Act your age! Wait, how old are you anyway?

It has come to my attention lately that strangers think my children are all the same age.

We recently got dental insurance for the first time. As you can imagine, it is very expensive to pay out of pocket for the dental needs of a family of 5. Especially last year with a crown and wisdom teeth extraction. The change required us to go to a different dentist.

When it came time for us to go in for our first appointment, my daughter Angel who is 17 was taken to the pediatric section in error. They told her to look at the silly animal characters on the wall if she was feeling frightened. They spoke to her in a high pitch sing song voice that you would use with small children. My 12 year old daughter was taken into the adult section.

I understand your confusion, I really do. Even Angel’s boyfriend calls her the 12 year old granny. Since she got her hair cut with bangs, she looks like she is 12. Plus, she doesn’t look like the stereotypical theater person. She never dyed her hair, wears normal (if not boring) clothes, and hardly ever wears makeup. Her boyfriend calls her granny because she is always knitting or crocheting. She is almost an adult but looks like a child. She looks almost exactly like I did as a child and has my body shape. She also has a similar personality to mine.

My son Alex is 15. He looks his age. For the longest time, he was a small and thin boy until finally he grew. Now he towers over me, muscular and lean. His personality is also similar to mine. He looks like his dad and has my body shape.

Arabella is 12, but she looks like an adult. Her personality is very different from mine. She looks like her dad and has his body type. This past Christmas, Arabella became the topic of conversation with my aunt through marriage. She loudly said, “I see that Arabella has joined the club.” “What club??” “Oh, that is right, you wouldn’t know. Did you ever consider breast reduction surgery?” She is 12. “She is going to have back issues.” She is 12!! She looks so much older that other people (myself included) expect her to act like she is an adult. It doesn’t seem right or fair. 

And so it is. Two weeks ago we were all back at the dentist’s office. After I had my fillings worked on, I came out to the waiting area to find Alex and Arabella arguing. I told them that if I heard one more word from them that I would take away their electronics. Alex quit the fight, but Arabella argued on. I told her to hand over her electronics. She come over to me and said, “Yeah, try to make me.” She has over 30 lbs on me. She towered over me while I cowered underneath her. This has made parenting challenging for me. Then Alex stood behind me and demanded she hand over her electronics. This started sibling battle number 2. Even though Alex tried to back me up, I told him that this was between Arabella and I.

I have been parenting for a long time now. I have noticed three stages of struggle with all of my children. The first stage everyone has heard of, the terrible two’s. This is their first struggle for independence. The second stage happened around 5 years, right around the time that they went to school full-time. This is another time of asserting independence. The third stage is during preadolescence, the middle school age.

The middle school years have been fraught with the biggest struggle for independence that I have seen so far, plus add in new hormonal changes. All of my kids were moody, argumentative, easily irritated, knew everything, and would often talk back. At this age, the kids treated us like we were totally stupid. Paul and I would walk around the house with our hands in the air saying “what do I know?” Anything that we would say they would argue against. I think that this is very normal although we were shocked by it with our first child. They are starting to find their identity and make their way in life without us.

The teenage years are wonderful. I am not kidding, there is hope. For the first time, you will be able to reason with your child like an adult. For example, a few months back Angel wanted to go on a weekend skiing trip with her boyfriend. A group of college students were going to rent a lodge for the weekend without parents around. But my daughter was 17. I told her that she wasn’t going to be allowed to go. She was disappointed and sad. Later, after the initial anger wore off, my daughter came up to me and told me that she understood my decision and the reasoning behind it. I was floored. It was so hard to not let her go when she agreed with me. If she would have thrown a big fit and screamed how much she hated me, I sure would have had an easier time saying no.

I think that by the time my youngest child leaves, I’ll finally have this parenting thing figured out. Until then, don’t give my 17 year old daughter a kids menu. And don’t even think about offering my 12 year old a drink from the bar.

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