Faith Gong: toddlers and teenagers

I’m writing this at Vivid Coffee, just off Church Street in Burlington. It’s an ideal place to write: trendy, but also spacious, with many tables and sofas where you can settle down for the afternoon. And many people set in on that frosty afternoon; mainly UVM students, at first glance. The drink menu is basic, but all I need is coffee. My final cafe review is the baked goods, and when I arrived there was a single salty chocolate chip cookie waiting in the checkout, just for me. Obviously it was meant to be.

I would never have found Vivid Coffee without Geneviève, my daughter’s friend. I’m in Burlington today because I drove a group of four teenagers here and dropped them on Church Street as part of my eldest daughter’s 15th birthday festivities.

Fifteen. We are now in a whole new parenting sphere. She made a short but expensive birthday list of clothes, shoes and a donation to help sexually exploited girls around the world. Tomorrow, she plans to take the online test for her learner’s license so she can spend the next year driving with her parents. She’s confident she’ll pull it off, even though she hasn’t spent much time studying the 140-page driver’s manual online. I remind him that it costs $32 just to take the test. She offers to pay for it, which is nice, but I know she only has $19 in her checking account. She works as a page in the library and next week will add a second seasonal job making wreaths at the Christmas tree farm next door; Still, the money seems to come out fast, spent on books, accessories and coffees.

Which brings me back to this cafe. Classic rock is playing over the speakers, but I’m watching the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s song, “Fifteen,” which features the line, “It’s life before you know who you’re gonna be.”

Turns out our family — minus our toddler — is going to see Taylor Swift in concert in Massachusetts this spring. My daughter was told about a lottery for pre-sale tickets, and in a birthday fluke, she won the chance to spend large sums of money on advance tickets. Because she was in school during the sale, my husband took an hour out of his workday to navigate Ticketmaster’s torturous process and emerged victorious with six tickets. It will count towards Christmas, birthday and graduation gifts for years to come, but it seems like a fitting way to celebrate the end of a difficult few years of pandemic isolation and anxiety, during which the Taylor Swift’s music has often been instrumental in my children’s mental health. health.

“This family would celebrate the fall of a leaf from a tree,” my 13-year-old son remarked wryly, after I offered this justification for the expensive ticket purchase. I think there are worse things to know.

Less than a month before the 15th birthday, we celebrated the 3rd birthday of our youngest child. I think anyone with teenagers should also have a three-year-old at home; it offers an interesting contrast.

It turns out that three-year-olds and teenagers aren’t that different. They are both about to become something more, to take the next step, to grow into independence: toddlers because they now have strong walking and talking skills, teenagers because they have hormones and learner’s permits. As a result, parenting teens and toddlers is a push-pull dance. “LEAVE!” they yell at me; then, a moment later, “No, wait, come back!” I need you!” They also both cause sleep deprivation, my teenagers late at night (that’s the only time they’ll open up to me) and my toddler in the hours before bedtime. dawn when he wakes up and knocks in his room.

All of this is a helpful reminder that children go through stages – or the same stage repeated at different ages – and that no stage lasts forever.

But while teenage parents can sometimes feel the dangers and the possibility of making big, lasting mistakes, the lovely thing about three-year-olds is that they can’t make really still big mistakes – and when they do something dangerous you can just pick them up and move them. Three-year-olds are also walking reminders of all the wonders of the world, as our son reminded me of this week when we had our first snowfall.

It was not his first snow, sure, but it was the first time he was aware of the potential fun to be had. After we woke up to a frosty world, he ate a few bites of breakfast and proclaimed, “I want to go out and play in the snow!”

One phrase he’s mastered this week is, “I can be patient!” Because we had had an unusually warm fall, our snow gear was still stored in the closet. But once he waited – patiently – for me to get his snow clothes and put them all on his body, he went off to the winter wonderland of our backyard to build a snow penguin with his sisters, eat sugar on snow, sled down a small hill (which doubles as a septic tank) and make snow angels. He did this for three mornings in a row, proclaiming, “I love playing in the snow! I love sledding! I will explore!

On the fourth morning, a Saturday, his 15-year-old sister slept in, checked his texts, did his hair and makeup, then took him sledding. It was the best morning ever, for each of them. How grateful I am to have these two ages in our home, and all the ages in between.

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, freelance photographer, and director of a non-profit organization. She lives in Middlebury with her husband, five children, assorted chickens and ducks, a feisty cat and an anxiety-prone labradoodle. In her “spare time”, she writes for her blog, The pickle patch.

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