Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Joys and Pitfalls of Raising a Teenager

So I must admit that turning 30 did not bother me a bit; however, when my first born baby boy turned 13 last month, I suddenly felt much older. This hit me harder then when he actually started junior high this past August. It seems like just yesterday when the doctor handed him to be and said “It’s a boy!”

This change from child to young man is definitely an experience. My son has a close knit group of 4 friends who all started kindergarten together. They have remained close friends since they were 5. I have watched most of them grow taller and start to build muscle in their arms. We have laughed as their voices have changed at different times and some taking longer than others to grow out of the squeaks. It is still startling sometimes to call home and have to pause for a moment to figure out if I am talking to my son or my husband.

Our typical routine at bedtime is have you washed your face and brushed your teeth. For some reason my son thinks that the face cleanser that I spent too much money on must work just by looking at as it sits on the counter. I frequently remind him that it never works this way. In the morning we repeat the routine and add “Did you put deodorant on?” which is usually followed with eye rolling and a mumbled yes mom. A more recent change is the ever increasing growth of hair on his upper lip and chin. I am ready for him to shave it off and my husband keeps encouraging to him hold off as long as possible because once you start shaving you can never stop.

The physical changes have been a source of laughter and loving chiding. The more difficult changes are the emotional changes these teenagers struggle with. Thankfully in our family we are not dealing with the really tough challenges such as bullying or chemical dependence. Ours have been the first girlfriend followed by the first break up. I could not for the life of me figure out why my normally happy and easy going son had suddenly turned into a complete and total grouch. So I went to the ever-so-trustful tool called Facebook and quickly identified the source of the problem. My son’s relationship status was now listed as single (which is also how I learn each time we have a new girlfriend). Facebook can be a great tool when you want information.

This is such an amazing and heart-wrenching time. I struggle with my desire to protect my baby and still do everything for him versus the knowledge that tells me I need to start letting go. I know that it is safer for him to start making the harmless decisions on his own and learn to deal with consequences. It is much safer to allow him to test his decision making and critical thinking skills while he is at home and under our guidance than to wait and let him test them when is out on his own for the first time. I can still wipe his tears and kiss his booboos, they are just different booboos these days.

Dawn Nichols RN, MSN, NEA-BC is nurse manager of the postpartum unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano and Mom of two.

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