I just want to go on record as saying that I love raising teenagers. Some of you may be surprised by that statement and I have to admit that I shocked myself with just how much I LOVE having teenagers. It's not that I every questioned whether I would love my kids as teenagers but I had visions of the teenage years as something that we had to "get through" as parents and not necessarily something to be enjoyed. I could not have been more wrong.
I have an Early Childhood degree - my specialty is babies, toddlers, preschoolers and elementary school aged kids. I was trained to care for them, educate them and I felt comfortable in my role as a mother of young children. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't always idyllic when my kids were little. We had our share of sibling rivalry in our house, conversations about room cleanliness and why we shouldn't catch bees in plastic bags but I felt confident in my role as a parent of two small children.
Then my kids started middle school which launched me into completely unknown parenting territory. The only thing that I had to draw from was my own personal experience of middle school. I was so stressed out when I started middle school that I called my mom from the school every day for at least a month and she drove down to the school to have lunch with me EVERY DAY. (Just in case I never told you so - thanks for that mom.) Since this was the only experience that I had to draw from, I was fairly certain that it would be a less than smooth transition into middle school for my own kids as well. Turns out, they are much more well adjusted than their mother and they did just fine.
Just when I got used to parenting middle schoolers, my kids started high school. I was surprised with just how much I enjoyed this stage of their lives. Watching my children become strong, independent, courageous leaders in their school was inspiring. As high school students they were becoming the beautiful, smart people that God intended them to be. Walking alongside them as they made decisions about college and careers made me realize just how wonderful they really are.
Now I find myself again walking into an uncharted stage of parenting with one child in college and another who isn't far behind. I've only been in this stage of parenting for just over a year so I'm still learning how to be a mom to a "child" who lives 400 miles away in his own apartment. I won't try to deny the fact that there weren't a lot of tears shed when he moved out but I find peace in the knowing that he's an extremely happy and independent college student. I may not get to see his smiling face at our dinner table every night but I could not be more proud of him.
I have loved every stage of my kids life - from infants to young adults. So to those parents of young kids who plead with their toddlers "please stop growing", all I can say is; let them grow and embrace it. Treasure every stage of the short 18 years that your children are living in your house and all of the wonderfulness and craziness that goes along with it. Take those long walks in the park, make late night runs to the ice cream store to celebrate winning games, let them stay up way past their bedtime on summer nights and let them eat cheesecake for breakfast when Grandpa comes to visit. Parenting is the hardest job that you will ever face - no matter what age your children are - but it's also the most rewarding.
In a few short months I will be the parent of a 20 year old and I know that will come with a whole new batch of challenges and joys. What I do know is that my college student has found a whole new appreciation for food and that is definitely a language that I can speak. Nothing says "I love you" to a college student better than batch of home made blueberry muffins or cupcakes. I think I'll whip up a batch of these oatmeal chocolate chip cupcakes for him right now.
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream
1 large egg
3/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup chocolate chips, tossed in a sprinkle of flour
Bake 24 minutes at 350.
Frost with cinnamon buttercream.
To my favorite college students who are starting class today - we love you and we are so proud of you.
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