11 Jun Raising teens: Bittersweet when you do it right
Last week my husband and I got all three girls to go biking with us. This is a much more difficult undertaking than it used to be, when their social lives were completely under our oversight. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but it’s been a while, and our twin almost 15-year-olds are constantly busy with friends, school and extra-curricular commitments. And while I like to think they do still enjoy hanging out with mom and dad and their younger sister, it’s probably not as high on their list as it used to be.
Our family has always done a lot of outdoor stuff together, things like skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, biking and camping.
We’re finding that as they get older, these are things that help keep us together. It’s just that it’s harder and harder to find the time and opportunity to get everyone in one place at the same time.
So it was a particular pleasure to find ourselves as a family of 5 on the P’tit Train du Nord last Sunday, just north of Mont Tremblant. They’ve paved several miles around Lac Mercier, and the black flies weren’t yet out for their season of bloodlust. The rain (mostly) held off, and the trees were in bud, and the horses were grazing in the field. No one had an exam or homework project due the next day. It was as close to perfect as we were going to get.
While my nearly-11-year-old practiced riding without her hands on the handlebars, I watched our older daughters speed up ahead. They were deep in conversation, as usual. It always astonishes me that despite all the time they spend together, they never run out of things to say to each other. Whenever I caught up to them, they stopped talking, or switched to something else.
“Parent in the room.” They didn’t have to say it out loud, but I knew that as close as we were, I was no longer privy to all their secrets. They need that space without me. They need to speed up ahead and leave us behind, still knowing we are there.
Which is as it should be. And I’m so grateful for that mysterious, age-appropriate adolescent self-sufficiency – the kind that sends them back to mom or dad whenever they need a ride to the metro, money or unreserved, uncritical love and support.
I’m proud of the confident young women my girls are becoming. But I still feel the bittersweet sting of watching them move forward without me.
When they were infants and toddlers, dependent on us for every single need, I occasionally daydreamed about the days when we would share books and recipes and debate the issues of the day. Like every single parent before me, I find myself completely, utterly gobsmacked by how quickly that day has come.
I wish I could just enjoy being right where we are without silently calculating how many years we have left before they don’t want to join us for family vacations anymore.
But I can’t help it. It’s like being nostalgic when I watch them speed ahead on the path, admiring their grace and youth, and feel that overwhelming, nameless blend of joy/pride/melancholy particular to parents of teenagers. It’s bittersweet, but I like to think it’s a sign we’re doing it right.