CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This time next year, I'll be the mom of a teenager.
A wise friend who has college-age children has been trying to prepare me for what she claims is the inevitable. She swears the teen years are awful so that it's easier on parents when our offspring leave home.
I'm not sure if I hope that she's right, or that she's wrong.
I can't imagine ever being excited about the prospect of Celeste leaving home, although perhaps I could if I knew it meant she'd be taking a half-dozen animals with her. By the time she's old enough, though, our house probably won't seem as much like the zoo it does now as it will a home for geriatric and intellectually disadvantaged creatures.
I dread the day when it's no longer cute little animals that follow her home, but cute not-little boys.
Even though that worry is still a few years away, Geoff has already been strategizing with one of his friends, who also has a 12-year-old daughter. They've come up with a number of inventive techniques for putting the fear into potential suitors, with their shared goal being no second dates.
The many intricacies of parenting fascinate me. It seems you never stop learning and adjusting, tweaking your technique or plan of attack. Just when you think you have it all figured out, along comes a new phase, fear or dilemma.
From the time Celeste was an infant, I've been keeping track of some of the parenting lessons I've learned. For instance, I once wrote, "I learned that my girl can nap through the roar of a vacuum cleaner circling her crib, but the sound of my head hitting a pillow will wake her 100 percent of the time."
When she was 3: "I've learned a 3-year-old needs a space of her own. And I've learned that most often, that space is in my bed."
As a preschooler, she taught me, "When playing hide and seek with a little one, if it's taking an unusually long time for them to find you, it doesn't necessarily mean you've found a clever hiding place. It means your playmate found something more interesting to do and neglected to tell you."
When Celeste was 7 or 8, she found my list of lessons and added a few of her own. Among hers were, "The taste of hair gel will not wash off someone's toothbrush, no matter how much soap you use." And, "You can't hatch an egg from the refrigerator. Mothers already know this, but some are mean enough to allow you to carry one around for ages anyway."