By JENNIFER STEUER
Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. I’m not afraid of the number 13, I am afraid of three 13-year-olds! On Jan. 11 my itty, bitty babies are going to be 13. They are growing up so fast, but I am trying not to hold on so tight because I know they need to have some independence and learn how to be themselves. My littles have grown into young adults. Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca are 13 … and I am scared.
This past year has been quite stressful for many families. My kids are full of stress, and sometimes there are meltdowns, tears and days that just don’t go the way they would like. School days are long, and virtual learning has created dilemmas for students, teachers and administrators. We are all dealing with this stress in the best ways we can. What we do may not work for other families, but it works for us. I feel like I am watching the world implode and society shift its values while my children are figuring out who they are and what is important to them.
I can’t believe I am the mom of three 13-year-olds! Each stage of their lives brings many joys and a few challenges, and so far we are doing OK. I made it through the sleepless nights, teething, walking, talking, pre-kindergarten, Scouts, starting middle school and now 13! Being Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca’s mom has been my greatest joy. I have made some huge mistakes as a mom. I have made some choices that make me hang my head. My children are my world, and I love them.
Thirteen-year-olds have attitudes, acne, changing bodies and the most amazing and unjaded perceptions of the world. The universe is all new, and there is so much to explore and learn. Whatever experiences Harlan, my mom or I have had mean nothing to Rebecca, Olivia and Benjamin because everything is new. Everything is shiny. The possibilities are endless. We can guide these spectacular human beings, but ultimately they decide the trajectory of their lives.
I love seeing the creative side of Rebecca. She makes me smile when she tells me about discovering anime, Procreate and sushi. Rebecca’s facial expressions and the way she talks with her hands touch something inside me, and the feeling is so intense it almost hurts. She is smart, funny and full of sass. She is loyal and fierce. I have no doubt that Rebecca will make this world a better place for everyone.
My spunky Olivia can cook like no one else I have ever met! She has that intuition. She will put ingredients together that may not sound like they go together but end up perfect. She loves to experiment with cosmetics, theater makeup and fashion. Olivia can make sunshine appear when she smiles. Like all 13-year-olds, she has angsty and dark moments. Olivia is organized, focused and a perfectionist. Olivia watched glass ceilings shattered this year. She cheered when Kamala Harris became Vice President of the United States. If she is fights for the opportunity, I believe she could rule the world.
As much as I know about being a 13-year-old girl, I have no idea what goes on in the mind of a 13-year-old boy. Benjamin is quiet and respectful, most of the time. He is a good student and smart. His sense of humor is just like my father’s was. Ben is serious and fun: the best of both worlds. He loves his family but doesn’t talk about it. The world of Ben is made up of school, computer games, family and friends. Sometimes one or two things dominate the others and we can butt heads. A 13-year-old butting heads with his mom? Unheard of! I love that he is a smiley kid full of confidence, but he’s also shy and sometimes he doesn’t want to be around people. Ben draws really cool cartoons on tissue paper.
I am so lucky to have three fantastic kids who are kind, loyal and bright. I am not the best mom in the world. Far, far from the best mom in the world! What I am is dedicated, fiercely protective and the mom my kids need. Being a parent is not a popularity contest. Being a parent is hard and messy and exhausting. Kids don’t always get what they want, they should get what they need and those needs are different for each child. I love Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca so much I ache. Harlan and I love that our kids are becoming more independent, but still have time to play a game or snuggle. Being 13 is difficult. Being the mom to a 13-year-old is hard. I am not afraid of being the mom of a 13-year-old, the triskaidekaphobia is because being the mom to THREE kids who are 13 is terrifying.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 13-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca. Follow her on Instagram: jennifersteuer.