Tag Archives: puberty

Walking in Her Shoes

Today I spent a good deal of time with my middle daughter Hannah.

Hannah at the Who
Hannah at the Who

It’s not that I avoid contact with my middle child, that would be silly.  I’m a middle kid…so was my Dad.  It’s not that I avoid time with any of my children.  The horribly accurate fact of the matter is that I have a finite amount of time and I have four children.  Period.  Now, you may chastise me for having so many kids to which I’d reply that it’s really not your place to judge.  We had our children and the idea was that we’d care for them together.

But that wasn’t to be.  I wish that I had all the time in the world, even the time to do every tiny detail with them.  Instead I balance what time I do have between the four of them and most days I don’t do that very well.

The thing that touched me incredibly this weekend, though, was the fact that she shared with me something I knew was bothering her.

Hannah is built just like her mother but looks like her father.  Those aren’t bad things, she’s gotten a lot of the best parts of the two of us.  She has my hair, which is thick and dark.  I always struggled with it, but I’m a guy.  Every girl and woman I know is jealous of Hannah’s hair even though she, herself, takes little or no care of it.

But Middle School is an awkward time for even the most popular and beautiful of people.  For a girl who is already 5 foot 8 and carrying her mother’s bone structure I think it’s more of a struggle than Hannah lets on, most of the time.

Please, before I go farther, don’t take this to mean I harp on this poor girl for her weight, her appearance or her demeanor.  She was closest of all the kids to her Mom.  She was a kindred spirit to her, which means she is a lot like me and therefore harder for me to keep my calm and not get frustrated.  I’ve made her mistakes and don’t want her to make them, too.  The hardest thing in the world for me is to be quiet and let her make them.  Which I do, most of the time.

But this weekend saw her want two things: to start exercising with me; to lose weight.  Neither is a bad thing, but her reasons were veiled, even though I could see through the fabric.

“I don’t want to look like this for my Middle School Graduation,” she told me.  She wanted to get on my weight loss regimen, which is less regimen and more trying to eat less and exercise a little.  I’ve also started using protein shakes for weight loss replacing a lunch meal.  Hannah wanted to do the shakes.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Hannah,” was my response.
But Hannah wasn’t deterred yet.  She told me her weight, which I won’t pass along, that’s not for you to know.  But she said it was too much for someone her age, and she’s not wrong.
“That kind of weight loss program for a thirteen-year-old, though, Hannah just isn’t right.”
“But Dad, I shouldn’t weigh that much!”
I had to tell her the truth at this point.
“Hannah, your Mom, your uncle, even your sister gained weight in middle school.  Unfortunately, you have the genetics.  But look at your uncle, look at your sister . . . none of them are suffering from it now.”
“But Mom was overweight.”
“Yes, Hannah, she was and I have to be honest you’ll struggle with that your whole life.  But bear in mind, Hannah, I was 60 pounds heavier two years ago.  I’m still 15 overweight, but here’s what you need . . . you just need to move.  Don’t come home and plop in your room and sit and listen to music.  Go outside, go for a walk, do things.  You can listen and move.  Movement alone makes your heart pump.  And you need to watch your portions.  When you ask if you can have more dinner portions, think about whether you’re full or just want to eat more.  I give you a decent portion size.  Maybe stick with that.”
She still wanted to do the shakes.
“Hannah, your lunches are healthy.  I give you a sandwich, a homemade treat, and most the time an apple or banana.  You aren’t getting too many calories.”
She looked at the floor.

“Hannah you’re not in trouble and you’re really beautiful.  You just need to wear more flattering clothes and take care of yourself.  Trim your hair, wash up, learn to hold yourself . . . nobody will know otherwise then.”

So today her sister took her out for new clothes . . . clothes that aren’t shorts and a t-shirt . . . and she looks beautiful.  She smiled from ear-to-ear and wouldn’t take off the new sweater and pants I’d paid for.

Hannah and her friend Jake
Hannah and her friend Jake with new clothes

I was happy.  More importantly, so was she.

She’s walking in her Mom’s shoes now, but I walked in hers for a bit. . . and took her for a walk.  She realized she needed to be in better shape, but is going to walk each day – just a little.

My daughter suffers from what every kid her age does – being a pubescent middle-schooler.  None of us, except maybe Brad Pitt, looked good at 13.  But she does.  She just doesn’t think so . . . and that’s okay.  Because I know, whatever differences we have, I see the beauty of her Mom and her relatives in her.

I’ve walked in her shoes.

The Consternation of Hormones

I have two hormonal kids in my house.

Well, it’s going to be four in the not-so-distant future.

My girls...by Amy Renz Manoucheri's Hunny Bee Photography
My girls…by Amy Renz Manoucheri’s Hunny Bee Photography

The two girls, ages 18 and 13, are the first to walk down the road of acne, hormones, the opposite sex, and . . . well for them, menstruation.  None of these things breeds a calm and easygoing environment in my household.

I should preface this with the fact that it’s not like I am not used to the hormonal changes in my house.  My wife, God rest her soul, was one of the most insane PMS-ing women in the world.  I mean . . . those cartoons where the woman during her cycle turns into the head of Godzilla with the body of a velociraptor . . . that was Andrea.  I learned very early in our relationship that the one week a month was one where I was never going to make her happy and that everything was my fault.

Abbi, my oldest, is fairly even-keeled.  Now, she still has her moments, but they’re more or less minor and she understands if she’s being unreasonable.  Her 13-year-old sister Hannah, however, doesn’t fall into that category.  Hannah inherited her mother’s hormonal . . . well, imbalance for lack of a better phrase.  It’s funny, she’s built like her mother, looks like my side of the family, and has traits from both sides.  She’s truly a unique mixture from the DNA commingling of our gene pools.

But I have tolerance to a degree.  I was not the most pleasant of teenagers and my mother dealt with the fact that there were three boys, all with different hormones and all with different ideas of what things should be like.  I don’t blame my kids for the outburst or eye roll or other things that some parents punish for without reason.  However, tolerance needs to be earned, to a degree, as well.  Hannah is about to take on a load more responsibility.  In less than a year she’ll be watching her brothers and she has to act like she’s responsible.  This after getting yet another email this evening from a teacher saying she has assignments missing.

Here’s where the hormones come in.  I ask why I get the email and I get “Geez . . . I don’t know, why didn’s she say anything?!”
“Why would she, Hannah?”
“Because she complimented me on getting my grades back up.”
“Yes, but . . . it’s not her homework, Hannah, it’s yours!”
“But Daaaaadddd!  Why wouldn’t she just tell me?!”
“Ummm . . . she is.  By sending me an email.  Not her job to look after your homework, Hannah.”
Here’s where the eye roll came in.  It’s also where I informed her that if she didn’t fix it . . . the guitar goes away again.  That stopped the eyerolling.  It became sort of eye popping, but she realized I follow through on my punishments and smartly let it drop.

The Boys, during our March trip to NE
The Boys, during our March trip to NE

But I worry.  Sam has started getting acne and he’s only almost ten.  He’s the flirty, sociable, funny kid.  Noah is just starting to see that changes in skin tone from soft kid-like, to growing more.  So in the midst of that I see more hormones invading the home.

So I wait . . . and worry for the hormonal wasteland of pubescent angst to start hitting in full force.  I used to joke that – before we found out we were having twin boys – we’d end up with four girls and they’d all have their period on a separate week of the month.
“Why do you think that?” my wife used to ask.
“Because God has a sense of humor,” I used to joke.

But the joke’s still on me.  Don’t need menstrual cycles or girls with hormones . . . boys have their own issues.  Now I have to think how I’m going to contend with that.

Turns out . . . I was right.  Four kids, all in the house with hormones giving me constant consternation.
God does, it turns out, have a sense of humor.