6 min read

Turning 14 Years Old

Another challenging year, but coming out stronger than in the past.
Through all the challenges, there is still laughter. Phone calls with her friends, gossiping about who has a crush on who, laughing at the trends or the videos they have made on TikTok, and getting excited about things happening in each other’s lives. Laughter is one of the biggest lessons she has given me this past year. No matter how tough things are in life, find the reasons to laugh and push the problems behind you.

–  Turning 13 Years Old

I struggled to come up with an approach to writing about this past year for my daughter. A lot of the challenges faced in middle school that I wrote about last year increased in frequency and difficulty through the second half of grade 8. It got to the point where the interest in school was slowly disappearing and we made the decision to move to a different middle school for grade 9. I wasn't entirely sure how to feel about it, because this middle school was going to have the kids that she was trying to avoid when going into grade 7.

So far, the school year is going somewhat better. There is a little more enthusiasm when talking about the events at the school since her Leadership class is the one responsible for organizing everything, from the Terry Fox Run to the school theme days, etc. There aren't as many distractions in the classrooms and the focus on the work is generally better than the last few years, which is very promising as she gets closer to the more serious next step of high school.

From the outside looking in, it's difficult to pinpoint what else may have changed this year apart from getting away from the more difficult peer group. A large part of the change has been having the school closer to where she is living, especially on the school nights she is with me. Instead of having to get up and out the door for 7:30, she can leave at 8:45 to get to school for 9:00. More sleep (in theory), shorter commute, and other stores within walking distance[1]

The only other shift that I am fully aware of is what the school calls Discovery Days. For a few days a month, all the kids (maybe only grade 8 and 9) get a different option to try out. The classes they had were as wide-ranging as interior design, robotics, gaming, hair and makeup, and so on. For this semester, Kylie went bowling 4-5 times. Next semester, she signed up for a Spinning class at an actual studio. The other electives in these schools are quite widespread compared to what I had in junior high. If students wanted to, they could join the hockey school and have a professional coach or join a golf academy at the school, which played several rounds of golf each semester. I only had art, woodworking, and band, from what I remember. Quite a bit different.

I had been trying to think about what else to write about for Kylie's year when I heard something this afternoon that got me thinking. On one of his latest episodes, Ryan Holiday started talking about how everyone has an "inner child" that needs work. When you have kids, "it's an opportunity to reparent yourself, because you suddenly understand what a six year old is going through, or a nine year old, or a nine month year old." You start to see what your parents did or did not do for you in those moments, or what was the norm during that time. You start to "empathize with your younger self" and by giving your child what you needed in those moments, you start to heal yourself as well.

I started to think about the reversal of that statement as well. I understand Ryan's intention behind the concept to both help a child and myself, but I couldn't help but ask myself, "What was I receiving from my parents when I was in grade 9 that I am not giving my daughter?" Of course, it was quite a bit different in 1994 (covered in Chuck Klosterman's 90s book) compared to 2023. I can't compare the severity of the challenges Kylie is facing to my own, because the stresses of today are far worse than then. She is also dealing with a split household, which I never experienced.

What I can recognize is how my friend group started to shift dramatically. In grade 8, my family moved to an area much further away than before. A ten minute walk to school changed into a 15 minute drive. The shift was already happening with the changing personalities with the friend group, so I found myself hanging around other kids in similar situations. They had to ride the school bus there and back every day, which meant they were eating lunch at the school like me. A lot of the other kids were close enough to walk/bike home easily to grab something and get back in time. Because those kids were far away from where I was living as well, it made it impossible to connect.

Kylie has a lot more freedom to move around, and has for the last few years. She is able to ride the bus for 30 minutes to connect with friends in different parts of the area. I feel more at peace about allowing this freedom because of how important it is to connect with people her age. Ryan's idea gave me pause when I think about whether the decision to allow that freedom is coming from my inner child or not. It was impossible for me to have that freedom back then, and still would be impossible if I grew up as teen now, because the bus service in Whitehorse is abysmal. I can't decide if 14 year old me would have taken advantage of that situation like my daughter has or not, because even now I prefer being at home on my own than venturing out to public spaces to meet people.

What my parents did provide was structure and a development of patience. We didn't have a choice to get a different ride to school if one of us siblings weren't ready to leave with one of our parents. If we wanted to go to the bookstore to browse, it was usually combined with a separate trip downtown since it was pretty far (which is amusing to me now that my parents live the same distance away now and we drive each other often). We also tended to eat supper together around the same hour during the week, do homework together after supper, and go to church together on Sundays.

A lot of that structure has fallen to the side in my parenting now, partly from the nature of my work, partly from the flexibility I have had with accommodating Kylie's schedule. I'm left wondering if it is something I need to implement more strictly, or whether that's my inner child speaking out and giving her less structure that I wished I had.

Regardless of the direction that decision takes us, Kylie is growing up quickly becoming stronger than in the past adjusting to the new challenges she faces. I was at the Kelowna Rockets game Friday night, watching the little girls in a row down from us jumping around, dancing, and having fun, and then other parents following their kids walking up or down the stairs, always keeping an eye on their kid. I haven't been watching Kylie from a distance for a long time now. I mainly trust her to make the right decisions now.

It's hard to believe that in just over three years, there will be much larger challenges to face as she finishes high school and moves on in life. There are not many opportunities left to be able to say happy birthday to my little girl, Kylie.

  1. Within walking distance the school is a Circle K, 7-11, Little Caesar's, Subcity Donair, and a bubble tea place. A slightly longer walk will take her to all the major fast food places, Starbucks, grocery stores, etc. The amount of kids going in/out of the closer places is awful when driving through the area. Stores will even have staff members at the door and limit how many people enter. Brings back memories of kids walking across the bridge from the high school to get to Riverside Grocery and the KFC. When I was in junior high, there was a grocery store not too far away, but almost no one went in there, because why spend your money on a bag of chips when you could use that dollar for 30 mins on Street Fighter II at the arcade across the street? ↩︎

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