that included here when specifically identifying me. It made me a bit uncomfortable for his sake, as if we’d invaded his privacy.

  42. Alice says...

    Okay, re: the in-the-car-talk thing. I completely understand why so many people do this, and it IS a good place to have these conversations in a lot of ways. HOWEVER, please be careful about this… when I was a teenager, my dad used to have a lot of difficult conversations with me in the car, (particularly about his relationship with his now-wife who I’ve never been particularly fond of), because he knew I couldn’t “escape”. In the end, my mum had to tell him to stop doing this, because it made me so stressed and upset about getting in the car with him. So parents of teenagers- please, by all means, have difficult conversations with your children in the car- but don’t ONLY have them there. It adds so much pressure and anxiety to such an everyday part of life…

    • Nicole K. says...

      I second this! Getting in the car wasn’t the problem, but it was my mom telling me “Dad wants to talk to you” that was generally followed by “so he’s driving you to school” that put real fear and dread into my heart. I still dread it, even at age 29! It wasn’t always bad, but it was always serious, and I wish sometimes it had been “Dad’s going to drive you to school” just for fun.

  43. In French, they say, little kid, little problems; big kid, big problems.
    I read to my kid before bed until quite recently and still occasionally do. The language difference–English is less comfortable–gave me an excuse. It became a moment when my kid would confide in me. Sometimes it would be cued by something in the book; sometimes it was just the daily moment when I was giving 100% attention and my kid felt secure, all snuggled in bed. I never planned it, but I am glad we have this time every day when words can come out. Lately, it has been when the lights go off. I sit on the edge of the bed and give a little scalp massage while my kid recounts whatever the trouble is.

  44. Laura C. says...

    My eldest turned seven three days ago, so I am keeping these treasure comments and advice from you, dear teenagers’ moms. Thank you.

  45. Deanna says...

    We have four children (and seven grandkids now). They were two grades apart growing up. We called the teenaged years “the crazies”!
    One evening, my older daughter and I had a fight, she screamed at me as she stomped up the stairs. My son (two years older) apologized to me and gave me a hug. My younger daughter (again, by two years) promised she would never “be like that”, but six months later…
    BTW, Kudos to my husband. When all of the kids were done with the “crazies”, I hit menopause! The grownup version of the “crazies”!

  46. Neela says...

    Way to make me cry in a coffee shop! My baby’s only 20 months, contemplating this still unfathomable future is emotional!

  47. My oldest is five but I feel like I need to revisit this post when in 7 years. Which doesn’t feel that far away! I was talking with my therapist and she said “I can’t remember the last time my son sat on my lap, but there was a last time.” It made me appreciate the stage my children are in right now but reading this post makes me hopeful for the teenage years too. Especially since girls get such a bad rap!

    • Elizabeth says...

      I’m going to my parent’s house alone this weekend without my husband or any other people as a married 32 year old to spend some time with them. I just may attempt to sit on my mom’s lap (or maybe next to her…we’ll see). We’ve had a rough go of it this past year but I think if I just sit with her and don’t say anything it might be important.

  48. Michelle says...

    Oh, I loved these comments so much! So much wisdom. As the mother of two teenage boys (and another coming into pre-adolescence soon), I have been astounded to discover that the dreaded teenage years have been a delight. I think accepting that it is natural and even good for your children to grow away from you makes the navigation of the changes easier. Respecting their personhood and their growing independence is key. I try to offer them freedoms before they are asking for them. This means they are not pushing me away. Rather, I hope, I am helping them fly. As others mentioned, it is a delight to learn from them, something that will only increase with age. To share books and films and music in a mutual way is wonderful. As their personalities and sense of self grow to fill their suddenly tall, almost-adult bodies, I find myself in wonder at who they are becoming. I could not and still cannot predict where they will end up. At times, this can make me fearful. But clutching at them or trying to protect them would not work. So, I simply watch, attentive to the areas where they are ready to be free, slipping in a hand or a hug or a bit of advice where invited, and drink in the wonder of it all.

  49. Cristine says...

    No joking aside…being the parent of not one, but two eighteen year olds is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. They are by turns kind and thoughtful, but within the same moment biting, rude,judgemental and thoughtless. It’s like living with 4 teenagers instead of two because they’re emotions change so rapidly.
    But as graduation approaches and they make plans to venture from my protective wing I am terrified for both themselves and me. I keenly feel their accomplishments and setbacks now more than ever. My nostalgia has brought me to tears on more than one occasion, once during a family rafting trip and another at a parent teacher confrence.
    The truth is that raising my teens has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the most wonderful and rewarding thing as well.
    Between the fighting the crying and the judgment there are glimpses of beautiful people waiting to emerge once their hormones calm down!

    • Marlena says...

      When I was about to become a teen mother, my father (so wise!) told me almost exactly what you just stated which was, “Being a parent will be, in equal measure, the absolute worst thing and the absolute most amazing thing you will ever do.” And he was so right! Nothing brings me to my knees in despair like my children, yet nothing leaves me with so much joy than my children. It’s such a trip to be a parent. Such. A. Trip.

    • Crystal says...

      Cristine, yes I have a 4.5 year old and I know it will only get harder.

      Marlena, exactly! Your dad has articulated my experience! I am sure it will only get more intense!

  50. Dana says...

    I love that you covered this, and the parents’ comments you included made me a mix of achey, hopeful, and wistful about something that hasn’t even happened yet! (My little guy is 5 and a half now…somebody please slow it down!)

  51. Kathy says...

    Thanks. I love this content. We have really struggling on the parenting front recently. It’s good to have this reminder to savor these years

  52. Kelly says...

    Tears! I have a 7yo and a 1yo and I look at friends with older kids and fantasize about sleeping in, not knowing when someone poops, nights out without babysitters…but then there will be the leaving! My 7yo, who is a tall girl (and I’m short), said to me ‘don’t worry mama you can always call me baby.’ I said, ‘even when you’re taller than me?’ Happily she said yes!

  53. Allison says...

    I’m a mom of a toddler and this post has my heart bursting with love and sadness and joy and grief and excitement and fear and… life. I am eagerly awaiting our wild ride. Glad to have you all to look up to and to learn from.

  54. I’ve worked with teens for 15 years. I’m a few years from parenting one, so I ask my teen friends all kinds of advice. Mainly, I ask them what makes them talk or not talk to their parents about their lives? It all boils down to reaction. The smaller the reaction, the more they will talk. The bigger reaction to their stories, the more they will shut down.

    Looking forward to the teen season of parenting!

    • Karen says...

      This is true! And one of the main reasons why my sister shuts down on my mother, meanwhile my mother is internally begging my sister to open up to her. It’s sad. I have always had a connection with my mother so the reactions don’t bother me. I have a more open relationship with her.

    • Libbynan says...

      This is absolutely true! When my kids were teenagers, my husband went off like a rocket every time something even remotely out of the ordinary came up. I came from a family of “drama queens ” so I tended to take everything in stride. Unfortunately that meant that they brought everything to me and it was kind of us against him, but he brought it on himself. I tried and tried to get him to react less and listen more, but he just couldn’t. Luckily, over time he has learned wisdom and now they confide in him as often as they do me.

  55. Melinda says...

    Raising a 16-year-old. 21-year-old has new wings yet still looks to home -sometimes while in mid-flight (and without a flight plan!). It’s true. The days were long and the years were short. Sigh.

  56. Amanda says...

    Early morning solo car rides to school have become vital for open discussions with my almost 14yr old and 10 yr sons. We discuss basics like music, sports or politics but also really meaningful topics such as learning about “consent” in health class, how to navigate a friend being diagnosed with cancer, or what it means to date. What I realize in thse open conversations is that I truly LIKE the person each of my boys are becoming. Having a judgement free zone where they feel safe expressing themselves and to ask questions, it’s priceless. During these conversations is when I physically feel proud of the open minded and open hearted men I am helping raise. Parenthood is a journey and I find myself enjoying my sons’ even more as they get older. I have recently noticed I feel excitement for them as they get older.

    • Libbynan says...

      I was not a perfect parent. No one is. But I always say I was a successful parent for three reasons: 1. Nobody wound up in jail (even me), 2. Nobody got pregnant that didn’t want to, 3. I have two adult kids that I would want to know even if I wasn’t related to them.

  57. Jillk says...

    Love the Amelia jumpsuit! So beautiful and practical.

    • Jill says...

      Whoops wrong post! 🤷‍♀️

  58. Angie says...

    This took me back to the time our then 4-year-old son hugged me tight around the waist at bedtime and declared, “I’m never letting you go Momma!” Then fast forward 15 years and we were leaving him at college for his first year. Towering over me, he wrapped me in a big hug and whispered “It’s okay Momma, you can go.” It still takes my breath away how very fast those years went. A big XO to all you parents out there!
    PS: The rest of the story? He’s now 30 years old, married and has 3 littles of his own. ❤️❤️❤️

    • Jasna says...

      I literally burst into tears at my office desk reading this comment. So touching! My kids are 2 and a half and 6 years old and I don’t want time to pass so quickly. Thank you, mama, for this beautiful comment!

    • Heather says...

      This just made me cry a little bit. <3 <3

    • Carine says...

      Yep, this one got me too.

    • B says...

      TEARS! This was so beautiful! You must be bursting with pride, mama :)

  59. Rachel says...

    Not a mom, but one of my favorite experiences in early college was working closely with a group of 6-12th graders in a performing arts program. Teenagers get such a bad rap sometimes, but they’re so smart and earnest and determined and deeper than they get credit for.

    In my group, the high school juniors would take the middle schoolers under their wing when they got nervous before shows, and 8th graders sometimes helped sophomores run their choreography during breaks. Some are now directors of the program themselves, and they’re some of my favorite people in the world.

    • wendy says...

      I agree! I teach high school and am a parent of a former teen – I LOVE teens – they keep me energized and smiling all day. They really are cool (even throughout their very real struggles). They want to be heard.

  60. Kate says...

    Oh that last one especially 💔😭!

  61. You are all bringing back so many memories. My teenager is now 22. He was an easy teen most of the time. Every once in a while he dug in his heels and he always won those battles. We didn’t stand a chance. He had logical reasons and passion and he wore us down. In the long run, he knew what he needed and we trusted him.
    Someone talked about teenagers needing their sleep. I’ll never forget a trip to Paris and visiting the Musée du quai Branly the day after arriving in France. Our son was exhausted and not in the mood for the museum visit. He was indignant at the old cataloging numbers written on the surfaces of the masks and other art (it was a bit shocking) and it became the thing that he used to turn the visit into torture for us. He growled, he huffed, he nudged, pointed and complained nonstop. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
    In spite of that episode, we had the best trips with him and still do from time to time. He enjoyed (luckily still likes) our road trips and going off the beaten path to explore.
    As others mentioned, he taught us a lot. About music, literature and art. Now we love visiting him in Brooklyn and going to the galleries and museums. He tells us about the artists and their work.
    It’s hard to let them go and you miss them terribly. It’s such a conflict to do the right thing and help them move into their own lives, all the while wanting to keep them close.

  62. Megan says...

    Did I miss the announcement that Caroline is back?! Love her!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, she’s filling in for lexi, while lexi is on maternity leave!

    • Vee says...

      I had the same reaction! Love seeing Caroline here again!

  63. Lora says...

    If you had told me 16 years ago, when my son was a newborn baby, that someday I would be dreading his leaving home I would have laughed in your face. And yet, here I am with a 16 year old son who will be leaving home in two short years. I would give almost anything to go back to when he was little to enjoy him again, or maybe enjoy him more. I see his broad shoulders, listen to him sing in his lovely baritone, watch how he treats everyone with such kindness, and I cry and cry. I’m pretty sure he’s starting to wonder what the heck is wrong with me but I can help it.

    • Kate says...

      You made me cry!!! My son is almost 13 and all the silly cliches are so true. I feel like I was underwater for years, trying to catch my breath (I had 3 under 3). All of s sudden I’ve come up for air and he’s almost a teenager. 💔I’ve always felt like my son had to grow up too fast – even at 3 he seemed so big to me bc he had 2 younger siblings. I physically ache for those days back, but I try to be in the moment now and I do love watching him become the person he’s becoming ❤️. Hugs to you!

    • Leah says...

      I’m right there with you with my 16 year old son. I vividly remember looking at his smooth, soft, perfect baby skin and thinking, one day he’ll be hairy!! It truly happened in the blink of an eye. I love this boy with my whole heart and am trying to cherish every day that he’s still under my roof.

  64. ceciel says...

    This touched me deeply. Thank you all for sharing.

  65. Bonnie says...

    This post is so wonderful. I am a mother to a 3 year old and a 6 year old but I teach teenagers. I am crying right now reading this and all of the comments.

  66. n says...

    beautiful post, and comments! I’m 32, I don’t have kids, or plan to have for that matter, but I feel I always learn a lot from all your parenting posts.. thank you all! it’s beautiful to get glimpses of everyones lifes and thoughts.
    if anyone has any advice, I would love to read about how to navigate the relationship of being the daughter/son/sister/brother as adults. I live far away from my family and I tend to be an introvert, sometimes I feel a bit lost in trying to mantain a good relationship..

    • Mindy says...

      I also love far away from my family and I can withdraw a bit too. My advice is just to call them. Whenever you are thinking about them, just bit the bullet and pick up and call. They love it and lots of little touch points can keep you all connected. And visit or have them come and visit if you can. Even a few days goes a long way.

    • Manuela says...

      I *love* this! Some posts for the adults that are not parents, but still looking for content that reflects their lives, and the importance of their roles as aunts, sisters, daughters, best friends….

    • Chelsea says...

      I have 3 siblings and we all live in different states. Three of us are married and have kids and one is still single and hasn’t had kids yet. We all talk to one another on the phone often and I think that makes a big difference. We may only see one another once or twice a year, but we are able to stay close and know what’s going on in one another’s lives because we stay in touch. Also, texts are always great too, whether about serious things or to share a funny memory or story.

  67. Meg says...

    Gosh this series took my breath away. The note about teenage talk when you aren’t needing to look right at each other was SO TRUE for me. My mom had a tiny bathroom when I was growing up that could barely fit one person. So as a teenager I would lean my face right up against the door frame, half in the room and half in hall, while she got ready in the morning. There was something so soothing about watching my mom methodically work through her beauty routine. I spilled out an ocean of teenage doubts and anxieties and joys standing behind her in that doorway watching her get ready. Somehow it was always easier to talk about the important stuff there – it became a sacred place to us. I vividly remember a moment when I was sharing a particularly deep heartache… after finishing her routine, and hoping I wouldn’t notice, she washed off her fresh makeup and started all over again. It was the gift of a few extra moments in the doorway to offload the burdens of my heavy teenage heart; it was a small and quiet act of love I’ll never forget. As a stalker peeking in the mirror from behind, she used to call me her shadow haha. When I left for college she cheered and waved goodbye excitedly, melting only at the mention of missing her shadow in the mornings. I’m 35 years old and when I visit home I still stand in the doorway watching my mom put on her makeup while we talk about all the things that matter. It’s the best part of our visit. Thanks for your blog. It always brings me back to the sweetest memories.

    • Kim says...

      Oh my gosh, your Mom washing her freshly-made-up face so you could keep talking – that one got me right in the gut. So beautiful. *not NOT crying*

    • Mel says...

      Reading almost brought me to tears. Reminds you how important the little moments in life are.

    • Rainbow says...

      All of the onions <3

    • I just loved your story of talking with your Mom while she put on her makeup. The time she removed the makeup and started again – well, you have a very special mother.

    • Emily says...

      That is such a touching memory. It made me tear up.

    • H says...

      This is so sweet.

    • Tovah says...

      Oh god this made me cry! Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Rachel says...

      Oh my goodness, Meg. This is so beautiful, so poignant, that it made me cry in the good way. Thank you for painting such a vivid picture of the grownup love between a mother and daughter.

    • Rebecca says...

      Tears. What a kind and generous gesture. Your mother sounds like a lovely woman.

    • MJ says...

      crying, ugh…so so lovely. moms such a big job they (now we) have!

    • Florencia says...

      What a beautiful story and what a lovely mother you have. Thanks for sharing.

    • Bjorg says...

      This was such a beautiful read, that brought tears to my eyes. Thank you Meg!

    • Emma says...

      Oh this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read.

    • Manuela says...

      My heart could burst.

    • Adrienne says...

      Wow….love this story. Made me tear up. Also made me realize that kids do notice and appreciate things. When I am in the car with my daughter (9) and we are having a great/long/serious chat I will always take the long way home. She had a particularly bad year last year and we spent a lot of time taking the long way home.

  68. Katey says...

    I don’t have teenagers (I don’t even have children), but all I can say is My So Called Life! Best.show.ever!

    • Wynne says...

      Yes! Love, love, love that show!! I do have a teenager and we watch it together. She loves it too!

  69. Mine are almost 2 and almost 5 and they often try my patience but I am tearing up reading these thoughts on kids growing up!

  70. melissa says...

    Oh the drama. Teenagers are hard. It’s especially difficult to be a teen these days with the pressures of social media. I once heard the analogy that younger children are like dogs- playful, loyal, enthusiastic to spend time with you. Teenagers are like cats. They slink around and you never know when they’ll show affection or strike.

    My kids are now 22 and 19. I am sure I will always have my worries but they are interesting people and it’s exciting to follow them as they find their ways in this world.

  71. Kate says...

    I first read this National Geographic article on the teenage brain when my son was a preteen. At the time it was interesting, but not yet relevant. Now that my son is fifteen, rereading this feels like it is explaining so much about is going on with him right now. It has made me a little more patient when I ask why he did something and his answer is “I don’t know”, because he really doesn’t know why. It also reminded me that just as he was tired, hungry and moody as a toddler who was growing and developing and changing, he is having to do the same now.

    The article is definitely worth a read for any parent or teacher of a teen…

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2011/10/teenage-brains/dobbs-text

  72. Kristin says...

    Wow, this was a great póst, thank you – so much to think about ❤️ loved the one that said there isn’t a Talk but endless talks as my son (only seven now) asks endless questions about every thing and I always try to be as straightforward and natural in my answers as I can be even if I want to cringe a little. My mom would be really easily embarrased so I eventually stopped asking her about things that I sensed embarrased her so I’m trying to make sure he feels the lines of communication are open for anything and everything.

  73. Isabelle says...

    Thanks Caroline for that post it’s perfect timing for me with my 16 and 14 y.o. daughters, needed the cheer up!
    Quoting my 14 y.o. Juliette:
    You parents are sooo permanently depressed people (intense eye rolling there)!
    When we are little you’re like (high pitch voice)
    “Gee, I wish I could have time for myself , can’t wait for my kids to grow up, I’m soo tired”
    …and then we hit teenage and you cry your head off and go ” I so miss these sweet childhood moments of yours (mimicking a mother in agony)” Pfff, really don’t get it!
    Couldn’t stop laughing at her monologue :-) Humor really helps with the teenage stage!

  74. Julee says...

    Mine are 13 and 17 and I’m constantly surprised at how much of my time they take up! I feel like we went through a phase when they were tweens when they were becoming more independent, I had more time to myself. Now, I’m sucked back in because they need rides places and help shopping for things; college tours to think about; tests to help them sign up for; school events, recitals and games, movies they want to see as a family, hikes they want to take, places they want to go. Not complaining, I just think there is a last big storm of activity before they become really independent. I’m trying to appreciate it (though I wish I had more time for the gym again!).

    My two current teen tips:
    1. In the car with them, take some time to listen to THEIR music–even when it isn’t the kind you like. It makes them feel heard.
    2. Don’t fear the technology/social media of the time, learn it! Before I knew how to use Snapchat, it terrified me. Now that I know more about what they are doing, I can understand how to help them navigate it/set boundries.

  75. Marlena says...

    As a teen, I was a hellion (my daughter recently wrote a paper on juvenile delinquency and she looked up at one point and said, “Mom, this was you.”). Ha! So, when I was 18 and pregnant all the adults in my life snickered and said that I was going to be cursed, in that my child was going to be just as bad as I was. That was a scary thought and I spent quite a bit of time when my first baby was tiny thinking about that. One day an older mother who lived on base near us in Japan told me that the teen years are what we make them. If we are convinced that our teenagers will be awful and all we do is eye-roll and cackle… well then that is what we will get, even if our kids are angels. That hit me in my core and I have parented my teens with that in mind. I DID NOT want to be the mom who laughed with her girlfriends about “those damn teenagers”. I was at the receiving end of that and it sucked. The teen years with my kids have been amazing and crazy and these are the last years I have with my babies. There is no way in hell I’m spending that time as an eye-roller. As a mother of two incredible teens, I feel pity for those adults who tried to make me scared about this time. My kids’ teen years have revealed their incredible hearts and minds. They are stunning humans, even when they act ridiculous, and I would have missed that if I believed that teenagers were bound to be absolute horrors.

    • Rebecca says...

      Thank you for this Marlena! I love it. My twin daughters are six and my sister (mom of 2 boys) loves to tell me how hard it will be when they are teenagers. I resent it and you have so perfectly articulated why- and given me more confidence in the power a different perspective can make.

    • Valeria says...

      Wow Marlena, thanks for sharing. You are an extraordinary person and you recall me so many important things in such few words. And you make me think, once again, that Cup of Jo has the most incredible comments of the whole blogs world.

  76. Lilla says...

    When my son was in third grade he told me that he wanted me to go to college with him. Now, at 15, he’s grown into such an independent young man. I miss that little boy so much, but am truly excited to see what he will become.

  77. Rachel says...

    When I was in high school, so many of my peers were chomping at the bit to be adults. Some are forced to deal with life’s difficulties much earlier than they should (which is so heartbreaking), while others forego the privileges they’ve been given, because they can’t see how teenage years are anything but a dress rehearsal for college or adulthood. My parents did a wonderful job keeping my teenage years as a part of my childhood. My dad especially frequently reminded me that my “job” was to learn and grow as a person. When I felt overwhelmed because I had added too much to my own plate (music, sports, church, friendship expectations, etc), or because I was beginning to understand how terribly complicated it is to be an adult, he would help me cut through the clutter and see what I needed to focus on. I was still a kid after all, and he helped me see that in the best way.

  78. Jill says...

    My oldest is 18 and waiting to go off to college. He is a 6’4″ man-child that thunders through the house hockey stick in hand chasing the dog! He still wants me to twirl his hair, take naps in my bed and calls me Mothra. Plain and simple, I will be lost without him. I will take solace in knowing that I gave him the best I could as a mother with all that I was given. Oh, and my next son is 17 and we will be going through this all over again next year. Thankfully our daughter is only 13!!

  79. Kathleen says...

    Just going to show that there’s no one thing that works for every kid – my mom did this, and now I’m 38 years old and still dread riding alone in a car with her because I associate it so closely with uncomfortable conversations I had no control over (when, how long, about what) other than to clam up completely 😐

    • Heather says...

      Ha! I was thinking that, too. My mom used to do this thing where we’d be driving in the car and she’d suddenly turn the radio down and my sisters and I would look at each other like, Oh shit, what serious thing is she going to talk to us about?! And we were stuck in the car! No escape! I’m laughing typing this because we are all in our 30’s and she STILL does this when given the chance, god love her.

  80. Savannah says...

    My Winnifred is 18 months and I’ve been sick in bed all day and haven’t seen her but I can her her giggles while she plays with her papa. I’m chalking it up to being overtired but this is so beautiful and wise and sweet and I’m not even there yet but I’m bawling! Knowing that one day she’ll go on her own adventures and call me to ground her like I do my mom makes me feel not ready and excited and terrified. I suppose we must keep growing and changing with them. What a mushy mama today!

  81. Amy says...

    I’m SO pregnant, with my third baby. This post has me crying and crying 😭 It’s just beautiful.

    I was neglected by both my parents as a child and I am NOT repeating that cycle! So many of your parenting posts are just like gold to me. I try my best to go with my gut with my babes, but I have no life examples to draw from so these are just invaluable to me.
    They are all bookmarked and I read over and over them.

    For so many reasons, my favorite place online:)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      you sound like such a loving, wonderful, thoughtful, amazing mother, amy xoxo

    • Savannah says...

      Amy you are a wonderful mama for being so thoughtful about discarding that piece of family inheritance. You’re going to do great.

    • Kristin says...

      You sound like a great mom Amy, much love to you, take care!

    • ne says...

      About 2 years ago, I was getting a puppy home. Few days into it I was in tears because I was simply sick of wiping poo and didn’t know how to talk to this “creature”, when literally out of the blues, my sweetest cousin who is an obstetrician called, and pretty randomly blurted out, “you know you’ll make mistakes but they love you and forgive you!” I don’t know what inspired her to call because as far as anyone else knew I was having a lovely time, but it was the best thing I heard.
      it’s only later on that I realised why this advice is good. research by psychologists has found guilt is fine, it is even important because it is our internal indicator that we have done something wrong. What is wrong is to stop there, guilt is step 1. Step 2 is to admit you are human and forgive yourself – if you don’t forgive yourself you actually lose willpower, which means it becomes harder to do the right thing. So it is critically important to do forgive yourself. However, that follows with a Step 3: make amends, make things better.
      my point is just to say, we are human even with the best intentions we make mistakes, but mistakes are okay, as long as we make amends in whatever way we can.
      all the best! sounds like a start of a great adventure!! :)

    • Janet says...

      Amy for what its worth I’m in a similar position to you, parent wise. My therapist reassures me that simply being aware that we want to parent differently to how we were parented is more than half the battle. You can break that cycle for sure.

  82. Jill says...

    My husband and I are in that stage of debating whether or not we’re ready for children, and we often come back to our complicated relationships with our own parents. These stories of joy in parenting even through the most challenging times (in the blog post and the comment thread!) just about broke down all my fears. I only hope I can be half the parent that these women are!

    • E says...

      I have a one-year-old and a very complicated relationship with my parents. It’s hard, but also makes us more intentional about our choices and what we don’t want to repeat. You can do it if you want to.

  83. Paige says...

    Related to the car conversations, I recently had a mom tell me that she would sit next to her teenage son and scratch his back–he would just talk and talk, as long as she didn’t react noticeably to what he said. She would just say things like ‘mmm-hmmm…and then what happened?’ and out came all the stories. I think it’s the same idea…no eye contact + having your back scratched is extra relaxing.

  84. Katie says...

    Amelia jumpsuit, all the way! Lately I’ve been trying to get creative about making non-nursing wear work for nursing, but it’s laughably awkward every time I try to feed my son (esp in public). Even HE is starting to look at me like I’m crazy. Guess it’s time for me to buck up and buy a few “official” pieces… What a great company!

  85. My twins are 4 years old and when I found out I was having girls I cried for two days just dreading when they would turn into teenagers. I’m praying that if I do things a little different from my mom- allow them to be themselves, give them some space, hold back the criticism- that it will soften the experience.
    I keep reminding myself that I have the power to turn two little girls into two strong women that can maybe make the world a little better. But I still have so much dread!

    Its really not fair, this parenting experience. You give birth to this thing that you love and then every day that passes makes you love them even more until you can’t stand it anymore. You work so hard to teach this kid to be a functioning member of society and then they have the nerve to actually leave you and become a functioning member of society! Jerks.

  86. Nicole A. says...

    I have an identical twin sister, and when we were in our early teens, our mother underwent a hysterectomy, which threw her into menopause early. I felt bad for my dad during those years being the only male in the house and having to deal with so many raging female hormones all around him!

  87. Katy says...

    One thing I’ve learned is that it’s never to soon to teach kids to stand up for themselves. Being a kid is hard, but if they learn at a young age that they don’t have to follow the crowd or do what everyone else is doing they will have an easier time getting through their teen years. The author Stanley Greenspan has written a number of parenting books that focus on children’s “emotional intelligence.” Greenspan’s books helped me raise my two kids who are now in college, and made me understand how much more important emotional IQ is than cognitive IQ.

    • Maria says...

      Thank you! I’m going to look into those books. Your comment really resonates with me. I try to abide by this even with my two toddlers!

  88. Emily says...

    Yes to the car talks mentioned above. Somehow, my teenager boys always opened up when it was just one on one in the car. I also once read that teenagers will open up and talk when it’s slightly dark. Think the back porch at night, the edge of their bed in the evenings, or in front of the fireplace. It creates a relaxing atmosphere, and not being able to fully see your face, or you fully seeing theirs seems less intimidating and gives them courage to talk. I tried this, and it worked for me!

    • Savannah says...

      My mom would play gin rummy with me for hours both sorta facig wach other and only looking at our cards. She’s a pro at cards but would just lose and lose so i would keep playing and chatting. She told me recently it was the only times she felt we connected for a couple if years! And then, since now she’s my best friend, she told me I was terrible at card strategy and got distracted by the talking! Ah ma.

    • ARC says...

      I absolutely agree, car conversations and on the edge of the bed, or somewhere else slightly dark, somehow that seems a comfy place to talk. So far it’s been working for me as well, my son told me of his thoughts, concerns etc. which in a setting where we would face each other, and where there is too much light, would probably not have happened.

    • Michelle says...

      Going for a walk, side by side, is also a great way to connect with teenagers. There’s something about being side by side (like in a car), vs. face to face that helps them open up and talk.

  89. Ceri says...

    My Mum always used to bring up sex (and similarly embarrassing topics for my sister and I as teenagers) in the car too! I always thought it was so we couldn’t escape… hah!

  90. Sarah says...

    So…is Caroline back?! xo

  91. Misha says...

    Thank you so much for this post — and for the beautiful comments as always! I am a mom to an almost 15 y/o boy and a 16 y/o girl and I am a full time psychology and functional medicine coaching student. There is so, so little online for parents of teens (and understandably so, with wanting to earn their trust and keep their well-deserved privacy.) Reading this, however, was a balm for my soul.

    Parenting teens is by far my favorite stage of parenting so far, but ooof. It is so beautiful and funny and tender and inspiring… and also grueling, exhausting and full of insecurity. I am taking a class from a adolescent counselor right now with 30 yrs under his belt in this field, he said he used to set his alarm for midnight and stumble down the stairs to get milk and cookies, pretending he couldn’t sleep, while nonchalantly sitting down with his teens and offering them some to share. He said those were his very best conversations with them he ever had. It made me feel better about the multiple 1am talks this last week I fought to stay awake for with my two teens, knowing I had to get up for exams early. That is when they talk, and I want to be all there for that!

    • SG says...

      Oh man I love this. I so want to do that. But also in a way not looking forward to it as I sit her with my 1 year old who still wakes up multiple times a night.

  92. Alexandra says...

    Thank you for this very timely post and the wonderful comments. Mom of an almost teen boy here, and a 9-year old daughter. He is still my sweet little guy, but I am also learning to accept that he is a young man, with his own interests and his own life, and the beginning mood swings and trying to push back as hard as he can. I was almost crying when we recently had to go shopping, and we ended up in the mens’ department for the first time. We have a love for classical music in common, but I still have to come to terms with the fact that he loves dystopian scifi novels and the computer game Overwatch (but needs a parent to kill a bug that has found its way into his room …). I look forward to the ride. The thing I want him to know most of all is that we love him, no matter what. And I think he does.

  93. Hannah Joy says...

    Although not a parent, I teach 11th graders history and love this age group. What always strikes me as the most wonderful and challenging characteristic is the duality of teenagers. One minute they are discussing complicated immigration policy and the next they are taking out the juice box their mom packed them or crying about a stomachache. They are adult and child, dealing with an ever increasing amount of adult issues and demands. My students navigate drugs, sex, drinking, and making decisions about college, but still need a to be downright silly. When I am frustrated it is usually because I forget this duality and expect them to respond like an adult. They get angry at me when I treat them too much like a child. It is a delicate push/pull for me, I can’t imagine how much more so for parents. But GEEZ, my students make me laugh harder than anything in the world. The best question so far was, “Can you snort birth control?” My response? “Not for efficacy.”

  94. Jess says...

    I love being the parent of a teenager. This surprised me. My daughter amazes me and we are very close. The trick is knowing when to rein her in and when to let her go. I do not always get it right but I do my best. I think, as parents in our culture, we need to shift the talk about our experience. There is so much grumbling and sighing that goes on when talking about teens- really, it can be a magical time for all and i believe we would all be better served if parents where not always complaining about the teen years.

  95. Bindi says...

    Mine are still little (2 and almost 5) and I don’t know if I should look forward to or be scared of this time. But I do this really weird thing- every time my 4 year old gets mad, I invision her not as much precocious little one, but as a full grown, wildly opionion and strong person. A PERSON! With thoughts and feelings! And my heart just stops. Here I am- looking at a PERSON becoming a PERSON! It’s so simple and so much at the same time.

    • Elise says...

      I love this!

  96. Martina says...

    Two important things especially when raising teenagers ( in my opinion) are
    1. ALWAYS let your children know they are great and you love them just the way they are . Our influence on our kids is bigger than they let us know sometimes and it is so important for their future happiness to give them the knowledge that you stand by them no matter what.
    2. ALWAYS talk and keep in touch as much as possible. There will be times when they don’t tell you much about their everyday life. Use every of the
    rare times they are in a chatty mood.
    Aside from that: my 15 year old can drive me crazy with his temper and attitude. But when I keep my cool and leave him alone for a while, he’ll come to say sorry after a while and explain what happened. And that’ s so sweet …

  97. Erin says...

    I am the mom to two teen girls (16) and (13). It has been a huge privilege to be their mother and watch them grow. It has also been the hardest must anxiety producing roller coaster. My oldest has struggled socially through middle school and high school. When she tells me stories about how mean some off the girls are to her my heart breaks. She is so kind, funny and passionate about music. Next year she will go to a boarding school for the performing arts and I lie in bed every night and pray that she will find “her people” there. I am so scared to let her go but so hopefully for her happiness.

    • maia says...

      You sound so attentive and loving with your daughters!
      When I had difficult times during childhood to make new friends, my parents made me feel “I” was the problem and to blame for (or I felt this way with what they told me) and this belief stayed with me for a very long time, even with many beautiful friendships.
      You can be sure that you’re providing the best support for your daughter! Also, when she’ll have to face difficult challenges during her life, the experience of a mother who always had her back when younger should be a wonderful feeling and strength!

  98. This is amazing! Thanks so much for the post. As a mom of a toddler with one on the way, I am finding myself equally excited about the baby as I am experiencing new things with my almost 2 year old. Sharing corn dog at our favorite festival, watching her explore and discover the world. It’s so awesome to hear from parents on the other side of childhood!

  99. Maire says...

    I’m not a parent, but I am very lucky to be a mentor to a teenage girl, and she is one of my favorite human beings. She is sensitive and generous and her brain produces so many insightful thoughts that seem out of place by someone so young. I am always so inspired by her and the other kids I meet through the mentoring organization, all of whom are blossoming in spite of many odds stacked against them. They give me so much hope, and I am so excited to watch them achieve ever higher.

    • this is so so lovely.

  100. Beth says...

    Love seeing your name Caroline! As a mother of two preschoolers, this brought tears to my eyes. Happy, sad, thankful, nostalgic tears. Thank you to all the parents for their beautiful words.

    • Sara W says...

      Same here. And wow, how generous of these parents to share such thoughtful, candid insights.

  101. I teach middle school and I notice many parents are so shocked by the change that comes with developing brains/changing bodies at that stage! I try to empathize with parents in two ways — first, it is SO difficult to be a parent in today’s world! Things have changed so much and there is so much pressure on parents to be EVERYTHING to their kid: provider, pal, and everything in between! Second, even though it feels like media and friends are more influential, parents are still the most important part of a child’s life! Please never forget that!

  102. Renee says...

    So many thoughts on this! My husband always gives me credit for doing the hard work while our children were young – toddlers and grade school – I was not their friend. We set boundaries, we determined expectations for behavior and held them to it. It was not easy, and parenting small children was not my favorite. However, I have been enjoying the product of those difficult years. My children are 21, 19, and 14 and are pleasant, respectful young adults. I never have to nag to complete chores or homework; I see them being respectful of their peers and adults. We don’t have drama or moodiness directed at each other.

    Talking and listening to my teens is key. I listen but do not overreact. If I did that, they’d never come to me again. I remain respectful of their feelings, their plans, and goals. The car is the best place for these talks – I have had offers to carpool but the importance of the car talks is too great to pass up. I want them to always know that I am always there for them for whatever they need – a shoulder to cry on, advice, a sounding board.

    • Olivia says...

      You sound like a great mom! I plan (hope) to follow a similar path, starting with boundaries and expectations from a very young age.

    • Anna says...

      My mom has always given me some of this same advice about raising teens (and of course, I remember her living this out with my sister and I): she never overreacted so we always felt safe coming to her with big things, and she says the car/carpool is the best place to talk and gather information.

  103. the cape on the corner says...

    i just gasped b/c angela chase showed up on my feed and couldn’t contain my love of MSCL. that is all.
    b

    • Rachel says...

      Right. There. With. You.
      Oh, Jordan Catalano. I miss you.

  104. Kate says...

    I am super hormonal due to pregnancy and this post made me weep! I have a 2 year old boy and I’m so far from this stage, but it really hit home and i’ll have to share it with my sister-in-law who has two daughters in the throes of puberty.

  105. kat says...

    One thing that has helped me be a better parent to my teen is trying to say “yes” more than “no.” When you’re parenting young children, it’s easy to get into the “no” habit–no to an extra cookie, no to a toy in the store, no to “just five more minutes.” Now that she’s older, I really try to hear what she’s asking and to say “yes” whenever the request is feasible and reasonable, even if it’s different than a choice I might make. When I say “no” now, my daughter may not like it, but she understands that it’s a thoughtful, carefully considered “no,” and there are far fewer power struggles.

    • Renee says...

      I have always told my children that the answer is “yes”, until they give me a reason to say “no.” I feel this has increased the trustworthiness of my children and has made them feel responsibility for their actions.

    • Ingrid says...

      Kat, I raised three daughters who are now grown, and I SO agree with you. I never said no, unless I absolutely had to. There was never an argument when I did, because they knew the reason.

  106. Marissa says...

    I kind of fear having teenagers. Not sure why… but the idea of having kids one day who will turn into teenagers… I feel I am not strong enough to deal with that, all the drama, the confusion that comes along, hard times they will most likely have to face…
    Reading these stories give me a bit more security it will be fine (and precious even!) to raise teens, but how do you prepare for that phase? Do you grow into it, the same way as your child grows into puberty?

    Anyway, thank you for this great topic! And if anyone can provide me some insurance on my question… More than welcome! ;)

  107. April says...

    This is a lovingly packaged post full of sweet anecdotes. Thank you for sharing. I would like to add that there are real life issues and concerns not spoken of here that are important for parents of teens to openly talk about. My teens have bumped up against intense issues like vaping, drug use, cutting, depression amongst peers, pressures to perform at school, and social media bullying and harassment. My son confided in me that he has an escape plan for every classroom at his school in the event of a shooting. It broke my heart. So, yes, let’s share the warm fuzzies, but let’s also be open to having the harder conversations in support of one another and the tough modern day issues our teens must navigate.

    • Alexandra says...

      Thank you for commenting on that, these are very important conversations to be had, and I think it’s crucial to time them right so that your teen will listen (working on the timing issue right now ….). My husband and son drive every Saturday morning an hour together to their fencing club, and that is the time they have many of those conversations.

    • Rachel says...

      Thanks for being open and honest about the many struggles our teenagers and their families face. There are some days I can’t wait for my 17-year-old to move out and days where I want to hug him and never let go. We are constantly torn between protecting him from the world (and himself) and letting him make bad choices and hoping he learns.

  108. Sonja says...

    This morning my two year old stumbled into my bathroom while I was getting ready for work. He hugged my leg and looked up at me with his sweet face and said, “Hi Mama! Lub you. Careful, your hair is hot!” (He knows the purpose of the curling iron but is very watchful when I use it). I about burst into tears reading this and thinking that one day my beautiful baby won’t wander in to tell me he loves me while wearing footie pajamas. Parenthood is beautiful and cruel.

    • Crystal says...

      I love this!

  109. Samantha says...

    In the latter half of my twenties, I grappled with a lot of regret and shame for the behaviour of my teenage self. Admittedly, I was a pretty good kid (good grades, kept out of trouble) but as is the way for many teenagers I was inward-focused, trying on different personalities for size, and impatient. My parents got the worst of it, my dad worst of all.
    As my relationship with my dad developed into a fierce friendship, I felt so sad about the times (years!) when I wasn’t kind to him. We were talking about this one day and he sort of shrugged-off my admission and said, “You just have to trust that your kid will come back to you. You did. I always knew you would.”
    Every time I think about this I’m awe-struck at the love of a parent. That even at your worst, they’re looking at you and thinking “I believe in you.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, what a wise and lovely person your dad is.

    • Laura says...

      Thanks for sharing this. I have similar feelings when I think about my relationship with my mom from the age of 12 through about 18. Your dad’s words brought tears to my eyes.

  110. Maiz says...

    I had lunch with a friend recently, and she told me about how wonderful, responsible, loving, and independent her 17 year old son had become. I said, “What?! A year ago you said he was making the whole family miserable! Teen tantrums, screaming, storming out of the house… didn’t he throw some furniture or something like that?” She laughed and said, “Oh, yeah. I guess it was like that. Well, he’s completely different now!”

    • April says...

      Thank you for this! :)

  111. Erin says...

    Not a parent, but I remember being a teenager….the mother/daughter relationship portrayed in Lady Bird was SPOT ON and reminded me so much of me and my own mom. We are incredibly close now (I’m 27), but that dramatic swing between hating each other and loving each other is so real. I laughed so hard when they were at the clothing store shopping for her prom dress….SO REAL!

    • Laura says...

      YES!!!

  112. Nancey says...

    Thank you, I am a single Mom of a 13 year old (going on 43) and I have no idea what I’m doing from day to day. I am just hanging around loving her to pieces and hoping against hope that she doesn’t lose her way and I can’t help her find it again. I’m heartbroken some days, I’m joyful, I’m sad, I’m thrilled, I’m worried but mostly I am laughing because she is the funniest person I know, and I thought I was the funniest person I knew! I hope I’m getting it right.

  113. Commenting again, because so many feelings about this post!

    My parents, like every parent, made mistakes and made me angry when I was a teenager, just like I know I’ll do for my son. But two things (out of many!) that they did right really stand out for me.

    First, I never, once, at any moment, doubted that they loved me. I often doubted that they understood me (they sometimes did); or were being reasonable (they usually were), or that I would ever want to be like them when I grew up (I mostly do). But I always knew that they loved me, and that nothing was going to make them stop loving me. This was and is such a gift, and one that I hope I can give as fully and openly to my own children.

    Second, they never made me feel like I owed them anything. I didn’t owe them straight As, I didn’t owe them being a ballet prodigy, I didn’t even owe them gratitude for raising me. They had high expectations for me, they wanted me to succeed, and they certainly appreciated when I appreciated them. But they made it clear that while they were responsible for me, I was not responsible for them, and my success or failure wasn’t going to make or break their sense of themselves. That was so freeing for me as a teenager (and still is as an adult!).

  114. My daughters are 21 and 18, they are like chalk and cheese and what worked with one didn’t work with the other. What have I learned? That it doesn’t last forever, even when it feels like it’ll never end, it does. Hold onto that thought.

    Choose your battles. I used to ask myself if it was really that important in the grand scheme of things, if the answer was no then it wasn’t worth arguing or getting upset over it. For example, my eldest daughter’s bedroom was unbelievably messy and we used to argue about it nearly everyday, which not only caused a lot of upset between us but her sister was also affected by it. So I decided that instead of going into her room and instantly getting angry, that I wouldn’t go in. Instead, I allowed her to live in her own mess. She was expected to change her bedding and bring her laundry downstairs, but apart from that I didn’t make any rules and avoided her room at all costs. The arguments ceased (about the room at least) and the atmosphere at home was much calmer. It might not suit everyone but it worked for us. I only went into her room again after she’d left to go to university, and let’s just say it’s very tidy now.

    • I’m reminded of the saying about how when your children are babies they’re so cute you could eat them, and when they’re teenagers you’ll wish you had.

      Seriously though, just love them and let them know it’s unconditional. I used to read ‘No Matter What’ by Debi Gliori to my girls when they were little, and we would still quote bits from it as they got older, or I’d leave a note for them saying ‘no matter what’ if we’d had a bad day.

  115. Oh man have you seen the movie Brad’s Status with Ben Stiller? We watched it over the weekend and even though my daughter won’t be a teenager for 11 years (!!) I know they will go by in a blink and I was feeling so many things as I thought about her going off to college. It’s just so crazy. I actually don’t fear the teenage years too much because my mom did a pretty good job with me, I think. She gave me a lot of space and not a lot of rules and let me figure things out for myself pretty often. She made sure I worked hard and didn’t come rescue me from the natural consequences to my actions/decisions.

  116. Hanna says...

    Love this, it’s something I’ve really been waiting for. Raising teens is such an emotional rollercoaster and in many ways so much harder than raising younger children. I wasn’t prepared at all for the sudden independence and need to break free. It seems like I was just there myself and that makes many things so easy to relate to, which in a way makes it even harder. It’s not until now, at the age of 45, I understand my parents and I hear myself repeating a lot of the things they said (that I never thought I would hear myself saying). It’s so challenging and also wonderful and rewarding and sad (because in a way you’re on the verge of losing them which makes every moment count).

  117. Marcella says...

    I’m 24 and still live at home and am kind of sad about thinking about moving out. Last Friday I watched 4 episodes of The Crown with my parents and am definitely realizing that they’re getting older, even if I feel like I’m not getting older. I also look back on my teenage years and how I was such a brat sometimes and feel bad about it now!

  118. “…it made me think of those boys I crushed on, who had seemed so tough, so powerful, so unknowable…and they had moms, like me, who stood in their rooms with aching, bewildered hearts as they watched their little boys grow into men.” Oh. My. God. Instant crocodile tears. I just put my 8-month-old baby boy down for a nap, with his barely-there head fuzz and two teeth. Stumbling upon these words put me in wide-eyed shock. I am so excited for this future, and yet so desperate for things to stay as they are. I love this post.

  119. Those last two made me cry. I’m reading this while holding my one month old baby while my almost two year old is napping and I just know they are going to grow up way too fast.

  120. Sarah says...

    My boys are 19, 19, & 18. It is so important to let go of your expectations for them and let them become who they are, but it is so worth it. Don’t shoehorn them into the jock, or the artist, or the band geek. They will try these personas on and discard them like outgrown clothes. Let them no matter the lesson and practices and time invested.

    And make them/let them get a job. It is so important and freeing and satisfying for them to do this to move outside of your orbit.

  121. Catherine Thurston says...

    As the mom of an amazingly lovely, open, yet mysterious-to-me-at-the-same-time 17 year old daughter, the one thing I think of so often is all the people who said “Wait until she’s a teenager!” or “little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems!” etc. etc. and I get so annoyed that I listened. These last few years have had so many magical moments, and I am in awe of her smarts and sweets- and the teenagey stuff is there, but overshadowed by all the good stuff. Don’t worry about the next stage– it will never be what you expect, but that doesn’t mean it will be worse.

  122. Anna says...

    I’m a 19-year-old college student, so I’m just out of teenagerhood and entering into adulthood. The best thing my mom ever did for my teenage self was to be my mom first and my friend second. She didn’t care if the rules she established or the expectations she set made me upset or roll my eyes. She had the knowledge and experience to know that structure would benefit me in the long run (more than my 14-year-old self ever could!) All these years later, I consider her my best friend. There’s no one I would rather call at the end of the day or go shopping with, but I don’t think this kind of relationship could have happened if I didn’t learn to respect her at a younger age. Parents, don’t be afraid to parent your child— as the daughter of ‘strict’ parents, I can see how their rules made me a hard worker and a kinder and more respectful person. One day, your child will understand why you did what you did and will be very grateful for what you taught them.

    • I love that you chimed in with your fresh teenager experience! I truly hope my toddler daughter will one day want to call me at the end of the day. :)

  123. I think parenting teenagers is underrated! It’s quite a ride.

    We have a boy (who just turned 16) and a girl (nearly 14, some days going on 28, some days going on 9). They are funny and temperamental and delightful. They see our inconsistencies and call us on them. They are working to understand the world and their place in it – there is so much potential, along with the funny smells and emotional swings.

    I have found the book “Untangled” by Dr. Lisa Damour super useful in understanding teenagerhood — if not always my own children. The book is focused on teenage girls but has good principles that apply to both girls and boys. Damour really LIKES teenagers and it shows. And she is practical.

    This is such a great stage of life, I love seeing my kids start to take wing.

  124. Bobbekay says...

    DRUGS………….surely this category must be addressed when talking about the parenting of adolescents. I have seen some hardworking, academically and athletically successful kids, from excellent families, fall victim to this gigantic crisis.

    • Colleen S says...

      I had the same problem, except with my dad. If I acted out or refused to do homework, I was “doing drugs.” It never once crossed his mind I was just going through the motions of adolescence. He also thought I was a lesbian because of the shoes I wore in high school.

    • Colleen S says...

      My bad. I replied to the wrong comment!

  125. Annie says...

    This just made me cry. I soooo wish my mother had done these things with me, instead of always (and still 20 years later) only being critical. Then she wonders why we’re not close and I don’t want children so I don’t turn into her.

    One of my friends with a similarly harsh mother once told me that with her kids, she “didn’t want to punish them for just being moody teenagers.” That really spoke to me. Not everything is personal! Oh, another thing I’m still trying to get across, and it was kind of touched on here: kids are not your lap dogs. They’re humans that are not your clones.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “didn’t want to punish them for just being moody teenagers” = love that.

    • A says...

      Annie, I’m right there with you. Only difference is I KNOW I would not turn into her if I decide to have kids. I live 30 minutes from my mom and see her a couple times a year :/ There are certain choice things she said to me when I was a teen that still make me cry if I think about them.

    • Katie says...

      I am glad you posted this. I too have a poor relationship with my mother, and I get very sad and wistful sometimes reading about other people’s adult relationships with parents. For me, it was also the constant criticism as well as a feeling that I was considered an appendage to be controlled rather than my own person with my own personality and aspirations. I am nine months pregnant and my fear of repeating the toxic pattern with my own daughter has been a major fear of mine. But I guess in the end we are hopeful creatures, and I want to above all let my child be her own person. I also know my husband is more invested in parenting than my father was, which hopefully will offer balance. Thanks for posting and reminding those with rocky relationships with parents that they are not alone!

    • Annie says...

      Thanks for the support, ladies. I reread it and sound a bit harsh, but…just had a weekend with her, so I’m still processing all the comments (out of nowhere at dinner: “I was feeling sorry for [my husband], but then I realized it’s because he’s married to you.”). I do think she did the best she knew how, and lord knows my dad took the traditional “fun dad” role, so she had to do it all.

      I guess we learn from mistakes that were made too, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one that get wistful when stuff like this comes up.

    • TD says...

      I can echo those sentiments exactly. The book Toxic Parents helped me a lot, and gave me some perspective on why my mom acted more like a jealous older sister than a loving mother. One amazing compliment my hubby gave me recently after watching me interact with our niece was: “I see you treating her the way you wish your mom had treated you. You’re an amazing aunty and she loves you to death for it.” Dysfunctional family legacies CAN be broken!

    • A says...

      Hi Annie, wow that comment from your mom, sorry you have to deal with that.

    • You’re so compassionate and I agree with you. I unfortunately see so many parents that have kids imagining them to be their dolls to be dressed to their liking and are surprised when they realize their kids are humans with free will and minds of their own.

  126. Thank you! All of this, all of this, all of this! I remember a few months after my son was born my husband caught me sobbing the kitchen. He asked what was wrong and I said, “One day he will love someone else more than me.”
    And already I watch my daughter, walking into her teenage years, her own woman, each step closer into a life of her own.
    So exhausted and worn out, through the temper tantrums and eye rolls I am savoring every single moment with them, while they are still all mine.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh, that makes me want to sob! I’m already devastated that my children will move out one day.

  127. Anne says...

    Lisa – “I hadn’t smelled it since I was a teenager, and it made me think of those boys I crushed on, who had seemed so tough, so powerful, so unknowable (they were probably just as confused and clueless as I was), and they had moms, like me, who stood in their rooms with aching, bewildered hearts as they watched their little boys grow into men.” Oh, my heart!

    • That made me cry, like tears falling from my eyes.

    • So good.

    • Shell says...

      I sobbed when I read that one.

  128. Momto3NativeBornWashingtonians says...

    I’ll be the mom of three teens next week. (Hold me!) I really miss them being tiny babies, but it’s also fun to see them become independent young adults. This is bragging, but when my oldest got his first job, we made plans to connect one day for lunch. He insisted on paying, saying, “Seriously Mom, I owe you.” I think he’s turning out to be a pretty great person.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is the sweetest xoxo

    • Rebecca says...

      So I’m pretty late in being overly financially independent (illness, a long part time PhD etc) but finally got there this past year. Not too long ago, my parents, my brother and I, and our long term partners all went out for dinner- and for the first time ever we paid and didn’t let them contribute at all (they’ve always insisted on splitting it at least). They were shocked and really touched at the same time, and it became a really moving and lovely moment for us all.

  129. My son is only 17 months old, but reading these comments and thinking about the joy and terror of watching him grow up into his own actualized self made me get so emotional!

    One thing I would love to read more about — either from you Joanna, or advice from other readers — is helping boys navigate that process of growing up while staying in touch with their emotional selves. I think there are so many (wonderful! necessary!) resources out there for helping girls embrace and balance and value all aspects of their personality and strengths, whether those are “traditionally” masculine or feminine. But there are still a lot of cultural boundaries and stigmas pushed at boys, and I worry that we as a society haven’t done enough to break those down.

    My husband is a thoughtful, gentle, loving, and funny man, and I know that his example will be so important. But there will also come a time — these turbulent teenage years so eloquently described above! — when his father will not be the strongest male influence in his life. How do other parents help guide their sons to understand that strength, humor, and manhood don’t need to come at the expense of a rich, vulnerable, emotional life?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YES, would love to write about this so much. I have so many thoughts on this.

    • Maiz says...

      Me, too, I could seriously write that book! I would love to read a Cup of Jo article about this.

    • Carolyn says...

      Yes! I’m a boy mom too and think about this all the time.

    • Hanna says...

      Word!

    • Jenn H says...

      That is a very relevant conversation to have now, and I too would love to read/talk more about it. My boys are 10 and 9, and you are correct about the resources for girls vs. boys when it comes to social emotional health and growth.

    • Lora says...

      This may seem like a simple suggestion, but I think it’s helpful to identify and name the different emotions they experience. I work in a juvenile detention center as part of my training as a PhD student in clinical psychology. Often the girls I work with can more easily articulate their own emotional confusion or acknowledge when they experience contrasting emotions. However, the boys will often describe something emotionally complex but then revert to saying “… and so I was angry.” I often follow up with, “it sounds like you were frustrated [or lonely or feeling disrespected or…] and I can see why that might then make you angry.” I think a lot of them feel like anger is a safe emotion for them to feel so it’s easy to revert to that as their primary description. But as they hear new words to describe their feelings, they often pause and think or ask more more information. By expanding their language, I think it helps expand their ability to recognize different layers in their emotional world.

    • Tovah says...

      Add me to this list… mom of two sweet, sensitive little boys and wanting to keep them that way!!!

    • Alexis says...

      Yes! More on this please!

  130. Lisl Sukachevin says...

    Thank you for this post! I have teens and college-age boys and it’s very hard to find anything written for moms with older kids! I loved the younger years but the teen years are so much better than I ever expected! They become such interesting people and it’s a joy to see the interests they develop and to have deep conversations with them! Moms of younger children–there is so much ahead to look forward to!

  131. JO says...

    Thank you for this post! I have just a 1 and a 3-year-old, and these made me tear up. My mom once said something that really helped me put the future in perspective, and I try to remind myself of it often. She said, “There is a reason you don’t give birth to a 12-year-old. By the time the next age comes, you’re ready.” I loved that!

  132. Andrea says...

    I’m not a mom but I love teens! They are so funny and passionate. I volunteered with my church’s youth group for several years and they taught me so much about myself.

  133. Steph says...

    “Aching, bewildered hearts”

    I love that!

  134. Liz says...

    It’s phenomenal to watch my teens become people. We talk about movies, music, politics, history, plans… I love seeing the world through their eyes.

    If anyone wants advice on parenting teens, my best tip is get to know their friends’ parents.

    • I totally agree Liz – catching up with the other Mum’s at the side of the football pitch is both enlightening and comforting.

  135. Natalie says...

    Thank you so much for all the balanced views – as always at CoJ!

    I hate how Hollywood so often portrays the teenage years as a war situation and primes us to expect conflict.

    My daughter is 16 and hasn’t given me a single sleepless night, I just marvel at how quickly she has grown into this poised, capable and perceptive young women.

  136. Nina says...

    My boy is ten but seems to be growing oh so fast. Long, pale, colt legs getting slender as he prefers shorts over pants take up much of the couch. I smile at his kindness as he feeds the pets when I say I’m tired. My heart clenches just a bit to have the squishy baby I could snuggle in my arms back and bursts with joy and pride at all the goodness he is as he becomes the man I see emerging.

    • Kathleen says...

      My oldest son is also 10 (soon to be 11) and this year has been full of growth and increased maturity for him. It has been amazing to observe. All of a sudden, it seemed, he started to have opinions about his clothes, has started to like certain bands and types of music, and will say to me out of the blue, “Mom, do you need help with anything?” He cares deeply about his two younger brothers and sometimes I can hear my own words coming out of his mouth (something a good thing, sometimes a bit cringe-worthy!) as he helps them with things or is worried about their safety. I am trying to approach the teen years with optimism while also knowing they will bring their own unique challenges.

  137. Rachael says...

    I have a ten month old and I already want to cry thinking about him going off to college. Parenthood is the most bittersweet feeling.

  138. Erin says...

    I’m bawling over here. My boys are 12 and 14, and I’m simultaneously nostalgic for those early years and already sad about them leaving for college, which will be here in an instant. I appreciate your post on the teen years. So many blogs cater to parents of younger kids. Am curious to hear from your readers of other blogs that cater to moms of teens.

    • Lisl Sukachevin says...

      Yes–it’s hard to find blogs written by people with teenagers! One that I love is http://nestandlaunch.com/ They had a break from blogging for a while, but are back and have lots of older posts to read as well.

    • Jeanne says...

      Gabrielle from http://www.designmom.com has 6 kids with the eldest two of college age and the youngest in elementary. She’s gutsy and honest and open and outspoken and wise. CupofJo and DesignMom are my favorite sites.

  139. Maryann says...

    I love this post. I have tweens and see teenage-hood around the corner and am equal parts terrified and super excited.

  140. Samantha says...

    “Walking into my son’s room the other week, I stopped in my tracks at the scent: Old Spice mixed with candy wrapper, leather, stale sweat and sneaker fug… the not-altogether-unpleasant musk of teenaged boy. I hadn’t smelled it since I was a teenager, and it made me think of those boys I crushed on, who had seemed so tough, so powerful, so unknowable (they were probably just as confused and clueless as I was), and they had moms, like me, who stood in their rooms with aching, bewildered hearts as they watched their little boys grow into men. —Lisa”

    I’m expecting my first baby this summer (a boy!) and this just made me burst in to tears! I don’t even know my little guy yet and I’m dreading the day he has to grow up and leave me.

    • Meghan says...

      Lisa’s comment has made me cry three times so far. I’m little guy is 2 and he has a sibling on the way.

  141. Michaela says...

    All of these sentiments were so sweet, but Lisa’s comment about standing in hers son’s room made me tear up. Thank you to all these great moms!

  142. Laura says...

    My kids are 2, 4, and 6 and I’m crying reading this at work. Sounds like there’s a lot headed my way! I have done nothing more humbling than become a parent.

    • Marcy D says...

      Ditto. Exactly.

    • Minn says...

      Omg! Me too. Have a soon-to-be three year old and one on the way and am bawling at work reading these!

      Kudos to moms (and dads) everywhere.

  143. Barbara Dweck says...

    As the mom of two young boys 4, and 2) that last line made me tear up! I’m both terrified and excited for my boys to grow up. Will they be kind? Honorable?
    There are so many unknowns.
    This was an excellent post and I loved all of the insightful annecdotes!

  144. Kel says...

    Wow, thank you for this! It’s emotionally nuts having teenage boys–they’re often so out of balance with themselves but despise being parented. It’s like watching the Olympic snowboarders doing their incredible tricks but also knowing they will eventually smash up on the ledge–exhilarating and cringe-inducing in one breathless experience. I don’t know how those Olympic moms do it and I don’t know how I’m going to do it! Except, I love them so fiercely that I’ll just keep trying to let go of my old hard-earned mom skills and learn new ones.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      kel, what an amazing description!

  145. Raquel says...

    Car talks – anything goes, no judgement, just listening. The car is the vault anything private spoken stays there.

    • Gillian Friedlander says...

      I’m not a mom (At 23 I’m barely out of teenage hood myself!) but yes yes yes to this! My mom still uses this trick on us :) Drives around town are where she learns all about my life, more than she’d ever get over a dinner table (while I might barely eek out that my girlfriend makes my heart sing over a plate of mashed potatoes, in the car I’ll blurt out how grateful I am for the loving lady I share a home with…it’s something about the lack of eye contact and the intimacy created). And it’s where I get the most out of brother too (so it’s not just a parent trick!). It’s where we talk about girls and movies and music and how scared watching the news makes us and how sad it made me that dad didn’t visit for Christmas and how much mom gets under our skin at times, but also how much we love her. When we were kids that was stuff shared easily while running around the woods behind our house or waiting for the bus or taking a bath but it got harder and harder as we got older. Now we drive and swap songs on Spotify and talk, and being in the car with my brother is one of my favorite places to be :)

    • A Martin says...

      Aw I love this idea!

    • Maggie says...

      I have heard this from more experienced Moms! Putting a pin in this idea.

    • I’m just entering the moody tween years, my oldest is 11. But, I have found that he tells me the most when his siblings aren’t around. Usually they are in the car (although not always). So, when it’s just my son and me, I try to maximize our time together so that he can just talk to me. The other day he was going over to a friend’s house, and I could have driven him. Instead, I chose to walk him over. What would have been a 2 minute car ride as a very pleasant 15 minute walk and he was happy to share all sorts of stories and thoughts with me.