This week Kathleen turned thirteen. To be be honest, I've considered Kathleen a teenager for quite a bit now, as we've all be subjected to the symptoms of teenager-hood for some time before she reached the exact date when she is officially considered a teenager. But now she isn't almost a teenager, she's really a teenager.
I panicked a few months ago when I realized that I will have a teenaged child for the next two decades. Two decades ago I was a teenager myself, trying to make my parents' life as difficult as possible. And when I'm finally done with teenagers myself, I will be almost sixty - only a handful of years younger than my own mother is right now. It looks like I'm going to be dealing with teenagers for a really long time. Sigh.
Not all things about teenagers are terrible. To be honest, most of the time Kathleen is cheerful, helpful, and easy to be around. I definitely take advantage of her babysitting skills all the time and could never go back to the days of having to take all the children with me if I needed to go out. Now I just waltz out the door, letting everyone know that I'm going to get a pedicure and I'll be back in a few hours. I suppose having a sometimes-moody child is probably worth the freedom it gives me.
She is also helpful with her siblings (although not always willingly so, but that's fair enough because I don't always want to be helpful either), and it's wonderful to have another responsible party to herd the cats when I need some help. It's also wonderful to have a child who will get the job done properly. If I tell her to clean the kitchen, it will be clean. If I need someone to clean out a messy room or closet, I can count on her to get it done. She has reached that wonderful age of competent responsibility, and it's a great place to be.
But of course, she's still only thirteen and has to deal with the emotional storms that come with the job of growing up. And since we're all here together, we get to deal with them too. I can't wait until Sophia joins the fun. Having two girls close together sounded like a good idea right until puberty hits.
I feel, however, like I've had it pretty easy so far and that is partly because we homeschool. This summer Kathleen got to experience some teenage-girl social drama and one afternoon while we were discussing it, she turned to me and exclaimed, "I'm so glad I don't have to go to regular school and deal with drama like that every day!" It's nice that she doesn't have to experience the meat-grinder that can be middle school female interactions and I don't have to deal with the trauma that comes from them. Middle school is a great time to keep children mostly separated from their peers.
Having a teenaged daughter has put the final nail in the coffin of my youth. I am definitely, absolutely, irrevocably, not young any more. I was recently reminiscing about my freshman year of college, and I realized that I entered college nineteen years ago. Then I realized that Kathleen will be entering college in five years. And then I did the math and realized that she is almost four times closer to eighteen than I am. Now I get to enjoy youth through my children's lives, not my own.
It's strange to have a teenager while expecting a baby, to be straddling those two worlds of young mother and middle-aged mother. There aren't many moms out there who manage to have a teenager and a newborn at the same time, and it makes for all sorts of friends. Some of my friends were in elementary school when I graduated from high school and some of them didn't get cell phones or internet until they were married and graduated from college.
But regardless of how I feel about it, I now have a teenager in the house. And on the whole, it's a pretty great thing. But I'll get back to you in a couple of years when I have two teenagers in the house. I'll let you know how that goes.