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How Bad Can 13 Be?



It’s just a number, right? A lucky number some may even say. Seems innocent enough.

Well, it used to be, until my son turned those digits and all of a sudden my world changed overnight.

I remember the day this same son moved up from 20 months to 2 years old. People called it the terrible twos, but silently I thought to myself, Will he just change overnight? I bet if I am really diligent in my discipline we’ll sail smoothly through this and nothing will change.

And then it happened, as if on queue with his second birthday – the temper tantrums over not being able to buy a toy at Wal-Mart and willfully crossing the line I emphatically said not to cross. It’s like he thought he grew 6 foot tall over night.

That’s about how I feel about 13 too. I’ve heard all the talk about teenagers for years. And yes, at times I’ve wondered, Does it just happen overnight? Will he go to bed one night cute and cuddly and wake up the next day a teenager? I bet if I am real consistent and in tune with my child nothing like that will happen to us. We’ll zoom through these years!

And then he woke up on his 13th birthday and I can tell you life hasn’t been the same since.

For awhile I thought it was just a bad day and hoped things would return to normal tomorrow. A bad day led to a bad week so then I determined he must be going through a phase. But now I’ve determined, it’s not a phase, it’s just 13!

His voice hits octaves I didn’t know existed. His pants turned to capris in a matter of weeks. His emotions lead to moments of anger, shrieks of glee or tears of sadness within hours of each other. I’m glad his head is fastened to his neck or he would walk out of the house without it! And I haven’t even mentioned the smells…

My husband and I often exchange glances, shrug and respond, thirteen!

It feels like I’m back in the preschool years. He needs to eat on schedule, sleep more and have plenty of outside time to run off all that thunderous energy.

But along with all the challenges, 13 is growing on me. Sure we’ve threatened he may not see 14, I brought you into this world and I can take you out, but underneath the noises, smells and unruly outbursts is a little boy developing into a mature man. Along with the deepening voice, he’s deepening in his convictions and character, chomping at the bit to make his mark on this big, bad world.

I’m learning that mothering this age isn’t easy, but I’m trying to keep the right perspective. In five short years, he’ll be 18. The goal of parenting is to raise kids that leave the house, hold down a job and one day support their own family under their own roof. That leaves me with five more years. Five years! I remember when he was five! Where did the time go?

I look back on those early preschool days…those days that I thought were so challenging. And they were, but a different kind of challenge. The first five years are physically challenging and I can tell the last five years will be emotionally challenging. These kids are processing life while hormones are surging through their body. They’re making decisions and learning what it means to be responsible, which takes messy trial and error.

I can’t reach in and fix things for him like I did when he was five. I don’t hold his hand anymore while we cross the road or cut up his meat at dinner. Now I watch as he cuts up his little brother’s meat, and my role looks more like asking questions and invisibly holding his hand while leading him on ahead of me, assuring him I’ll be right here if he needs me.


It’s awkward. It’s loud. It’s forgetful. It’s challenging. It’s a lot like the preschool years, but I’m afraid that if I blink too long he’ll be gone and all grown up. As someone once told me, laugh when you can, pick your battles and take a lot of pictures!

Hang in there mamas, it’s worth the effort to invest in our kids!


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2 Responses to How Bad Can 13 Be?

  1. Robin Bailiff November 16, 2016 at 9:54 am #

    Love this Julie! Made me laugh out loud because we BOTH have 13 year-olds going through life together! Wonderfully encouraging!

    • juliesteck November 16, 2016 at 10:22 am #

      Yes we do Robin!! Thanks 🙂 Love being in community with you!

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