This is Why Young Teen Angst Is Breathtaking

Karen Patten

My oldest son has entered a new tween, or young teen, time. He’s neither here nor there – it’s an “in between”time. This one has me unsettled.

He is in between being snuggly but not wanting his friends to see. He’s in between fixing his own peanut butter and jelly sandwich but still needing mommy to fix dinner. He’s in between running crying to me with a skinned knee and now getting his own band aid while shaking it off as “just a flesh wound.” He is in between curling up to read a story with me and reading his own young adult novels.

This young teen child who made me a mother is stretching mightily to reach a level of maturity that I’m not ready for him to reach. And  yet, I’m so amazingly proud of him.

He’s crossing into a place where each new level of maturity takes him one step away from me and one step closer to a young man. Other in between times have taken him from one level of maturity to another as well – but I was always his person. Now, he’s stretching to reach a place beyond my gaze, beyond the safety of my arms, beyond where a hug and a sip of water can fix anything. Beyond needing me.

My heart aches.

It's not always easy to cherish those difficult in between times for you or your young teen - but I loved this - because it explains perfectly why these moments are breathtaking! www.themidlifemamas.com

Have you ever felt in between one place in your life and the next? Have you ever been in between what you know as comfortable and the less comfortable unknown that lies ahead? These in between times can be bitter, or even painful, to navigate. This is one strategy that keeps me sane at this time of my son’s life.

As parents, we experience these in betweens all the time: in between baby and toddler; toddler and preschooler; tween and teen; etc. Something new and unknown lurking around each of life’s twists and turns. Here’s what I’ve learned to appreciate during those difficult, even agonizing, between times.

In Between Spaces for Young Teens & Moms

Its interesting because “in between” spaces have a long history in religion and spirituality – they are also known as “liminal” spaces.

“Limina” is the Latin word for threshold, the space betwixt and between. Liminal space, therefore, is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be… It is when you have left the “tried and true” but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. It is no fun. (cite)

Being in between times frustrates me freaks me out. I’m usually happy to be in either place – or even transitioning between the two. But to be STUCK between times makes me feel really uncomfortable, ill at ease, and a little unsafe. Unsafe? What’s that about??

Why Are These In Between Times Frightening?

It’s because these in between times are the times that we’ve left where we were and we don’t yet know where we’ll land. We are vulnerable, open, and emotionally raw at these times.

You will never be alive to love and life and peace and victory when you run from pain and sorrow and disappointment because they are inextricably connected one to the other and you can’t have one without the other and your fierce need to protect yourself from the vulnerability of what could go wrong or what did go wrong, or what might go wrong, or what might happen to the kids or what the spouse might do stops you from seeing the beauty of what they are doing and until you are open to the beauty of in between you will miss the greatest moments of your life. – (emphasis added) Bishop TD Jakes Sermons, “The Beauty of In Between”

Read his passage again – it’s just that profound. When we are afraid of the unknown to come, we miss “seeing the beauty of what they are doing.”

In between times can come in small packages like your daily activities: bedtime for children (between wake and sleep), leaving the house with kids (between home and away), etc. A parent’s day is filled with all of these little in between times.

But the in between times can come in larger packages too: in between children and aging parents; in between jobs, in between homes, etc. The list is endless.

Witnessing Our Young Teens’ Struggle is Breathtaking

So here’s the thing that we can always strive through our discomfort to appreciate: we are always in between. Each of us is always a work in progress. And if each of us is a work in progress, then we are between where we were and where we will be. Those in betweens collectively make up your life!

But back to my young teen’s new in between time, I’m trying to breathe. I’m trying to be present and take in all of who he is. I’m trying to watch (and help) him navigate these new waters like the amazing person I know him to be. I’m watching as he twists and turns, and maybe bumps and bangs himself a little, and grows into his new age and stage of young teen. I’m watching him do it with grace and determination as well as sometimes fear and frustration.

But he’s doing it. He’s doing it. Isn’t that our whole job as parents? To teach them to grow into the new spaces with determination and dignity? To maneuver new waters without drowning?

So in watching him navigate these new twists and turns in between early elementary school kid and young teen…I’m watching the fruits of my parenting labor. I’m watching his courage in so many things, including his ability to speak up for others. It’s sometimes hard to watch as he stumbles on his newly chosen path in between elementary school kid and young teen,

My joy and pride come in watching how he does it: courageously, determinedly, fallibly, joyously, and with dignity and grace. These are the best, juiciest, most delicious moments of motherhood. I’m watching the movie of my life as his mother unfold before my very eyes! And I’m trying to be present for it all. I’m trying to not worry for his future and all that it may hold. Being present and paying attention to how he’s handling this now, gives me pride in the past, joy in the present and comfort for the future. He’s got this.

7 Comments

  1. […] started to picture these cars as my sons’ lives to date. Both boys are speeding, racing really, toward a finish line that they neither see nor comprehend. Their lives are looping […]



  2. […] Nowadays, if I slip up and tell my son that he can do it, he feels like it’s just another young teen failure. I get an eye roll or a grunt or a “yeah, right.” I’ve learned that telling them they can do it backfires – just like it did when they were little and like it did with me. In the moment, it can really be hard to appreciate young teen angst for the wonder that it is. […]



  3. michelle on August 11, 2017 at 9:09 am

    This is lovely and spot on.



    • Karen Patten on August 23, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      Thank you so much! Love your writing!



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  6. Forgive Me Son, Today I Forgot on May 8, 2018 at 11:09 pm

    […] Related Post You May Also Like: You’ll Never Believe Why Young Teen Angst Can Be Beautiful […]



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Hi, I’m Karen, the Atlanta mama, writer, and creator at Intentional Family Life. I’m a passionate advocate for intentional living so that you can experience all that you deserve for yourself and your family. Here, I inspire moms to chose what matters most and then to only do the things that move them closer to what matters most. Read More About Karen…

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