in defense of teenagers

Costco, Spring 1997

Stefan hangs from the side of the cart and Ben runs down the cereal aisle ahead of us. Wailing erupts from baby Hans as his pacifier becomes dislodged and falls to the ground. I’m not much of a germaphobe but the floor is sticky and unswept. Wearily, I rub the pacifier on my jeans, pull Hans out of his infant seat and call Ben back to the cart.

Bouncing little Hans on my hip I stoop to grab a supersize box of Cheerios. It’s light but unwieldy, so it takes me three tries to balance the box in one hand and place it in my overflowing cart.

“Three boys?” a passing woman asks.

“Yes.” I reply.

“if you think it’s hard now. Just wait until they are all teenagers!” she predicted ruefully.

I wanted to kick her in the shins.


Every young mother hears that warning countless times. Goodness, I still hear it when I’m out with just Gabe and Mary.

Yes, life with teenagers means packed schedules and hormones, stupid arguments and problems with friends and girls and school. I lie awake with worries that I couldn’t have imagined when my babies were young. But I’m not nursing, I’m not changing diapers and most people in my house make it to the toilet before they throw up these days.

Now, my trips to Costco go something like this. Mary and Gabe stay home– Ben is my built-in babysitter. Hungry for samples, the three middle boys come along for the ride. Stefan grabs a cart and we saunter toward the produce section; Hans and Xander making wisecracks along the way. I point to the things we need and the boys load the cart with 6 gallons of milk, apples, cottage cheese, several boxes of cereal, double packs of Nutella. They run to each sample and advise me on future purchases. At the checkout stand they unload the cart as I fumble through my purse. I walk lazily behind the boys as the push the cart to the car, break open a pack of granola bars, laugh and eat as they load the groceries into the back.

And today, sweet Hans turns 13– an official teenager. I’m scanning the parking lot for one of the prophetesses of doom to cry, “Look! They’re teenagers and they’re fantastic!”

Happy birthday darling, cheerful, brilliant, funny Hans. Don’t believe the naysayers.

November 16, 2009
November 20, 2009



  1. Blue

    November 18, 2009

    if ever there were young men who could defend teens, this stellar guy would be among them. hope you all celebrate his life in royal fashion today! so far, teenagehood has been great at our house (one week into it).

  2. Shelah

    November 18, 2009

    Love this, Michelle! Happy birthday to Hans!

  3. La Yen

    November 18, 2009

    Thanks for giving me positive hope for the future! (That Costco trip is the stuff fantasies are made of…)

  4. The Planet Pink

    November 18, 2009

    How could he possibly be 13?! Happy Birthday to Hans!

  5. Melissa

    November 18, 2009

    Michelle, you are such a breath of fresh perspective.
    My trips to Costco are of the first variety you describe. It’s hard to believe at this point that my wild bunch will one day be helpful and not climbing the metal racks and scurrying over pallets stacked high with goods like a pack of rabid squirrels. 🙂 It’s a nice thought.

  6. Christie

    November 18, 2009

    You give me hope for the (not so distant) future.

  7. Selwyn

    November 18, 2009

    Happy birthday Hans!

    Happy anniversary Michelle & Erik!

  8. Sue

    November 18, 2009

    I enjoyed my boys like crazy when they were teens living at home. I loved all of it…the teasing, the laughs, the fun, the friends, the sports…and yes, the help with groceries (both carrying them and eating them!).

    Good times. Happy birthday, Hans!


  9. martha corinna

    November 18, 2009

    He is so handsome, really.

    I appreciate this post because I was just thinking that if it’s this hard now, what is going to happen when they turn 13? Hopefully Abram will be using the toilet by then and Lulu won’t have 6 melt downs a day and Rosemary won’t need to be held at all times. I really hope that I won’t yell too much.

  10. Alyson (New England Living)

    November 18, 2009

    Totally love this! I’ve always hated when people say this to young mothers. Why do they say that? What do they get out of it? And so far, I prefer having older kids to babies.

    Your boy looks fabulous! You are obviously a wonderful mom.

  11. jennie w.

    November 18, 2009

    The older my kids get, the more I like them! My son turns 13 in two months, we need to get all these kids together next time we’re in Utah.

  12. Jeanelle

    November 19, 2009

    I can’t believe that’s what 13 looks like these days. And don’t tell him but seriously, what a beautiful boy you have. xoxo

  13. Jk3

    November 19, 2009

    Happy Birthday!

    This gives me hope as well. 😉

  14. Tracy

    November 19, 2009

    You had Costco in 1997!!!! We just got it here a few years ago…and I have yet to go.

    I get my groceries delivered. I cry in Target these days.

    Happy Birthday to your sweet man.

  15. Mitchell Family

    November 19, 2009

    Happy Birthday Hans.

  16. Kerry

    November 19, 2009

    Happy Birthday to your adorable Hans. He has such a baby face, he can’t possibly be a teen.

    Have I ever told you that EVERY single one of your blog posts makes me want to have more babies?

  17. GeorgiaBecksteads

    November 19, 2009

    Love the post Michelle and Happy Birthday to Hans. I so wish, along with you, to find those people that make comments like that and get back at them. Alyssa is 13 next year and already I love it. Along with all the normal stuff, it’s so much fun.

  18. Linn

    November 19, 2009

    Thank you Michelle! This is wonderful. Happy Birthday to your boy!

  19. chococatania

    November 19, 2009

    I love coming to your blog. It is so uplifting without being cheesy. Thanks!

  20. Reluctant Nomad

    November 19, 2009

    Hans is my hero. Anyone who could have the patience to reign my boys in is a saint (a 13 yo saint…even better). 🙂

  21. Claudia

    November 20, 2009

    It doesn’t get much better than Hans. Handsome, smart, witty, kind and all around great guy.

    Happy Birthday Hans! We’ll have to make a trip to the bookstore soon. Surely there’s something out there you haven’t read!

    Have a terrific thirteenth!

  22. m_and_m

    November 20, 2009

    Love it. I actually look forward to the teenage years.

  23. go boo boo

    November 20, 2009

    I love this too. It doesn’t make me so sad my little guys are growing up too fast.

  24. Jodie

    November 20, 2009

    I can totally relate to this post. I have 2 teen aged boys and a 10 yr old boy. Love this stage of my life.

  25. Jan Russell

    November 20, 2009

    Happy Birthday to your gorgeous Hans! And thank you for making me less weepy over my boys growing up – there is a silver lining!

  26. angela michelle

    December 7, 2009

    i agree!
    (i noticed you on segullah and came on over)
    why do people insist on pigeonholing poor teens–that would make me grumpy too!

Comments are closed.