The Teenager

She’s a teen now.

Not a preteen. Not a tween.

But a teenager.

I feel like I should say that Martin and I are completely knocked over by this, but the truth is, we were a lot more emotional when she turned ten. Weepy — a little — when she turned five, but ten really did it to us. Something about the double digits, the necessity of both hands to display her age, the idea that an entire decade passed since she was born.

It seemed inconceivable.

But 13? Nah. We’ve known this was coming.

We were given warning two months ago when she sat us down with her laptop and walked us through the detailed presentation she put together regarding her birthday party. Because, she explained, turning 13 is a big deal. She had it all planned out: the theme, the invitations, the decorations, the games, the prizes, the itinerary, the guest list, the projected costs.

“And if I do the decorations myself, that should save about $25. I think I can get my friends to help me. Mom, can I put you down for making the cupcakes? Because that would also save some money.”

This kid.

This young lady. Where did she come from, right?

Of course, we knew this was coming since the day she was born. I remember sitting in that Italian hospital room while she slept in the bassinet, counting ahead with Martin to determine when she’d start elementary school, graduate from high school, be old enough to vote. Becoming a teenager was in there. 2016 sounded so far away then, but looking back, of course, it doesn’t feel so long ago.

Even without the birthday party presentation, we were well aware she was morphing into a teen. I can’t really pinpoint when, exactly … maybe after our move to Germany? This past spring? The physical changes were obvious enough. For one thing, she shot up several inches. It feels like I was buying her new pants every other week this year. We’re seeing eye-to-eye these days. She’s not yet taller than me, but it won’t be long.

Various hair and beauty products routinely vanish from my bathroom only to mysteriously show up in hers. Even better, Martin is now confusing her clothes and shoes for mine. (Bless him.)

But there are the other things, too.

I remember the first time we got a door slam, Martin and I made eye contact from across the room, and after a few seconds of disbelief, we burst into [silent] laughter … not too dissimilar from the way people giggle nervously while watching a horror movie.

Oh, there was no denying it: the change was definitely upon us.

We know it.

She knows it.

Her brother and sister know it, too.

And she knows we all know it. In the calm and quiet moments, we laugh and joke, and I ask her, “Can you actually feel when the alien is overtaking your brain?”

Oh, hahahahahahaha.

(That’s a serious question, though. Still waiting for a definitive answer…)

In the midst of it all, she’s still one of the most responsible and funny people I know, and I think that’s why Martin and I are heading into this new phase of parenting without a crazy sense of foreboding. She’s managed to skip over the awkwardness I basked in at her age. It feels like we’re all pretty clear about what’s going on here, and it’s all completely on track with what’s supposed to be going on here: she’s turned into a teenager, and that’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

So, to celebrate, we threw a birthday party.

We approved most of her requests, and she did most of the work.

Emojis were the theme, and her invitation communicated as much. 🎉

She and her friends made the decorations, while her brother, sister, and Dad scouted out the prizes from various German stores.

I was tasked to bake the cupcakes. 😍 😑 😎😋😀

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting


She also requested her favorite, my “Buckeye” cupcake recipe which is dark chocolate with a peanut butter middle with peanut butter frosting.

I knew it was going to be a challenge, but yeah, I made that into an emoji, too. 💩

Her friends’ reactions to the cake.


She thought it was hysterical.

Because you are never too old or too above it all to enjoy a really great poo emoji cake.

(And yes, it was totally delicious.)


The party was a success. The girls played games, won prizes, put on make-up (or face paint?), played outside, set up a tent city in our yard, roasted marshmallows, and stayed up late.

And then, as requested, I woke up a few of the girls and my teenager at 2 a.m., and took them out to a nearby field so we could watch the Perseid meteor shower. It was such a clear night, and we saw no less than 10 shooting stars within the first 30 minutes, along with several constellations and a few passing satellites. I really got a kick listening as they shared their knowledge about the stars (one of them actually went to space camp last year), and hearing of their aspirations and concerns for the upcoming school year.



I know being a teenager isn’t easy.

And I know raising one isn’t either.

But if this party was any indication as to how she intends to work with her family to achieve her goals and embrace teen life, well … I know we’ve got this, too. 😝


She planned her own birthday party this year. She picked an emoji theme, made the decorations, found the appropriate prizes and favors. Even her invitation was communicated through emojis. She requested I make emoji cupcakes with yellow frosting, and if possible, “I would like your peanut-butter chocolate cake for my cake.” Yup. There’s an emoji for that.