It is a great time as I will be celebrating my thirteenth birthday on the 29th of February. I will catch up with our daughter, who became a teenager last fall, for a little while and yes, then she will leave me behind forever.
Most parents experience this grasping for breath in child raising -running behind their kids as they grow up- at some point, although not in ‘years’. With our daughter and me, this event has been coming a long time. She was very aware that she was going to pass her dad from her early years on. The anticipation of her birthday and becoming a teen officially, and before me, was celebrated gleefully for years.
Now it is my last moment, my final venture into something close enough to being seen as somewhat equal. I am seen as ‘strange’ mostly, ‘weird’ sometimes, but at the same time old enough to be patted on the head and young enough to be made fun off with my young ‘years’. Yes, the life of a 'leap year baby' dad.
What will it be like, to finally be a teenager but with graying hair, a daughter who can outrun me easily and a wonderful wife who still has more energy that I had when I was truly a teenager? Not much different I guess. No hormone crazed teenage years ahead of me. I have become part of the street furniture for women younger than me, quite a number of years ago already I admit. Anyone remotely interested in me is at least as much grandmother material as the cashiers in my grocery store see me as a grandpa.
It is hard to imagine that my true teenage years are already decades ago, but so it is. We have started home schooling our daughter – her decision, my participation as her teacher – and the stuff we work at is for me almost 40 years ago! I wasn’t a great student then, brilliant in my own mind, but the numbers on my report cards didn’t reflect that for sure! So, I am now surprised that some of the stuff I didn’t want to do all those years back has hung in there somewhere, to be woken up now, after all this time. I even give her examples of how it was useful at some point in life, to know how to calculate a ‘perimeter’ or an ‘area’ and to have some formulas for things that seem useless at her age.
It brings back memories. Not all nice ones either. The things I did that I regret or was ashamed off for many years. The rejections of girls that thought I was “too nice” and not seeing the signals of the ones that actually did like me. Yes, if I knew then…you know the saying. But, you know what? I love where I am at in life. Nobody said that getting older was going to be a great thing.
Contrary to all the advertising, I am happier now than most of my life and I see many people my age that feel the same. I am happy that I will not have to go through all that stuff at junior and high school again. I love being a parent, a husband and life partner in the many adventures we go through together. I finally figured out how to be happy most of the time, sure I have some work to do, but I am happy 95% of the time. I couldn’t say that in my teens. Too much stuff going on, insecurity, sorting out who I was, what was ok to do, say and to be. And yes, I was hormone crazed and sex deprived too. Abstinence was an involuntary life style for years. I am glad that time is long behind me.
Do I miss anything of that time you may wonder? Yes, my body is not as agile, I can not jump and fall, keep going and going as I used to. I have aches and pains that come with age and I work at them, irregularly, so I can do most of what I still want to do. Other than that, no I really do not miss it, that time. I am happy where I am at, mostly and that is a great gift in life.
So, as I turn ‘thirteen’, I am happy for the fun we have, playing with my immature age and laughing at my slightly over-mature body. I am happy I got through all the stuff we call ‘the most precious time of your life’ long time ago. I see teenagers, with all their behaviors, and now I feel compassion, understanding, for their struggle and wish them a speedy growth into a better time, when they feel more secure in themselves, less needy and fearful for the constant evaluation of others. I wish them love and kindness, from all around them, because they need it. They need it to get through that time in one piece, feeling good about themselves and the world around them.
So, for me, as I celebrate my thirteenth, could you smile at a teenager today, somehow let them know they will be ok and that the best years are still ahead of them? As a gentle parenting tip even if you fully agree with me: they can’t imagine this ‘way ahead’ of them, - we are close to being dead to them - so you don’t have to say that being over 50 is going to be more fun than being a teenager. Just give them a smile and help them enjoy where they are at, just a little more, today.
They may not show appreciation, but I know that they will, at some level, feel it. And that is enough of a gift for me, on my thirteenth birthday. So, thanks, for seeing them with a smile and from me, for doing it for me.

Author's Bio: 

Wouter van der Hall is the Author of The Parent Program, a 15 minute a day online parenting program, and a life, parenting and happiness coach.
Wouter has worked with children and families for decades and coached people to a great life since 1988. You can find him at

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