13 Things I Want For My Teenager
Thirteen years ago today I was at 42 weeks, was suffering through food poisoning off a (rancid) bowl of Labor Day BBQ macaroni salad, and underwent an emergency C-section that was totally the opposite of the candlelit (only sort of kidding), natural birth I had been planning.
So basically, it was a rather representative entrance into parenting. You can’t control or plan all the things; often times the universe has different designs on how things will go down.
I have a lot of feelings about Laurel turning 13 today. She is one of the key reasons I left my career in neuroscience to become an Internet unicorn. She has taught me so much over the years via my stumbles through parenting. And moving into the teenage zone is, well, a big effing deal. The other day Laurel asked about watching a teen TV show that we know is replete with sexual references. We said that we would need to talk about sex (not just the puberty mechanics, which we have covered, but what is actually involved in DOING IT) before that happened and I was like, “Girl, GAME ON. Want to talk about sex now? I am ready!” She declined in a state of immense embarrassment and we had a good laugh about it, but it was a reminder that we have now landed in the age bracket where sex is actually a thing that will take the forefront of conversation among her and her friends.
So today, as I’m wading through my feels I wanted to share 13 things I want for Laurel. I’m thinking this is a pretty solid goals list for any teenager.
1. Learn to express anger and frustration in the moment
Laurel has many gifts but one thing she struggles with is expressing anger and frustration in the moment. She has a tendency to tamp things down (I am familiar with this technique btw) and as the hormones amp up, I’m especially wanting her to figure out ways to let things out.
2. Find/use her voice
This one is related to #1 and is another challenge. Being able to speak up -- for what you want, to indicate that something is wrong, to fight for others -- it’s all crucial.
3. Make lots of art
Laurel has always been creative but over the last few years as soccer has dominated our schedule, art has gone by the wayside. Over the summer she started working on this owl drawing and her focus and happiness around this project reminded me that we need to find more avenues for artistic exploration for her. (If anyone has recommendations for great teen art programs, I’d love to hear about them!)
4. Keep cooking and baking
Anyone who knows Laurel (or follows me on Instagram) knows about Laurel’s passion for cooking and baking and let me just say, I don’t ever want that to stop.
5. Try new things
As kids get older and more established in their lanes, it's easy to forget about trying new things -- and self-criticism can prevent it too. I was reminded this summer about how amazing it is to keep shaking things up. Laurel tried tennis for the first time and loved it, and now we are all playing tennis!
6. Continue to think big
Laurel tends to think grandly when it comes to projects (3-tier cake! giant mural! epic community project!) and I feel like I’m often saying, “Girl, dial it back!” I want to check myself more there because I want her to continue to think big.
7. Maintain solid friendships
Laurel is very friend centered and she is lucky to have connected with an amazing group of girls in kindergarten, and they have all remained close. I also have friendships that date back to elementary and middle school and I hope her friendships will persist many decades from now.
8. Relish sisterhood
So I have four sisters and we used to fight like cats and dogs. I know it’s not always easy. But given my happy experiences with sisterhood + my experience with what I thought was secondary infertility and my subsequent anguish about sisterhood, I hope Laurel and Violet will relish their sisterhood. I realize they will move in and out of loving and being annoyed with one another, but I hope it is more of the former.
9. Find the gray area
Laurel tends to see things fairly black and white (think good guys vs. bad guys) and I want her to find the gray area when it comes to thinking about life and relationships.
10. Maintain positive body image
I have been surprised and happy to see that Laurel is not at all caught up in body image comparison stuff. There is no negative self-talk or conversation about others, and when I have asked if she and her friends talk about periods or puberty or whatever she's like, "Nah, we have more interesting things to talk about!" This is pretty impressive given that she is smack in the zone where the variability in development is INSANE. Having been driven to the brink of an eating disorder by an emotionally abusive boyfriend during my early college years, my antennae is sharply tuned to this particular issue.
11. Have healthy romantic relationships
When I reflect back, all but one of my romantic relationships in life were pretty healthy. But the one that wasn’t inflicted a decade’s worth of damage -- during the actual time we were together and the years following where I was dealing with stalking and therapy. Again, my antennae will be up regarding romantic relationships.
12. Keep trusting me with conversation
One of the great gifts of parenting now is that conversations are prioritized and viewed as a good thing. My mom and I never talked about a million things we should have talked about. I want Laurel to always know that I am a trusted person to talk to, even if we don’t agree on things.
13. Do not have sex any time soon
The conversations should absolutely be happening but NOT THE DOING.