This is the first year I don’t have any kids in elementary school. It's the first time in twenty years. Yes, I have been a mom for a LONG time. No more school parties, no more Valentine’s boxes, spelling tests, or Halloween costumes.
My youngest child is in the depths of junior high nonsense at the moment. Let’s be honest, junior high is the worst. Who LOVED that time in their life? Kids' emotions rule their day. You never know what kind of phone call you will get. When I see the school is calling, I reluctantly answer the phone faking a breezy hello and feel a sense of relief when half the time it is an automated message telling me that my son’s cafeteria balance is negative 12 dollars.
I take comfort in the fact that this is the last time I will go through junior high years, that I know this shall pass, but at the same time, I am equally sad to see this phase coming to an end. When it is “the last one” you feel a sense of capturing this piece of time because you realize maybe you didn’t appreciate it as much as you should have with your older children. It is your last chance to salvage being a decent parent, and somehow right the wrongs of your earlier parenting mistakes.
Or maybe this is just me?
To all the laid back, cavalier parents out there - I envy you. I pulled that off when I was a younger parent in my 20’s, but that ship has sailed. I don’t drive my kids to Dairy Queen anymore with the moon roof down and then cruise around town singing to the radio with them on summer evenings. First of all, gas is too expensive, but I just don’t have that free as a bird mentality anymore. Sad, right?
Although, I have dedicated myself to being the “fun” parent (my kids would probably have a smart remark about how if I SAY I am the fun parent there is a good chance I am not). But when my high schooler asks if ALL of his friends can come over on the weekend, I am all in. When I inquire what time they are arriving and his response is, “Between 1pm and 8pm and they will for sure leave by 3pm tomorrow,” my smile does not falter as I calculate how much food that equates to for seven 15-year-old boys.
My husband and I are also considering a trampoline purchase for this summer. It will have a sprinkler, LED lights, and a basketball hoop. Why? We know that we have at best, a good four years left of all three boys choosing to spend any time at our house or in their own backyard. We want to hear laughter and silliness while we can. We know we are in the teenage twilight years.
Here is my definition of a teenage twilight parent - you no longer have children in grade school, but you also do not have any children driving yet. It is having pre-teens and teens, roughly between the ages of 11 and 15 ¾ years old. You can still force them to spend time with you because they have no vehicle to escape in, you still see glimmers of their childhood glee, and they might hug you when no one is looking. It is a small window of time that you want to capture and hold on to tight, and as short as a beautiful sunset at twilight.
It is an ambiguous time. Their childhoods are barely in the rearview mirror. You see a Facebook memory pop up from two years ago, and your child, currently growing a mustache, was two feet shorter and had cute chubby cheeks. At the same time, you are anxiously looking at their driver’s permit and wondering how in the world they can be trusted to drive a vehicle.
If you are in this time with me, I hope you enjoy the teenage twilight and see it for what it is: a time to have fun with your kids (when they will allow it) and let them be kids. Yes, they eat all your food, smelly socks are everywhere, and they give you one-word answers to everything, but you still have them. They are still yours. They will join the world soon enough.