Smells Like Teen Spirit


It’s official!! The Dose of Reality has its first teenager!! Whoo Hoo and oh, boy! Today is Bobby’s 13th birthday! In his honor, we’ve decided to re-run this post from last year about the pleasures of having a preteen boy around the house. Even though he’s crossed the threshold and is now an official teenager, all of these still apply (so far)…


As we all know, there are many stages of childhood. With each comes some wonderful things and some…well…not so wonderful things.  The pros and cons let’s say. As the mother of a 12 ½ year old son, Bobby, who is *this* close to teenhood (teendom? teenagery?), I feel qualified to spread the word about this stage for boys.

The downsides of having a preteen aged son are well documented—the smells, the messiness, the sheer volume of Axe Body Spray that must be purchased—yes, but those are things I’ll save for another day. Today I’d like to tell you about the good things, the GREAT things actually, about having a preteen son. These don’t get quite as much airtime as they should, and I’m not sure why.  It’s a really well kept secret that this stage is LOADS of fun.

The preteen male absolutely revels in the fact that he is getting stronger, starting to fill out, and becoming manly (yes, I can ALMOST see that wisp of hair you are calling a mustache, honey). What fun are manly muscles if they are not showing off? None at all it turns out! Everywhere we go, Bobby immediately starts gathering bags or boxes to carry like he is part oxen. I don’t even have to ask. I swear I have not carried a bag out of Target for over a year. He is very proud to heft those bags right out to the car without even putting them in the cart, thank you very much. It is awesome!

Now, if you are very tall some of you might have to wait a bit for this one, but if you are short like me (I measure in at a shrimpy 5’3” on a good day), this rocks.  Bobby has been taller than me for about a year now with a better reach to match. If my husband is not around or is otherwise occupied, guess who is more than happy to reach up to the high shelf for me?  You got it. You can practically see him beat his chest like a cave man every time he performs this task. It’s a win-win for us both.

You know when a younger child tells you a joke and you laugh and laugh, not because it’s actually hysterical but because they made it up themselves and it’s your parental duty to chuckle? Or maybe you laugh despite the fact that it’s that’s been around so long even your parents are tired of it? Well, those days are over, my friend!  Right about now, they start knowing real jokes that are actually funny.  Now, these are jokes aren’t always “appropriate” for all types of company, mind you, but they know real honest to goodness ways to make you laugh *on purpose*.  Aside from jokes, they totally grasp sarcasm, irony, puns, and can also deliver a deadpan line without cracking a smile.  It all begins here!


I’ve always been a big reader (find me on GoodReads!), and it turns out that Bobby is as well.  When I was little, once you finished children’s books like Little House on the Prairie or Nancy Drew, you were out of luck if you were a reader. You had Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, then…zilch. There was no Young Adult category like today. I started reading grown up books around 6th grade which was sometimes fine, but more often was not. (Let’s just say I read more Sidney Sheldon  than was probably wise.) Now, however, there are fabulous books for young adults—books you will *love*. It was Bobby who told me I should read The Hunger Games trilogy long before any other grown up I knew had heard of it. He also turned me on to The Graveyard Book which introduced me to Neil Gaiman, who is now one of my favorite authors. I, then, told him about the Chaos Walking trilogy, and he returned the favor by having me read the Fablehaven books and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I know this will only get better and better, and I love it!

I truly love all kinds of music. You’ll find classical, pop, rock, country, folk, and everything in between on my iPod. I have nothing against Justin Bieber or One Direction.  They are absolute staples to my 9 year old daughter, Lucy. But music is important to the preteen boy, and the stuff they listen to is actual music that doesn’t feature a single artist who would be caught dead in Tiger Beat. Bonus points for you if your child plays an instrument (Bobby plays the guitar) because you can get them to learn songs you like.  They can finally play well enough that you can even recognize the song.  Because of Bobby, my iPod now also has rap and dubstep—yes, I do play them even when I’m alone without a child in sight. This might be counted as a negative for some people, but not for me. If you love music, your preteen will make sure you are up to date on what is good and current right now. Look who’s the coolest mom in carpool!

I stop the “always letting the kids win” thing with games when kids turn 8 or 9.  Now, I’m not saying that I purposefully go all out to stomp them in the ground, but I do quit letting them take multiple turns or changing the rules to suit them. Still, it’s not very competitive, and you can always win if you wish. You are playing games to spend time with them and that’s wonderful, but you can’t play up to your *actual* ability. Right about this stage, though, the preteen boy starts getting good at games and has the ability to go with his burgeoning male confidence. Whether you are talking about board games like Blokus, digital games like Hanging With Friends, or outside fun like shooting hoops, preteens will know what they’re doing. You may still win most of the time, but more and more it takes some actual *doing* and it’s not always a foregone conclusion. If you are somewhat competitive like me, this is fantastic!!

If you have a child, you will spend more than a few hours of your life in the movie theater watching children’s movies. Some are fantastic and destined to become classics, but some are so awful you deserve a reward (and a cocktail) just for making it to the end. Either way, you will be spending some of your time and money in this way. When boys hit the preteen years, the things they want to see are suddenly things that sound actually enjoyable to you as well.  Now, the movies they select will have a definite male bent to them, but they are movies you might actually select for yourself, and there will not be an animated animal in any of them. You’ll happily attend the newest Batman movie, Mission Impossible, or Sherlock Holmes and—get this—you will actually be parenting at the same time. It doesn’t get any better than this!

When your children are younger there is a fair amount of home work that you, as a parent,  are required to spend hours doing. You are expected to turn lowly shoe boxes into adorable Valentine’s Day mailboxes, you have to help create posters and dioramas at the drop of a hat, and you probably have to make sure that all homework tasks are done by the time bed rolls around. You are mostly in charge of the whole deal really. Guess what, that is NOT TRUE of the preteen.  A wonderful thing takes place right around middle school.  You don’t have to do a damn thing. They start organizing themselves, they know what has been assigned, they are old enough to do any project thrown at them completely independently, and they frankly don’t want your help because they are just beginning to think they know everything. (Score!)  Sure they might ask you to quiz them to make sure they know their stuff for the Social Studies test they’ve studied for, but sometimes you can’t even do that. (Hello Spanish! My husband took French, and I took Latin. We are no help at all!) Yes, you will still want to spot check to make sure that they are being neat with assignments (they are still boys, of course), and you will still make sure they are keeping up with all of their subjects. But overall, you don’t have assignments nor are you the one who has to keep track of what needs to be done and when. You will not believe the hours of your life this will allow you to reclaim, and the joy this will afford you. They are truly becoming very capable and self sufficient!

Of course sometimes they are too busy texting to actually talk to you.

Sure, they still spend a decent amount of time in the back seat. (When it’s your turn for carpool duty they want to sit next to their friends so they can talk, of course). But, when it’s just the two of you, he can sit right next to you. It’s much easier and more fun to talk this way. Now, you might have to lay down a few laws about who is allowed to touch the radio and air conditioning buttons, but other that that, it’s more fun to travel with another passenger this way. (And you feel less like a chauffeur when you are not the only person up front, let me tell you.)



I know if your son is small now, you can’t imagine what it’s like when his feet will be bigger than yours, and he needs deodorant. Just thinking about it might make you sad because he won’t be the same sweet little guy who wants to cuddle with you anymore. Even if this list hasn’t convinced you that the best is yet to come, do not fear.  When you look in his eyes or see him smile, believe me, he is still every bit your little guy. You will still see the same boy who loved Thomas the Tank Engine and didn’t get the hang of potty training until you used M&Ms for rewards. The great thing is, now in his profile, in the way he carries himself, and in the way he treats others, you can start to get little glimpses of the man he is becoming, too. It’s amazing.

Bobby through the years

So, let’s celebrate the preteen boy! All the benefits of a real teenager… minus the attitude and ability to drive!

Happy 13th Birthday, Bobby! I can’t believe I have a full-fledged teenager now… and there are only three more years until you can *actually* drive. (gulp)


Smells Like Teen Spirit — 101 Comments

  1. Happy Birthday to your Bobby! I have one son so close to driving age that I am getting nervous, and the other a year away from being a teenager. You hit it right on the nose with these! I do love their books and I must say I have probably watched an inappropriate movie or two with them (thankfully we are done with those dreaded children’s movies…I took many a nap in the theatre when we went as a family). It’s a great age!!

    • I’m three years away from the driving thing and it already gives me butterflies in my stomach! You’ll have to tell me the best way to survive it since you are so close!!

      The movie thing is really the best! It’s one of those well kept secrets about this age! 🙂

  2. Happy Birthday to Bobby! A full-fledged teen – very exciting!

    My oldest is approaching 9 and I am definitely seeing the beginnings of the tween stage. I catch a little glimpse of our future in your words. 🙂

    • It is coming, Kim, and it is fantastic. I found it started for him around 10 and was in full, wonderful force by 11 and 12. 🙂

  3. Happy Birthday, Bobby! What a heartbreaker he is! Well, you read my blog so you know that I am in the midst of raising a teen boy so I love this post so much because it brings me right back to when he was a preteen and not a teen. The Axe…I still laughed out loud at that one. I can only say that having a teen boy is truly like being on a roller coaster. I hope yours if filled with more highs than lows. 🙂

    • Oh, yes. I am holding on for when true teenagery kicks in. Day 1 is a few hours old already and all is good…so far… 😀

  4. I’m so looking forward to this! My husband and I are both the tallest in our families, so I’m sure the kids are going to be decently tall, too. I love the conversations we’re having now, so that’s only going to get better. I read a lot of Sidney Sheldon, too, at like age 12. So I’m glad there’s more options out there now!

    • It is awesome, Erin. It just gets better and better!
      The books for kids are SO much better now. As a mom, I shudder to think at the things I was reading at 11 and 12. Thank goodness that has changed!! 🙂

  5. Oh happy birthday to Bobby! Will he always be Bobby? My brother went from Stevie to Steve around this age and never looked back.

    I loved this whole sweet list, but you are so right about there being no good youth lit when we were young. When I was too old for the BSC I was stuck reading my moms Diane steel and robin cook paperbacks that were all wrinkled from the bathtub! I read the whole love comes softly series and everything else by janette oke, no matter how cheesy, because I couldn’t find anything else targeted towards me.

    • Last year Bobby said he wanted to be “Robert”. The problem is, “Robert” is what I call my husband. I tried for a few days, but it was just too weird to call my baby by my husband’s name. It confused everyone, too. If he had chosen “Rob” or “Bob” or ANYTHING else, I would have gone with it, but it just didn’t work. He gave up when none of us could switch over.

      I think he’ll drop “Bobby” soon, but I REALLY hope he comes up with some other name but “Robert”. I just can’t with that.

    • Thanks, Rabia! Boys get a bad rap–especially the preteen/teens! There is so much to love and enjoy with this age!!

    • Oh, man…a real 16 year old!! You will have to report back to the rest of us how you make it through the new driver stage!!

  6. Happy Birthday to Bobby! 🙂 My oldest son will be 11 in October, my middle child (also a son) will be 9 in a few weeks, and my daughter will be 3 in July! Talk about a crazy mix! I am finding that I’m enjoying these years, though, especially the preteen ones. My boys never cease to amaze me with their “manliness”, if you know what I mean. 🙂 They watch over their little sister, too, like proper guardians, and I love it! I don’t have to worry about her protection, ever, as long as there are older brothers and Daddy! 🙂

    • Yes! It’s so sweet to see them flexing their newly found “manliness”. This stage is really underrated for boys and I don’t know why! It’s a well kept secret for some reason!

      • Exactly! I guess it’s so that moms like us can let the cat out of the bag and help spread the word at the awesomeness that is pre-teen boys (and I love this age regardless of gender, but that’s just me – pre-teens and teens are amazing in my mind, something about the coming of age, ya know?).

    • Oh, no!! My daughter is 9 and I was *really* hoping that the preteen girl think would work just like the boy thing. Rats!! Hahahaha.

  7. Happy Birthday Bobby! I love this list. Given I am barely 5 feet tall, I can’t wait to have a child who can reach that high shelf for me..I give it 3 more years before my oldest will be able to fulfill that duty!

    • Oh, Ilene it is SO handy! After all we’ve done for them over the years (and will continue to do) it’s so nice for the big benefits like carrying stuff and reaching things to start kicking in!

  8. Happy Birthday to Bobby! Teens are both a blessing and a curse! Been through two already and now have a 13-year-old. Good grief. Some days I really just want to lock myself in a closet. And then he comes up and gives me a big ole’ bear hug! Awwww! Hope the celebration is wild!


  9. Oh, he’s so cute!! And I love this post of positive things about such a milestone. Sometimes I think preteen and I get really scared, but I’m often also thinking about my daughter and reflecting on how I was at 13. Scary! He’s a beautiful boy and what a great list. I look forward to discussing books with my kids one day! And movies!

    • I was TERRIBLE as a teenager. I was a “good kid” and never got in trouble…but BOY was I sassy. I don’t even know how my parents stood me.

      Oh, the book thing is *so* great. It’s just so much fun!!

  10. yay for getting to sit in the front seat the way they change rules mines will be in booster seats until about 13. Happy Birthday to him I hope he cherishes his teenage years

  11. First let me say happy birthday!!!! Now, this is one VERY handsome young man! With the exception of #4 and #8 having a preteen boy is the same as having a husband like mine! Somehow I feel like I’m losing and your winning…hmm, let me ponder this.

    • Thanks, Andrea! I will tell him one of my internet friends thought he was handsome. That ought to make him blush!!

      Hahahahaha. You are winning if your husband listens to good music! My husband listens to the most awful music on earth. It’s the WORST!!

  12. Happy Birthday Bobby! He is soooo cute! I’m ready for the front seat rides with the girls, but somehow I think they will fight constantly over who gets to sit in it and I will just say screw it and make them both sit in the back. LOL!

    • Good point!! As soon as Lucy is able to sit up front I’m sure we’ll have that argument to start! GAH!! Yep, they’ll both end up in the back. I just know it!!

  13. Congrats on this new milestone birthday in your house! Those are definitely some benefits to have a teenager. We’ll save the downsides for when you are ready 🙂

    • Bwahahaha! Thank you, Kate! I am not ready. I just want to sit in this cocoon for another 5 years or so. That’s realistic, right?

  14. Happy birthday Bobby! Here’s one you might not be ready for…they’re about to start calling him handsome instead of adorable, lol! Watch out ladies!!!

    My fav is #7, I went to sleep on Oz with my God daughter last week, and she kept “God Mommy Joi this and God Mommy Joi that” I was thinking…girl, can’t you see I’m getting a nap!!! LOL, can’t wait for this day to get here!

    • Hahaha. Joi, he will be fully on board with that change! I’m sure of that! Me…I’m not so sure! 🙂

      The movie thing is so. much. fun. It’s like a wonderful present. SO nice!!

  15. Happy Birthday Bobby!!! He is adorable! Laaaadykiller!!

    These rules are so awesome! I love these! Except for the Axe body spray-I HATE Axe body spray!! I’m going to have to ban it in my house if I have kids. 🙂

    • You are a smart woman, Tara. If you never let it come into the house, you will be SO much happier. That stuff is SO smelly and they all LOVE it. I have no idea why. YUCK!

  16. I LOVE THIS! What a wonderful tribute to your boy! My kids are still little, and while I miss them being babies, I love them at their current age. I adore the idea that I will feel the same way when they are stinky big kids!

    • Oh, yes…they reach a time where deodorant is DEFINITELY mandatory!! It was right around 11 for my son, too! 🙂

    • I know RIGHT?!! Oh, Jessica. It’s just the best. Just last night I asked my husband, “Hey, where did Bobby go?” He replied, “He’s upstairs doing a book report.” WHOO HOO!!!

  17. After Judy Blume there was Lois Duncan (I Know What You Did Last Summer). I read ALL her books in high school, and I must be older than you! She’s a very dark author, which is why I didn’t freak out about The Hunger Games. (Which is awesome!)

    Happy Birthday to Bobby…he is such a cutie-pie!

  18. It really is a well kept secret! I love the teen years. My son just turned 17 and when he went to the movies last weekend it hit me – he can get into an R rated movie now! Eek! It goes by way too fast – enjoy every moment!

    • O…M…Geeeeee! Now you can see any movie together and you are still technically parenting while you are doing it!! How much fun is that??!!

  19. Happy Birthday Bobby! What a great looking boy you have there. Doesn’t time just fly by? My 12 year old is such a big help, but I remember when she was the lone baby. Ahh….time.

    • Thanks, Jennifer. And the time does fly by, doesn’t it. I swear it was only yesterday that Bobby was on that tractor at the pumpkin patch…and now he’s big! Just love this age, though!

    • Thanks for the sweet words, Chris. You are going to love it as he gets older. There is a lot to look forward to, I promise! 🙂

  20. I LOVE this list. I just had my first child nine months ago, and I am filled with love and just a little disbelief whenever I look at him. I can’t possibly imagine him big, but I know he’ll get there and I know I’ll love it! So very excited to experience all of what you’ve listed here!

    • Oh, Gini!
      You have so many wonderful times ahead! It really does seem impossible that your sweet baby will grow up and be smelly and big one day, but do not fear! It happens so gradually that it doesn’t startle you. You will still see your little boy hidden in there, too! It’s so lovely!

    • He had a great birthday!! You will be ready when the time comes. You build up slowly to it. It is really fun!

  21. How wonderful for you!! Happy Birthday to him. My youngest will turn 14 in a couple weeks and I’m loving him at this stage. I agree with every point you made. And we have some really awesome conversations now. It’s wonderful to witness how he thinks. So glad you’re enjoying it!!

    Penny at Mom Rants and Comfy Pants

    • Yes!! I’m so happy to hear that 14 is still awesome!! Yes, the conversations are so fantastic! Way back when, I really didn’t know that older kids would be as much fun as they are. I had no idea! 🙂

    • He had a great day, Leslie! Thanks!
      I have a boy and a girl and I’m so glad to have both experiences…but I could not do a third child. We could not take being outnumbered. 😀

    • Thanks, Carli! Nobody tells you that you have those good things to look forward to…but they should! It helps make up for the carpools you drive and stuff they break!

  22. Happy belated birthday, Bobby! I have an 11 1/2 year old son, and I totally agree with all the fabulous things about preteen boys. Since he is my second child, I am holding onto those hugs he will still give me a little tighter, and enjoying the short time I have left that he is smaller than me!

    • Aw! Thanks, Dana! So glad you are loving these things, too!! It’s kind of weird when they get bigger than you, isn’t it?! Enjoy the littleness while you can! 🙂

    • It’s hard to think about that, isn’t it?! You’re going to love this stage! (and all of the others too!) 🙂

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