“How does it feel to be …?” is the question I ask my children on their birthdays. Their response is almost always the same. Despite being children who are articulate about their feelings, they tell me: “It doesn’t feel any different.”
But when my eldest child turned 13 this year, I knew it was different.
Turning 13 is the beginning of a relatively short (in adult terms) but long (in a youth’s terms) transitional phase. By the time my son reaches 20, feet will grow, a mind will expand, interests will be lost and found, and new confidence gained. Leaving the nest to find his own home, his own place in the world, requires a smooth transition– one that is not easy when coupled with hormones, emotions, and insistent demands for independence. We cannot simply push him out of the nest; we need to help him fledge, to learn to use his own wings. Thankfully, we have the next seven years to guide him to the edge of our nest.
To help him negotiate that edge, we thought about giving him 13 tasks to complete throughout the year. We discussed having him generate 13 things he would like to accomplish. And we even considered giving him the option to plan a special trip with his chosen parent—a rite of passage trip. But none of these seemed right for our son in this moment. Perhaps these type of explorations will come in the near future.
For now, it seems right to focus only on the beginning. So for his 13th birthday we made him a small book of wisdom for the teenage traveller. Relatives and close friends shared funny teenage stories, offered advice, or contributed a favourite quote. We made the book out of an old map–a fitting symbol for one who is just beginning to search beyond the safe comforts of his childhood home.
Even if he doesn’t feel any different from year to year, I know that these early steps into a teenager’s universe needs to be with filled with love, support, wisdom, and of course, lots of silliness.
Living on the east coast of Scotland with her husband and four children, Nicki is a daily walker, a haiku writer, and a collector of beauty. She writes about the creative life on her blog Just Like Play.