36 Things no one tells you about parenting an almost-teenage boy

When my eldest son made me a mom, I had no idea what I was doing. I’d never diapered a baby before, or fed one, or really even held one for any notable length of time.

Having a baby and not a clue was scary. I spent a lot of time researching and worrying, wondering and hoping, but through the chaos of new motherhood, we managed. I found parenting books and online resources to guide me. I connected with mothers who were candid about their successes and struggles. And even though I felt lost at times, I took great comfort in knowing that information and support were as close as my bookshelf or computer.

Now that I’m the mom of an almost-teenager, the answers aren’t as easy to come by. I’m not sure whether it was the rules or the game that suddenly changed, but everything’s somehow different.

So here I am to try and provide some guidance. When it comes to parenting an almost-teenage boy, you deserve to know these silly and serious truths:

  1. They’ll flirt (or at least try to) and they’ll do it very, very badly.
  2. You’ll have to beg them to wash their face. And by beg, I mean bribe.
  3. Bigger kids = bigger problems.
  4. Answers to the really important questions can no longer be found by index in parenting books.
  5. They take up a lot of physical space and your house will feel very small.
  6. You’ll need to hide food or risk going hungry.
  7. They’ll need you and sometimes resent you for it.
  8. They’re good for labor and brute strength.
  9. You’ll find yourself counting the remaining summers and holidays you have left with your son at home and it’ll hurt your heart.
  10. They can easily pass for an adult over the phone.
  11. They won’t tell you when they’re hurting and it’ll both hurt and scare you.
  12. Sometimes a hug is your only hope.
  13. You can’t fix everything anymore.
  14. You’ll remember — like, really remember — what it was like to be their age and you’ll feel sorry for them until you realize how lucky they are to have such cool parents.
  15. You’ll enjoy revisiting teen movie classics with them more than you ever dreamed of.
  16. You’ll feel a strange need to make up for every last parenting mistake ever made before they’re grown and gone.
  17. They won’t need you when you think they will and will need you when you think they probably shouldn’t.
  18. You should probably knock before entering their room.
  19. They’re smart enough to be dangerous …
  20.  … and just dumb enough to be really dangerous.
  21. You’ll blame yourself for every foolish mistake your kid makes. And they’ll know it. And maybe even work it to their advantage.
  22. You’ll have a hard time determining whether socks and underwear belong to your son or husband.
  23. You’ll bargain with them even though you swore you never would.
  24. You’ll care how cool they think you are, probably more than you should.
  25. Their manners will become very important to you.
  26. You’ll get weird glimpses of the man they’ll soon become.
  27. You’ll get weird glimpses of the child they once were.
  28. They’re great fun to talk to when they feel like talking.
  29. They’re great fun to do anything with when they feel like spending time with you.
  30. You’ll carry guilt for not remembering enough of their childhood.
  31. Their room will smell like an unventilated locker room no matter what you do.
  32. You’ll witness weird competition between your son and his father over who can do what better and/or faster.
  33. They’ll know you better than you might be comfortable with.
  34. You’ll have a history with them so special; you won’t believe your good fortune.
  35. They’re going to be fine. No, really.
  36. You’re doing an awesome job. NO, REALLY.

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