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Teens: The Importance of the Toothpick Eiffel Tower
Source: Your Teen Magazine

by Renee Brown

Last week, my youngest child graduated from high school. I sat in that humongous auditorium thinking about the last 13 years of his life and how everything was leading up to that very moment.

Kindergarten was the toughest year. Zachary was what they term a “spirited” child with a healthy dose of ADD. He had a passion for life and new experiences that didn’t always mesh with the traditional classroom. Unfortunately, Zach’s teacher had little appreciation for his left-of-center disposition. She felt he should try to fit in with all the other kids. This was a battle like I’ve never fought, but eventually he was done with kindergarten and on to the next grade.

We moved to a different state that summer and it was pivotal for both boys. After interviewing several elementary school principals, I found a small elementary school and enrolled the boys. The resource teacher immediately met with me to brainstorm how to make school a better place for my son. While his kindergarten year had been full of the word “No,” his new school seemed to have so many options. His elementary years were wonderful—not perfect; he still had challenges—I was part of a team that included Zach and the school instead of Mom & Zach vs. the world.

Middle school had a different set of issues, mainly in the form of bullying. One kid went out of his way to make my child miserable. Gratefully, the principal and counselor would not put up with any type of this behavior and things improved pretty quickly. Zach tried his best to stay an original through these years, but I could see his spark fading as he tried to fit into the status quo of young teenhood.

High school was really quite good. He found his niche and a great group of guys. He played baseball and joined the robotics club. There were so many groups to join; there was something for everybody. He landed his first job the spring of his sophomore year at a hardware store and transitioned to restaurant work that summer, where he is today until college begins in August.

As I reflect on his 13-year journey of kindergarten through 12th grade, I just smile. All those band concerts, soccer games, science projects, play dates, new backpacks and piles (and piles) of paperwork. It’s all done and we’re left with boatloads of memories. I’m sure his college years will zip by as well and before I know it, he’ll be talking about his new job and apartment life. And I’ll say, “The years just fly by.”

My takeaway is this: wherever you are in your child’s life, try to just be for a bit. Stop thinking ahead to how things will get easier when (fill in the blank). Each stage comes with its own challenges – and its own joys. Don’t wish your child’s life away and miss out on the precious experiences of everyday life. Don’t wish away that late night of building that toothpick Eiffel Tower because one day you’ll be at Bed, Bath & Beyond picking out college dorm bedding and you will yearn for more toothpicks. Be here, be present. The future will be here soon, so try to make the most of the time you have now.

Renee Brown lives in Minneapolis with her two tall sons—Sam, 20, and Zachary, 18—and three obstinate felines. She is a senior account executive working in advertising and an avid reader, wine drinker, creative writer, and yoga enthusiast. 


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