Parentgood: How Is He Already A Teenager?

Aquinas turns 13 today. I am now the parent of a teenager. This feels weird. In addition to the general “time goes too fast” element, we’ve had all sorts of transitions with Aquinas lately – starting at a new school, joining a new sport, making new friends, etc. So far I feel like we’re navigating things well. But I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

We’re just 2 weeks in, but 7th grade has been a very good experience so far. This transition involved moving from the private elementary school to the public high school building. In elementary school there were just 11 other kids in his class, and even though they pretty much all got along, their interests tended to diverge. His elementary class makes up about 20 – 25% of his grade now, so there’s just a lot more students to interact with. It sounds like that variety has actually made his elementary school group of friends even closer – they all have lunch together every day, but get to be social with other kids throughout their classes.

Part of what is so striking to me about this is that this was a big area of anxiety for me. When I was in middle school I was pretty miserable at making friends, at being social, etc. I basically just read in the library every morning because I couldn’t stand open gym or the hallway scene. So I was nervous about him making new friends – when we came to town it was tough for him to find his place in a small class. But now he seems like he’s doing fine.

Actually, he was elected the 7th grade homecoming representative, so I guess he’s probably doing better than fine? (Well, he was the 1st one who didn’t turn it down, so he was like 3rd or 4th or something – but other 7th graders are too shy for that kind of attention, and he’s comfortable enough, apparently.) (this whole thing is a weird development to me… I still don’t trust it. But I take his comfort in accepting it as a good sign – most 7th graders crave the safety of anonymity. He’s talked about being comfortable with attention but not engaging in attention-seeking behavior.).

I think one of the biggest reasons for his acclimation is that he’s been able to build some confidence being in cross country. Literally no other 7th grade boy is running cross country (and only 2 or 3 girls are), but in a small school like ours, he gets to run with the JV high school team. He’s not in their social circles, but they congratulate him after races, wish him well, etc. Just having a few upper classmen know your name is apparently a confidence builder. A few of the volleyball players get a similar experience of being grouped with the high schoolers, but football and some of the other things are still on their own. So he kind of lucked out in that.

So if I have one piece of advice to give in this post it’s to make sure your kids get involved in the school early.

That said, there have been all sorts of weird things to navigate too. There’s crushes and relationships – nothing actual yet, but some rumblings under the surface, and a few friends who are starting to head that direction. There are also few kids in the school who we know we need to watch out for in a way we didn’t have in the small school. There’s obviously a lot more alcohol/sex/drug exposure in various forms. We’re pretty comfortable talking about all those things, but a lot of that relies on him bringing it up if and when he’s exposed to it. At some point – probably a few years away – there will probably be parties and more direct exposure too. If anyone has any tips, by all means, please share them.

We’re also navigating a new class schedule, multiple teachers, and real homework for the first time ever. Aquinas definitely gets stressed when he doesn’t have some time to himself, so we’re trying to be active in helping him review his schedules and keep on top of things. That was never a strong suit of mine, and too often I find myself thinking about this after the kids have gone to bed, and not before. So in this, too, if there is advice, I’ll take it.

Anyway, this post is mostly just a placeholder – we haven’t had a Parentgood in a long time, and there’ve been a lot of changes in my life (that you’ve now read about!). So what are y’all going through, and what advice do you have for life with a teenager?

11 thoughts on “Parentgood: How Is He Already A Teenager?”

  1. Two of my three kids ran/are running cross country. It's amazing how supportive and nice the kids are.

    Last year, my son (soph) beat out a senior in the last regular season race to secure the final varsity spot for the conference race. The senior approached him and gave him a high five and told him what a great race he'd run. That interaction definitely could have gone much worse.

    1. I ran cross-country and when I was junior, we had this freshman who was pretty good. There was a race where he was in front of me and I chased him down to nip him at the line. When I got done, I congratulated him on the race, mainly because he was rapidly improving. Meanwhile, I was pretty happy inside because I had been able to catch him and I knew that this was the last time I would beat him. I was right about that. I think that when you see a kid coming up who has more talent, you kind of have to just admit it and be happy for them. Running XC is hard and when you see guys that make it look easy, there's an appreciation for that.

        1. It was a struggle for me. At the state meet my senior year, I went out fast to do the best I could in my last race. I felt kind of funny at the beginning of the race, but I was in the top 20, so I kept pushing. At some point, I got really sick and I do not remember finishing the race. I was basically out on my feet. In the last 400 yards or so, I fell all the way into the 70s (!!!). I ended up on the front page of the Bismarck Tribune the next day. To this day, I don't know what happened. I may have had some sort of food poisoning, because my stomach was upset, but I never threw up at all. Everyone got a good laugh out of it, but I was in serious distress.

  2. I'll second what's been said here -- sports like track, cross country, swimming, wrestling, are all great in that they are individual as well as team activities, and they are excellent in that each participant has a ready-made fan base.

    Meanwhile, Runner daughter's dog is a teenager 😉

    1. I ran CC & track, played baseball, and had friends in most other sports offered, except football and boys’ basketball. By far, the CC crowd was the most accepting & supportive, and thus the tightest knit, group. I ran into my CC coach, who now works at the funeral home that handled my grandmother’s funeral, this summer. I haven’t seen him since my dad’s funeral over a decade ago. We talked about his family, his Parkinson’s diagnosis, and his tour in Vietnam, which I knew about in high school, but never felt comfortable bringing up. He got to meet the Poissonnière. I relayed greetings to him from my uncle, who ran for him 16 years before I did. Getting to share that reconnection with a guy I deeply admire as adults with some similar life experiences was truly special.

      1. I played football, basketball and baseball and man, those were toxic groups in Stillwater so my group of friends were non-athletes and I gave up school sports after my sophomore basketball season (didn't even try to join the baseball team that year). We'll see what the sports culture here in Edgerton is like as the kids get older, but it can't be as bad as what I experienced. (or worse, what the high school girls soccer team suffered through, who's coach (my 9th grade English teacher) was eventually arrested for abusing players.)

  3. I will just say try your best to enjoy this time. It is going to fly by. (We sent our eldest to college a couple weeks ago, as I think I've shared. Oof.)

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    I've never participated in CC, but I have nephews and friends' kids in it across many different districts and states and this "CC teams are amazing" seems to be very consistent. Pretty cool!

    Aquinas definitely gets stressed when he doesn’t have some time to himself, so we’re trying to be active in helping him review his schedules and keep on top of things.

    All I can suggest is getting to the homework as soon as he gets home (after practice?) and get it done, then move to alone time. Our eldest also has this need, and that's how she would deal with it. Some nights with all of her activities she would have trouble getting quiet time and you could really tell when she didn't get it. Prioritizing it by getting "first things done first" gave her the best chance to have a good chunk of time to herself.

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    As for teenage advice, I don't think I have a lot yet. Our eldest just wasn't really a teenager as I expected; or as I was. I mean, her mood would move around on us, and rapidly at times, but hardly any of the angst or rebelliousness.

    Our 15-year-old could be a little more like a teen as we go. In fact, she just went out to a soccer game with a boy for the first time this afternoon. He's a senior and she's a sophomore, which has us a little itchy, but it's probably fine. Anyway, a little different than our eldest, who refused romantic things until the summer after her senior year.

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