Honestly, I thought the number was eight.

When I have a kid that turns eight, I’ll freak out.

“Oh my god, my babies are almost adults and going to leave me!” I’d wail, sprawled out across a Victorian fainting couch.

But when Jude turned eight, and I woke up that morning and breathed in and out, and it was fine.

Then I moved my arbitrary goal post to the 7th grade.

When I have a kid in Junior High (which apparently is a school term they don’t use anymore, and just call the whole thing middle school), I will absolutely spazz out.

“I’m basically almost going to be a grandmother!” I’d sob into Andy’s chest.

But, then Jude hit 7th grade, Wyatt hit 6th, and the world spun madly on.

I didn’t move my goalpost after that; I settled in and enjoyed the half-adults I was suddenly surrounded with.

“Every year is my new favorite year!” I’d chirp to myself.

Vacations are a blast, and watching TV together is tons more enjoyable. The homework sucks, and going out to eat is more expensive, but the conversation is way better, so at least there’s that.

And then today Jude turned 13 and I woke up not okay.

That’s a lie, I didn’t wake up not okay, because that would imply that I slept, which I did not.

The baggage here, well, there’s a lot of it.

*points to the suitcase next to the stairs that still is not unpacked from my last trip a few months ago*

But, the thing I keep coming back to the most, is that while you can’t throw a rock at the internet and not hit an article about parenting little kids, when it comes to teenagers, it seems to largely be a “shhhhh, you’ll figure it out when you get there” situation. And that’s not good news, because teenagers are basically toddlers that you can’t put diapers on.

To be honest, I don’t even know how I got here so fast.

“I have three little kids.” I smile at the nurse prepping me for surgery.

Andy laughed in the chair next to me, and I looked over at him as he questionably crinkled his forehead. And then I thought about my boys; hairy and towering and borrowing my size 10 shoes.

How does this happen in only three seconds?

“I guess they aren’t little.” I said to no one.

Which, by the way, is an amazing thing to contemplate as you are wheeled into a 4 hour surgery.

My own mortality, wheeeee!

Parenthood is a selfish sport.

You do selfless things as it unfolds, but inherently, it comes back to you.

How am I going to get through this?

It’s the same question, regardless of circumstance.  When we’re broke, facing medical news about a kid, watching them succeed with giant lumps in our throats, or watching them hurt as anger pulses through our wolf veins.

How am I going to get to the other side of this with my whole heart still beating and no protective orders in place?

I remember sitting in the living room of our first house. Everything smelled like pee with two toddlers in diapers and a baby on my lap, Andy was working nights, Cars was on for the 11th time that day, no one was clean, no one had eaten dinner, and I sat there thinking, “I’m so alone in this and I don’t know what to do or how to make this less hard?”

And now I’m sitting here at my desk, with a teenage boy who steals my shoes and doesn’t hug me as long anymore, thinking “I’m so alone in this and I don’t know what to do or how to make this less hard?”

The only difference is what “hard” means.

When they were small, it meant whole days of being alone, yet never actually being alone. I had to pee with an audience and eat cold food last, but also hold mirrors under their noses as they slept and then creep back to my room and talk to no one. That was hard.

Now “hard” is knowing how close I am to coming second to whomever he’s dating, listening to him explain music to me, and being okay with him driving a car on the road around other people. It’s a line in the sand I can very clearly see, warning me that in almost no time at all, I’m gonna have to let go and live in a world where Jude doesn’t sleep in the bedroom above mine. That is inexplicably hard.

Happy birthday, Jude. Thank you for making me a mom thirteen blinks ago, and may these next five years go safely and slowly for us both.

And I’m not trying to make you feel bad, but I’m still carrying your baby weight, specifically, and if you check the handbook, I’m pretty sure that means you have to let me hug you when I need it.

(I need it.)

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