Today my baby girl turns 14.
What a sucky age.
But really, do you remember it? No? That’s because it probably sucked.
Think about it. At 14 you were at puberty’s peak and at the mercy of the multitude of hormones that were making your emotions run the gamut from elation to devastation that all took place in a span of 45 seconds and were probably caused by the fact that the water turned cold in your shower or your cat who was all cozied up on your bed suddenly jumped down.
Didn’t take much to set you off.
14 is kind of a non age, isn’t it? 13 hogs all the teenagery attention, and don’t even get me started on 16 and 18. Whores.
But while my 14 year old certainly is belted in on that emotional roller coaster (with all of us unwillingly strapped in right beside her) she makes damn sure she gets attention. Always has. She’s the baby in the family, after all. (Spoken like a true baby in the family. Cough cough.) She’s the little darling; the one who we all endlessly entertained when she was an infant in hopes of getting a smile, or even better, a gurgly laugh (her older sister won that contest every time, BTW). When she became a sunny toddler, the tables turned and it was she who broke us up with her funny voices, expressions, and general goofiness on a daily basis.
It’s no wonder the girl craves the spotlight. We’ve put her on a stage since birth.
14 is frightening, too. For everyone involved. The big, scary, grown up world is mere inches away, and while they desperately want to grab onto it, they also kind of don’t. The multitude of mature knowledge (sex, drugs, sex, and did I mention sex?) and terrible things they hear via the media suddenly make sense, mostly. Things that have gone over their heads in the past are now being absorbed by their brain, which often times has a pretty hard time figuring out what do do with it all.
14 is stuck. Despite how fervently they want to be treated like an adult, they also want you to scratch their backs at bedtime and give you a tight hug (in private, of course). They want to watch inappropriate movies, yet if you let them they will hide their eyes and chant loudly until the inappropriate scene is over. They want to snuggle next to you when you watch TV, but if you so much as smooth a single hair on their head in public they will act like you’ve branded them with a hot poker and give you a look that could very possibly send you straight to hell. They want to be included in grown up conversations, but their eyes will glaze over by minute three. They still sleep with their favorite stuffed animals, but hide them when their friends come over. They want to go outside, but just don’t really know what to do when they get out there.
14 year olds will lead you to believe they want everything, but in reality they are pretty hard to shop for. The toy aisles at Target are a distant memory. In fact, when I take a detour through them to get to electronics or books, the onslaught of PINK and the smell of plastic gives me a severe case of PTSD … and also a hefty dose of nostalgia. Clothes aren’t even a safe bet anymore, since 14s change their fashion tastes on a constant basis. This shirt with the ironic saying about mustaches on it that she would have loved a month ago? So over it. (Doi.) If you want to make a 14 really happy, just put a screen on something. And if you want them to look at you when you are talking to them, put one on your forehead. It’s like magic.
Too old to play with Barbies, too young to drive to the mall on her own; too old to watch Disney channel, too young to watch HBO; 14 brings with it a whole host of conundrums, not only for the 14 year old, for the parents, too.
Looking into the same eyes you’ve looked into for 14 years but seeing a new, grown up (and slightly awkward) version of the one in your memory can sometimes leave you breathless. The growth that happens on both the inside and the outside by 14 is astounding. And more than a little bit unnerving. But also wonderful. 14 takes your breath away. Sometimes because it’s simply impossible to try to comprehend all that they have zooming around inside of them and all they are trying to put in a proper place and all the outside pressures and inner conflicts they are dealing with, and sometimes because you simply don’t think you can deal with it. But you have to, because despite what they want you to think, 14 needs you to.
Fun, funky, frustrating, fatigued, flustered, foul (often), and funny (always)—14 is suddenly here. And in my house, because of this girl, that’s fabulous … even if it is a little bit sucky.