It happened Monday. And I wonder, how did my baby get to be 14 years old?
Rhetorical question, sure. You feed children, plants, puppies ... they grow.
Master 14's development the past year has blown my mind.
The contrast between age 13 and 14 has been as stark as age 0 to 1. Apple cheeks - gone, replaced by angles and shadows. Smooth baby skin sprouts the odd zit, and a scraggly caterpillar has perched itself atop his upper lip. Until recently, my eyes could gaze down at his. The past couple months, those grey-blues have risen to a level above mine. My boy is taller than me, even if you smash his slightly fluffy hair.
Emotionally, he's well into the process of individuation - when psychologists say teenagers work to separate themselves from parents, often by spending hours alone in their rooms; dying hair weird colours; and clamming up if you dare ask about his or her crush. Cleaving, however, is intermittent: one minute, Master 14 is defiant, questioning. The next minute, he's conciliatory, asking, "Can I have some money?"
The boy is my third teenager even though I have two children. I, too, was once a teen, and still carry many of the fears, angst and hopes from my own adolescence. We parent through the lens of our pasts, trying to outwit and outsmart digital natives who are three steps ahead on the pop culture score.
Tetris, the tile-matching puzzle video game, was popular when I was my son's age. These days, he plays Fortnite, one of the world's biggest games. The site went down on his birthday, leaving million of players staring into a black hole. He had to wait to use his present - a gaming keyboard.
The intensity of teenager-hood is palpable. Adolescents feel things strongly: a perceived snub at football training marks the end of a friendship; a smile from a girl is the start of a relationship; too many school assignments due at once induce panic.
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Status flows from brands and stuff and travel as much (or more) as it does from academic ability, athletic prowess or entrepreneurial flair. The day they get a new phone is Christmas, every other holiday and a birthday at once.
We expect much from our young people: be kind, get good marks, don't sing or belch during dinner, clean up, volume down, get a job, drive safely, help around the house, volunteer, be active, be curious, remove those blasted headphones. Also, the world's ending. Please save the planet so I can see my great-grandchildren on something other than an ark or Princess cruise.
I ask for all of the above from my teens, aside from the last item, because it needs doing now, not in a decade.
Master 14 doesn't ask for advice, but if he did, I'd tell him enjoy where you're at. School can be boring and it's tough feeling like everyone's bossing you around, but these days are priceless. You get free room and board, a chef, chauffeur, scheduler, cheerleader and champion - 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
Protect your body and brain. Drinking, smoking marijuana and using other drugs can set you up for a lifetime of poor health, addiction and heartbreak. Knowing what I know now about studies showing teens whose parents provide alcohol end up worse off than those who don't, I've opted out. They'll still experiment. I tell my kids to wait as long as possible. Protect your growing brains, fragile livers and lungs. And call when you need me.
Tackle jobs with flair.
Flipping burgers, selling shoes, packing kiwifruit, walking dogs … Whether you work in someone else's business or start your own, these first regular money-earning opportunities teach you about punctuality, persistence and about passion - for what you want to do and what you don't. One of the best things about hair shirt jobs - those so itchy you can't wait to shed them - is they make you appreciate work that fits. Hang in there. It's temporary. Which brings me to my next point ...
Everything is temporary. Your mental and physical abilities, looks, possessions, even family and friends are all on loan from the Creator or the Universe or whomever you believe gifts such things. Appreciate who you are and what you have. Your 40-year-old self will look at a photo and think, "I look old." Twenty years later, Mr 60 will look wistfully at the same picture, remembering how youthful 40 looked and felt by comparison.
Eat chips - not too many - while you can. Those washboard abs will turn to jelly unless you're willing to run, swim, cycle, box, dance, keep playing football - and carefully manage your eating. Bye bye cake, hello kale.
It's okay to fall - and fail. It means you're going hard, reaching beyond your comfort zone. Get back up and try again.
Don't let numbers define you. This is a massive task in a society where comparisons, selfies and humble brags proliferate like south side mould. You are not your wage, your sports stats, your ''likes'' and ''friends''. Neither are you your height, weight or bank balance. And you sure as hell are not counting notches on a bedpost. Conquest is a fool's contest.
Allow yourself to feel. Men who bottle emotions become angry and depressed. Sadness and tears aren't signs of weakness, but of emotional strength and normalcy. Therapist and educator Michael Gurian wrote in The Wonder of Boys, "The quickest way to create a boy or man who lacks compassion is to judge and shame his feelings." Knowing your feelings means creating space and time to just be. Step away from the game, put down the phone. Nothing's more important than this moment. Often, the only creature who gets this in our house is the dog. Stop and give her a cuddle.
Be grateful and equitable. Recognise your privilege and help bridge the gap for other people who weren't born into homes with enough love, food, money or attention. If you become the boss, pay people based on skills and experience, not on immutable characteristics such as gender and race. If you and a partner one day (in the far future) have children, be fair and open-minded in sharing responsibilities. Take turns.
Call your mum. I'll always be here for you. I love you.