I remember a day back when my older daughter was 2.5. We’d had a perfectly lovely morning at the library–story time, one of her favorite activities–and we were headed home for lunch. We walked down the stairs outside the library and all of a sudden, without provocation, she sat down on the grassy area and refused to get back up. I asked, I told, I begged, and then finally, in frustration, I walked away towards the parking lot and threatened to leave her there.
It was definitely not my finest mothering moment. When I told my mother the story later that day, she said, “The toddler years are the first adolescence.”
I didn’t really get it at the time.
Fast forward to my 12-year-old daughter. We were all in the family room, just chatting, when my husband made an innocuous statement to her. I don’t even remember what it was. She got up, mad, close to tears, and headed to her room. “Don’t even try to talk to me or I’m going to cry!” she said as she slammed her door practically in my face.
Ah, the second adolescence.
We’ve made it through three and a half adolescences now–my older daughter’s first and second (she’s 20) and my younger daughter’s first; she’s 16, right in the middle of her second. Along the way, I’ve continued to see parallels between those toddler years and the adolescent years. Both toddlers and teenagers are moody, at times without provocation. Both toddlers and teenagers have an uncanny ability to say NO and mean it, even if it would benefit them to say yes. Both toddlers and teenagers want to win the argument, at no matter the cost, and even though their logic sometimes makes no sense, somehow they seem to make a pretty rational argument of it anyway.
But there are some wonderful traits to adolescents, too, both of the first and second variety. They’re enthusiastic. They love to try new things. They make interesting observations about people. And, above all else, they make you think.
My 16-year-old is a day camp counselor this summer, shepherding 40 odd sixth graders through daily activities, problems, and the drama that comes with early adolescence. On our way home, she tells me stories about her kids, as she calls them, things they did that day and how she handled the challenges. Her words are remarkably familiar, and warm my heart.
With the summer coming to a close, last week she said to me, “I’ve had 40 campers this summer. That’s 40 kids’ lives that I’ve have an impact on.”
I’ve only had an impact on two, but I knew exactly what she meant.
Embrace your first and second adolescents. I do.