This is Sixteen- Happy Birthday to My Boy

sixteen
sixteen and six

Yesterday he turned 16. I woke up early and made sure the house was festive, turning on the birthday lights and making French toast in the dark. I waited. Finally, with 15 minutes to spare, he emerged dressed and ready for school. He gulped down his breakfast, opened his cards and left. He’s 16 years old.

I texted him at exactly 11:47 a.m., telling him I was so, so glad he was born and that I loved him. He’s 16 years old – I got no response.

I kept teaching. I accidentally wrote 9-18-99 on the board. My students, confused, shook me back to the present-16 years later.

Eventually I gave up texting and called his phone, old-school style. I heard laughter and skateboard wheels grinding, and his voice sounded like he was having fun. He said he didn’t know his plan-sounds like sixteen.

I rushed home to start the five pounds of chicken in the slow-cooker; he wanted soft tacos, and sixteen-year-olds like to eat. I needed to be ready. Even though it’s Friday night, they would skate by the house, making a pit stop on the way to the first football game of the year. At 4:34 I texted, “Any idea when you guys might be here to eat?” “IDK,” was his reply.

It’s 6:42, and no skaters in sight. “Dinner is ready,” I sent.

7:26. “Where r u?” went out to the ethers.

7:45. I gave up and called. Voice mail. Damn iPhone battery. Called his buddy; the crowd cheering in the background. We’re close enough to hear it out our windows, too. No pit stop after all. Maybe later.

We ate without him. 16-year-old birthday party for two.

sixteen camera
Where he’s happiest

The clack of his board skating down the street woke me. 10:15? How could I have dozed off that early? He smiled as I opened the front door. “Want some tacos?” I asked, trying to remain festive. It’s his birthday, after all.

“Yeah, I’m starving. Sorry-the guys had to go home after the game. Smells amazing in here, though. I had such an awesome day, Mom. Ryan took me out for lunch, then after school we skated and hung out and…I love high school, Mom. I had a great birthday. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, bud.” I stood on my tiptoes to kiss that sunggle spot just below his chin. His sixteen-year-old cheek, no longer soft and chubby, absorbed my nuzzle. His arms wrapped around me, hugging me close.

“Happy sixteen, bud. I love you.” Releasing his arms, he smiled as he walked down the hallway, humming to himself as he closed the bedroom door.

“I love you too, Mom,” he replied, just before it clicked shut.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Sixteen Years Old, and She Is Girl Power

ski racing Lily

I sat on the boot room floor early this morning, legs curled up in front of me, watching her get ready for her ski race. In between giggles with her friends and  thumping on red, white and leopard print ski boots (she is my daughter, after all), she stopped and said, “You look like me right now. Curled up on the floor-that’s something I would do.”

I smiled, and thought that for the first time she has actually compared herself to me. I took it as a compliment. So rarely do I think she is anything like me at all.

So much of her life is foreign to me. Her teenage experience moves her in a world I knew nothing about at sixteen. As connected to high school as she is, I couldn’t have been further from. As much as she loves her friends, socializing, proms and rooting at football, lacrosse and basketball games, I didn’t. For her, high school is a time to be cherished; for me, it was a time I couldn’t wait to dispose of.

At sixteen I felt powerless. My parents told me I never worked to my potential, never used my intellect in a measurable manner.  I didn’t even have the internet to blame for my lack of attention to school. I just simply wasn’t motivated. I remember being preoccupied with boys and dating, music, and not much else. For me, sports ended with the onset of puberty; I chose instead part-time jobs, limited class time, and had absolutely no vision of life in the future. And the funny part is that I don’t remember it really worrying me all that much.

At sixteen my daughter exudes girl power. She has everything that I didn’t, and I am in awe of her. Choosing a sport like ski racing has taught her how to accept victory and defeat, how to push her body and mind to the extreme, and she has found that instead of focusing on boys, she can pass them by on the race course.

She holds the power in her life-in the places where real power exists. Not in the alluring eyes and smooth foundation-laden skin of my youth, but in the powerful thighs, bruised biceps, and complete control she relies in to propel her down the course. She has learned to be soft and tough, as confident slipping on a revealing skin-tight speed suit as a chunky pair of sweatpants.

In sixteen years she’s learned the power of good friends; those girls who will stand by her, make her laugh until she hiccups, and hold her when she needs support. She knows the power of her convictions, for making the hard choices when it’s the right thing to do, and accepting her mistakes as they come.

She laughs, cries, and feels the frustration I remember from being sixteen. Except she looks at the future before her and knows that she will be ok. She knows she won’t have to wait until her forties until she finds her passion;

I'm just the same as I was Now don't you under...rather, she knows her passion will take her where she wants to go. Girl power.

As I spend another Sunday on the ski hill, safely nestled into a writing chair, I can’t help but smile at my girl. Her long cinnamon colored hair in a messy braid, her cheeks flushed with excitement, and surrounded by friends, my heart swells. Sixteen years and powerful. I can hardly wait to see what she does next.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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The Sixteen-Year Test

Sixteen years ago today I was waiting to give birth to my first baby.  Today, I’m waiting for that baby to take her first SATs.  The words of my grandmother ring loudly in my ears, reminding me of how fast the time goes.
I always thought that was old people just complaining, whining about missed opportunities and broken promises.  I wondered if they wished they had done life differently, had spent more time pushing their kids in the swing or reading them bedtime stories.  I briefly considered how that would feel, and tucked it away inside that long list of things I would never do as a parent, a list carefully created over years of trying to correct other parents mistakes that ended up in my classroom.
She was probably in her eighties when I started noticing the pain in her voice as she recalled her glory days of pigtails, freshly ironed short pants and dinners around the oval oak dinner table.  Most vestiges of her children were long ago relics of days she cherished, only the occasional tear in her eye as evidence of when she felt truly happy.
Sixteen years ago, I was not thinking of the memories that would be building from the moment she was born; I was thinking of how strong I could be to make it through the labor, and not much else.  I worried about how life would change and could I do all the right mommy moves to make sure she was safe, nourished, and nurtured.  Never did I think this far into the future that she would be walking out of my car and working towards leaving me.
As I sit here, watching car after car pull in, I tense as the clock ticks towards the starting time.  Kids continue to pour in even after they have no hope of admission through the testing door.  I watch them come back, rejected, and notice a mom not willing to take no for an answer.  Her son protests as she resolutely marches him back in, determined to give him another chance.  Minutes later when she returns alone, I see love etched into every fiber of her face; the kind of strength it sometimes takes to be a parent.
Sixteen years ago, I had no idea what it would take to be a parent.  I knew it was something I wanted for my life, not understanding the determination, dedication and sheer will it would take.  I didn’t understand why it would be so hard to watch her ride off on her bike alone, to let go of her hand at the corner of the school building, or let her take over the car steering wheel.  I did not imagine the pain of watching her cry or struggle through friendships that had ended or defeats on the ski hill.  I didn’t comprehend the many, many hours I would lose sleep to hold her tight, rock her gently, or support her through the different phases of growing up.
Sixteen years ago I never imagined the tests my baby would put me through, or how she would help me grow into a better human.  When she walks back to me today I will welcome her with the swirls of my grandmother’s voice running through my head, and realize that what she said really is true:  they do grow up so fast, and the years pass by far too quickly.  I will lock this memory into my mind, knowing all too well that when she finishes this test, another will present itself, challenging me to dig deep and take it on.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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