Parenting

Why I’m already dreading the teenage years

Amanda Todd’s heartbreaking video stuck with Katie for hours after watching it.

Photo via YouTube.

I have a morning routine when I get to work: coffee (decaf these days because I’m wired enough as it is), update to-do list, answer emails and read the news. This last part is fairly new — when I was on mat leave, I felt completely out-of-touch at times and started to make a habit of scanning the headlines during the first feeding of the day. I suppose it has stuck, this desire to be in-the-know outside of Lainey Gossip and Perez Hilton.

Yesterday morning, though, the news had tears rolling down my face. I’ve been following the Amanda Todd story, reading about the far reach of the 15-year-old’s apparent suicide last week, though I had yet to watch the teenager’s video. I knew it would be emotional — I had read that it was soundless, with the young girl showing cue cards to tell her story, and while I expected to be touched and saddened, I didn’t expect it would stick with me hours later.

I was teased as a kid — for being tall (I sprouted up early but finished off at a slightly above-average 5’8), for getting good grades, for putting my hand up in class or volunteering to help. There were days I just wanted to go home, crawl under the covers and wait until I was old enough that maybe it wouldn’t matter so much. But all of this was minor in comparison to what Amanda experienced, to what her own peer group did to her. This young girl saw no other alternative, and that’s why I can’t get her video out of my head. She was just a kid with her life stretched out before her.

As a mother, I am already worried about what the world will do to my girl. Soph will be 11 months old this week — almost a year that has flown way too quickly. When I went into her room to get her this morning, she had pulled herself up to her knees on the side of the crib. It won’t be long before she’s walking, and I’m sure it will seem like a nanosecond and she’ll be at school. I can’t think of her as a 15-year-old yet, especially in the wake of this tragedy. I worry that I won’t know if she’s in trouble, if she’s distressed, if she’s approaching the brink of hopelessness. Right now, she cries when she’s upset or in pain or lonely, and the fix is a cuddle or a teething ring or a bottle. When she’s a teenager it won’t be as easy as that. If she’s a teenager like I was, she’ll soldier on and hope for the best, but I want to be there to tell her that it gets better. To take her out for supper at the end of a bad day. To give her a hug like only a mom can give.

As a former teased kid, I also hope that the bullies get a message by then (a pipe dream maybe, given that it’s an age-old problem harkening back centuries, but a girl can dream): Everyone you know is fighting a battle in one way or another. Don’t make it harder. Maybe we can all get on board and teach our kids that simple message. Do what you can to make things easier on each other. Soph, I’m talking to you. If there’s anything we need to teach you, it’s this. Just be kind, okay?