10 Things To Do Before Your Boy Turns 13


Have you seen all those sweet, sentimental lists that are now all over the Internet of things to enjoy about your children before they grow up? All of those things you want to teach them before the angst of the teen years hardens them? All of those scrapbook memories to create before they ask you to stop hugging them in public?

This is not one of those lists.

I have never had a prejudice against teenagers. As a high school teacher, I found their big emotions endearing, their awkward, gangly bodies adorable, and their sarcasm and sharp wit entertaining. Now, I have a teen of my own. He is all of those things and more. I adore him. But there are some things you should know. And some things you should prepare for before you have a teenage boy in your house.

Invest in Febreeze

Like a closet full of it. Take all the sheets out of the linen closet and fill it with Febreeze. I swear, he showers. For like, 25 minutes at a time. It just doesn’t seem to matter. I realize that it isn’t their fault. All their hormones, and therefore all their glands in all their smelly places, are working overtime, and they just can’t help it. I have literally enjoyed this allergy season for the very first time ever, as I have not been able to smell a thing for the last two weeks.

Teach him how to do laundry

Yes, because he needs to learn to take responsibility for his things, and yes, because he needs to be able to do his own laundry when he goes off to college. But the real reason is so you never have to utter those dreaded words—“What is all over these sheets?”

Teach him to cook

At least some simple things–ramen, mac-n-cheese, tacos, brownies. Otherwise, you will go from grocery store to cooking in the kitchen, back to the grocery store for more supplies, back to the kitchen to cook…on an on for the next several years. Teen boys (and girls, from what I remember) eat A LOT. As in, I-swear-I-spent-$100-at-the-grocery-two-days-ago-did-starving-hyenas-invade-my-pantry-while-I-was-at-work-who-can-drink-a-gallon-of-milk-in-16-hours LOT of food.

Get over being right

Ever. Because, “I know, Mom.” He knows everything. So now I just preface everything I say with, “I am sure you know this already, but I need to say it out loud so that I have it straight in my own mind…”

Practice your game face

I have always been really bad at this, but it’s an absolute MUST if you want to be good at this mom-of-a-teenage-boy thing. You cannot show shock, worry, anger, grief, disappointment, or judgment of any sort NO MATTER WHAT HE TELLS YOU. He has a crush on a girl who lives next door? “Hmm, interesting. Tell me more.” He thinks he failed his chemistry quiz? “Hmm, interesting. Tell me more.” Kids having sex in the bathroom of the middle school? “Hmm, interesting. Tell me more.” He blew up a squirrel in the backyard with an exploding squirrel concoction he found on the Internet? “Hmm, interesting. Tell me more.” Keep chopping the carrots and mumble something mildly question-like that encourages him to keep talking while you pretend to not be terribly interested.

Take lots of pictures

This probably goes without saying, but take lots of pictures. Remember when you brought that tiny bundle of joy home from the hospital, and within a month he looked like a completely different baby? Well, that’s going to happen again. They grow so ridiculously fast. The boy in the pictures I took a year ago does not look like the same taller-than-me man-child that lives in my house now. There’s also the issue of smiling. Sure, he smiles plenty in general, but when someone busts out a camera, it’s like his face is broken. I think it’s the pressure to perform combined with all those awkward teenage emotions and thoughts and longer limbs that make it just impossible to smile for a picture when you’re a 13-year-old boy. So take as many as you can and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to catch a few good ones.

Get a shoe rack

Another one. A bigger one. I used to be able to fit two or three pairs of kid shoes into one cubby of our shoe rack by the back door. Now, one shoe—not one pair, ONE SHOE—per hole for this kid. His feet are the size of an island nation, so there are shoes blanketing the entryway. I regularly risk life and limb just trying to make it from the back door to the kitchen without tripping over his shoes. The little cubby shoe holder just isn’t cutting it.

Buy a new house

With an extra bathroom. I mentioned before–he showers, right? What I should have said is that he empties the water heater on a regular basis. He’s going to be in there a while. So if you ever plan to pee or put on mascara ever again, buy a house with at least one extra bathroom per teenager. And for girls, oh I can’t even. I’ll think about that in a few years, but for now, I’ll just stand here doing the pee pee dance until he finally comes out.

Get your stuff together

And find a hobby. A lot of people say teens are self-absorbed, and in a way they are. They are all about the business of becoming adults, which requires focus. However, this makes them very curious about all things adult. It makes them observant. They are watching you. Closely. You are their most constant and obvious example of adulting so if you want them to have their crap together, you better be a good example of having your crap together. Maybe this doesn’t apply to all teens, but mine is curious what I am up to. That is, if what I am up to is reasonably interesting and not just all about me watching/hovering/instructing him. He wants to see and hear about what I am doing apart from him so I better have something to share. Get a hobby. Not needlepoint. Extra points for something he might be interested in doing with you occasionally (think kayaking, rock climbing, playing guitar, etc.).

Teach him biology

Teach him any biology you think it is necessary for him to know in the next decade (at least). I’m fairly sure that my son would spontaneously combust or disintegrate into dust or in some other way just completely DIE if his mom were to utter the word “vagina” or “testicle” or any other such horrors. So cover it all now, while you can.

Just when I thought I kind of had this parenting thing down, my oldest up and decided to enter adolescence. It isn’t awful, at least not yet, but I’m not letting the rumors scare me. We’re going to keep him. And if the above 10 warnings are as bad as it gets, well I will thank my lucky stars.



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