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The Mom of a Teenager

As I sit here writing this, I mark 13 years since I was in labor with Charlotte. I am the mom of a teenager. And yet, I’m not.

Every year, Charlotte’s birthday hits me a different way. Every year in the grief process is a little bit different.

The arrival of her birthday so close on the heels of the end of the school year frequently triggers thoughts for me about how Charlotte’s peers continue to move forward while she
Seriously. Kids these days...
remains frozen in time as a four year old. As the school year ends, I see her peers moving on to middle school, attending dances, achieving milestones, and just plain getting older (Puberty! Eek!). It always leaves a twinge of jealousy and sadness in my heart. I try to imagine what she would be like, what her interests would be. Knowing how much she was my “mini-me” as a youngster, I lift up hope that she might have strayed from my junior high life as an awkward, frizzy-haired, coke-bottle-eyeglass-wearing teenager. Goodness knows, we all have an awkward phase but I think kids today seem to be a little different, don’t you? I thought about posting a junior high school photo of myself. Then I figured I would spare you the cringe.

It gets harder to answer that frequently asked question, “How many children do you have?” or (when they look at Kiddo) “Is she your only child?” Most days, I do answer honestly. I try to do it in a way that doesn’t ruin someone’s day. It still feels dishonest to use the easy answer and say, “Not right now.” That simply implies the future possibility of more children. It doesn’t feel like the truth. But the truth is difficult to explain succinctly and most of the time people are just making small talk. They’re not expecting a tragic story.

There are so many ways that I see progress in my grief journey. I think it is important to mark those milestones because I know that when other families begin their grief journey, it is difficult to see that anything will change; that your heart will heal. I do think that having another child has given my life focus in all the ways I had hoped. It has given me a channel for that parenting urge. Having Kiddo in our lives is one of the best distractors for our grief and I love her addition to our family. This is one of the first birthdays since Charlotte’s death that I don’t feel the intense urge to climb into a hole and hibernate for a week (hard to do in the peak of Summer, I know!). I’m regularly attending church again. The twinges of grief on holidays and special days are there…just different.

As all of this rolls along in my brain, my heart is with so many others who are feeling emotional pain and grief. I have two friends who lost their fathers just in the last week. I have one friend who is facing a horrible cancer diagnosis; another who was recently placed in hospice care. It can be incredibly difficult to capture all of this pain and grief and hold it in your heart. It is equally difficult to give it to the universe and just Let it Be (Side note: if you haven’t seen the Corden/McCartney Carpool Karaoke, drop everything and watch it. Watch all of it! Now!)

Charlotte Jennie
But this is my plan. This is my hope. I will mark the next few days with thoughts of my girl. I will cry. I will laugh. I will carry Mick-Mick around in my purse for a few days. I will eat Chick-fil-A and macaroni and cheese and drink chocolate milk. I will watch one of her favorite movies. I will be with my family and surround myself in the love that washes over us at this time every year. And I will now be the mom of a teenager.

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