What will the teenage years hold?

What will the teenage years hold?

My child has moved out and my teenager has moved in. Suddenly life is all about branded T-shirts, mobile phones and how much credit he has on iTunes. It's only been a hop and a skip from those carefree pre-teen days, to him spending most of the holiday in his room "chillaxing" (listening to loud music and texting friends). It's nothing new - when I was his age I used to drag the telephone into the downstairs loo in a desperate bid for privacy. It's the time when friends become all-consuming and family are reduced to background noise.

A whole new set of challenges come with this next stage of parenthood. I have long believed we don't do the teenage years particularly well. We are excellent and accommodating with intrinsically cute babies and toddlers, but with (arguably less appealing) teenagers we hide behind the fact they are traditionally uncommunicative and are meant to grow apart from us.

The truth is I have noticed that he is rather more his than mine now, by which I mean he is his own self and I am an add-on. 

Kids take their lead from us. Do we allow it to go wrong? There was a period of my life when it was physically impossible to walk down the street and not have smiles, balloons and other delights foisted on my son. Why does it come to an abrupt halt the instant a child blows out 13 candles?

Teenagers are often ignored. It is almost impossible to find a course for a teen who wishes to begin any sport. The assumption is all sports are embarked on at four years old and that, by the teen years, a young person either shines or has lost interest. What about kids just wanting to give something new a go without the embarrassment of joining a class for elite athletes?

Parents are often clueless as to how to proceed.

But we should be congratulated. We've produced a confident, independent and secure boy. Well done us. So why do I want to cry? I guess I have just realised that childhood is finite.

He loves secondary school. He is extremely busy with new friends and hobbies; friends I don't know very well, hobbies I don't understand.

The truth is I have noticed that he is rather more his than mine now, by which I mean he is his own self and I am an add-on.

The fact he is so independent is a good thing - parents are supposed to prepare their children for exactly this. But ... am I ready? Who is going to prepare me?

Two things bother me. The first is I miss my little boy; I miss his trusting dependency on my (illusory) infallibility. The second is whether I will get it right for this young man. I don't want to let him down.

When he was born, the house was full of gifts, friends, well-wishers and health visitors. No one has rung me up to chat excitedly about these forthcoming milestones. We know teens are a bit smelly, spotty and grumpy, but babies are too, so why can't we forgive our teenagers the way we forgive our babies?

I am so thrilled with the young adult my son is becoming. He is truly a delight, but I know there will be plenty of times when he doesn't feel he is (and there will be plenty of times when he really isn't) and it is going to be extremely challenging.

Being a teenager has always been difficult; it is a time of uncertainty, learning, success and failure, but it has never been harder than today. Teenagers' lives are fraught with stresses, constant examinations and the endless pursuit of an unfeasibly perfect body. Their mistakes are exposed and magnified beyond reason; social networking is the biggest bully in town.

Do we, on some deep-seated, subconscious level resent them growing up and so behave poorly towards them, exacerbating an already flammable situation? It would be understandable. For one thing, our children are like giant egg-timers - as they grow we age. Their blooming youth and impending journey into adulthood serve to highlight the fact that those of us who are their parents are staggering through middle age.

It is an uncomfortable thought. Perhaps on some level we are a tiny bit jealous; added to this is the fact that they make us feel a little staid and surplus, perhaps it is understandable that we are not all at our best, all the time.

Guardian News & Media