When they placed that tiny bundle in my arms I didn’t think it could get any better. That squishy face peeking out from under a soft striped cap, snugly wrapped in a blanket. That gentle weight against my chest felt like magic. Sure, those days had moments that felt impossibly hard – sleepless nights, postpartum hormones, and the shift of my entire identity. But they were so precious. I never knew I could love them more.
But time is a thief, and that itty bitty person began to grow. With each stage, something new and magical appeared from within them as they began to become who they were meant to be. That baby took on a personality – a tender heart, a fiery will, and a mischievous streak. Slowly toddlers gave way to preschoolers, who transformed into kids. Each day brought something new to love and new wonderment to behold. I didn’t think it could get any better. In fact, I was terrified that we were approaching the end of the good times. I had been warned of these terrible years ahead… these turbulent tween and teen years. I fully expected never-ending battles of will, constant disrespect and disregard for me, and full-blown rebellion. That is what everyone told me would happen. So with much regret, foreboding, and fear, I watched as my child began to blossom into this dreaded hormonal hurricane, assuming the best was behind us and bracing for the disaster to come.
Day by day I waited. Elementary faded away and middle school loomed ahead. There were awkward moments. Emotional moments. Confusing moments for both of us. But somehow, it wasn’t the end of the world. You see, in the midst of all that strange pubescent transformation, glimpses of an incredible young human emerged. One who still clung to the joy of childhood and their fun-loving nature, but who also began to form deep and thoughtful opinions on things. One who (amidst the fart jokes) was budding a sense of humor that was actually funny and not just cute attempts at knock-knock jokes. And I began to realize… this tween thing wasn’t so bad after all.
Only a few short years later and all traces of childhood are past us. Before me stand young people that I am beyond proud of. Still the babies I held long ago, yet completely different. When I look back over the years, I see how many challenges we have all overcome. There are still disagreements and moments of struggle, to be sure. But I see in my teenager not only my child but the beginnings of a friend. We laugh together, discuss the deeper things of life together, dream together. They have passions and interests, talents and skills, and it is beautiful to watch them thrive in the things they love. I enjoy their friends and the laughter that trickles down the hallway when they are together almost as much as they do.
They see the world through young, fresh eyes and they are determined to fix the broken parts of it. Unlike us adults, teens don’t just shake their heads and shrug their shoulders at the injustices of the world. They have a fiery passion to see them remedied. And although I may disagree with some of their points of view, I love to hear them develop their own ability to reason and think.
I don’t love every minute. I hate the worry I feel every time they pull out of the driveway without me, the long nights laying awake praying they make wise choices, the constant running here and there keeping up with busy schedules. I miss the cuddles and being the first one they run to with every problem. I miss being able to actually solve those problems. Raising teens has certainly been hard too. But it may just be the very best part. Because every day as I watch these teens grow and change and I see a new glimpse of their incredible hearts unfold I am struck with the deep realization that I’ve never loved them more than this… And now I can say I truly look forward to each new day and each new stage because I see now that each one is better than the last. And I know that every day I will grow to love them even more.