My boy became a man overnight.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t actually overnight, but I swear to you that over the course of only a small handful of weeks, the drastic changes in my son were nothing short of startling. When he was a baby, folks would say the cliché quips all the time: “Enjoy them while they’re little; it goes so fast!” I knew it would feel like they had grown up overnight, but what no one actually prepared me for was that once the Puberty Train leaves the station, it can actually travel like a BULLET, leaving you wondering where on earth the child went who was in your home only a few weeks ago.
Last year at this time, my son was a goofy boy with the voice of a child and a body to match. He still looked so much like a KID! We always joked that we knew when he was about to go through a growth spurt because he would suddenly do nothing but eat and sleep and this time it was INSANE. He would come home from school and immediately want to nap, sleep until 10 am on weekends, and put down more food than I’d ever seen him eat before. For a while, there was no visible change and I started to get worried that he was actually sick or had picked up some sort of tapeworm (I’m joking on that second one).
Then, over the course of only a few weeks, he shot up to surpass me in height, grew out of all his shoes, saw his shoulders broaden and his torso lean out, muscle appeared seemingly out of nowhere, and his voice DROPPED into the basement. My boy had become a young man before my very eyes.
Obviously, we parents try to prepare ourselves for this moment when our kids are no longer children. We have to say little tiny goodbyes along the way that tug at our heartstrings, training us for the big ones to come later. The final time a baby is done nursing. Handing off the last of the diaper stash. That last time we send a child off to their first day of Kindergarten. Attending 5th grade graduation and knowing your days as an elementary school parent are over. All these moments had brought tears to my eyes, but I knew they were part of the gig.
To suddenly have my oldest child wrap his arms around my neck when we hug and beat me handily when arm wrestling……that was a gut punch I was not prepared for.
When my sons were younger, I used to frame the conversation about puberty like they were receiving their superpowers. Just as Spiderman woke up one day with astounding strength and the ability to scale walls and swing across buildings, they would one day wake up and realize they were no longer the same. Their body and mind will have transformed and they will suddenly feel more powerful than ever before. But, as Uncle Ben advised Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Peter Parker wasn’t ready to be a superhero, but he had to figure it out and learn from his mistakes so he could develop the wisdom and integrity required to use his power for the benefit of others and not just himself. In the same way, we teen parents find ourselves in the shoes of Aunt Mae and Uncle Ben, trying to guide our fledgling superheroes as they explore their new powers, fall and fail, and be there on the other side of the slammed door when their feelings are bigger than they know how to handle.
No one prepared me for just how fast my teen would grow up. He wasn’t ready and I certainly was taken by surprise, but we have been taking it one day at a time through this season of transition. We butt heads a lot, disagree and sometimes go several rounds before finding common ground.
Fellow teen parents, we are raising tomorrow’s superheroes. They still need us, maybe even more than ever, but our job looks different now. After all, where would Spiderman be without Aunt Mae?