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A wish list for newly minted parents of teens

Here’s what I wish for me — and for all of us who are watching our little kids turn into bigger ones.

Kara Baskin has a backpack full of wishes for parents watching their kids grow up.miriristic -

Back when my middle-schooler was in preschool, I wrote a Globe column that somehow took off, called “A Motherhood Wish List.” It’s funny, the stories that go viral. You can toil away on a piece for weeks and it vanishes, or you can dash off something in a half-hour — I wrote the wish list on my phone, from a playground — and it strikes a chord.

It chronicled the values I hoped to teach my then-toddler. Back then, the Mommy Wars were just starting to boil over: This was the first golden age of Mommy Blogs and aspirational content, where the righteous and defensive finally had platforms to fight over breast-feeding versus bottle-feeding, working versus staying home, and niche parenting styles whose names I now forget because … they really have zero to do with the fiber of a kid’s character.


Now, that toddler is about to walk down the hill to junior high. He’s beginning to detach in subtle ways; it’s hard to break through a wall of iPhones, earbuds, video games, and basketball. I no longer shop for him at Carter’s; as I told a friend the other day, his wardrobe is best described as a cross between Eminem and Elmer Fudd. But, other times, he’s still a little kid, who asks me to scratch his head before bed (despite the hair gel) and even holds my hand when nobody else is watching.

When he was a toddler, I wrote about what I wished for him. As he’s about to enter junior high, here’s what I wish for me — and for all of us who are watching our little kids turn into bigger ones.

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I hope he still confides in me, and that I have the wisdom to back off when he doesn’t want to talk.


I hope I get off my stupid phone when he does talk to me. Instagram will probably be within arm’s reach a lot longer than he is.

I hope I remember that his interests are his own. If he wants to quit soccer because he doesn’t like it, that’s his choice, and no amount of cajoling is going to make him into David Beckham.

I hope I remember that a busy kid isn’t necessarily a fulfilled one.

On that note: I hope I remember that kids don’t need to “specialize” in anything. Yes, perhaps, if my renaissance child wants to get an elite baseball scholarship or attend Julliard to play the oboe, dedication matters. Otherwise? Teenagers aren’t specialists. They’re kids.

I hope I remember that the grades he gets in middle-school math are probably not going to determine his trajectory, salary, or stability for the duration of his life — or even for the rest of the semester. I do not need to project my own insecurities about success (what is success, anyway?) onto him.

I hope I continue to force him to do his chores, no matter how busy or tired he is. Unloading the dishwasher even when you don’t want to is a life skill, too.

I hope that I’ve taught him to recognize his people. Water seeks its level. If you’re in a social situation where you don’t feel seen, appreciated, reciprocated, or wanted, don’t make yourself into someone else to fit in. Leave. (I didn’t learn this until about age 40.)


I hope he’s open to finding friendship where he least expects it and recognizes that actual chemistry can transcend cliques, interests, neighborhoods, appearances: You don’t need to only be friends with people in your classes or activities. The kid who also draws weird comics during English? The one who appreciates your niche taste in sneakers? Who shares your bizarre sense of humor? You never know what will spark a connection. I met two of my best friends in seventh grade. On the surface, we have little in common: one is an actress who enjoys weight-lifting and has an MBA; one is a math-science maven who won’t go near spicy food. I can’t do math, consider driving a form of exercise, and eat Sriracha with every meal. I still text with both of them daily. Sometimes all day.

I hope I remember to simply close his bedroom door for the next six or so years, because that sweat-twirling hovel isn’t getting genuinely clean until he moves out.

I hope I don’t break into his Chrome Book and correct the grammatical errors on his essays. Please wish me luck.

I hope that I refuse to answer to “bro.”

I hope I’ve taught him how to properly shampoo and rinse his hair. Still not sure.

I hope I’ve adequately conveyed that absolutely nothing disappears on the Internet — not even on Snapchat — and to conduct himself with the paranoia of J. Edgar Hoover when it comes to online revelry.


I hope I remember that, as his friendships morph, I can still be close with the friends I made back when he was in preschool and beyond. It’s easy to take the natural ebb and flow of kids growing apart very personally. (I especially hear this from moms of girls, but I think it’s true for boys, too.) It’s important to maintain friendships that have nothing to do with your kids’ perceived social status, slights, whims, and fights, or you will drive yourself absolutely nuts.

I hope I’ve taught him that he doesn’t need to give in to peer pressure, as impossible as that might seem when you’re 13. And, if he does, I hope I remind him that it’s normal and not a mark on his character. We expect a lot of kids now: to be social-media-savvy, to be activists, upstanders, specialists, hard workers. But it’s also OK to fall short sometimes and to learn from mistakes, too. We can’t expect from junior high-schoolers what’s sometimes hard for grown-ups.

Most of all, I hope he knows that middle school is full of indignities. Friends might leave; acne might arrive. Certain truths will become apparent: There is always going to be someone faster, smarter, luckier, taller. It might seem like the world has settled into its proper order, and your place in it has been determined forever. At 44, I know that this stage of life is incredibly temporary, but I hope I remember what it’s like to be 13 and to think that nothing will ever change. But when you’re 13, everything will change, and it will change again.


The one thing that won’t? The fact that his parents love him. And, most of all, I hope he remembers that.

Kara Baskin can be reached at Follow her @kcbaskin.