Thirteen, for the third time

It's official. We're finally here. A household of three teenagers.

Celine was 3 1/2 years old when baby Brienne was born, Laurent was 21 months. Without accounting for Laurent's colicky infant-hood, it's tempting to think that it was Celine's easy-going nature that instigated such an audacious plan. Not so many North American families have babies in such quick succession: boom, boom, boom. As many parents know however, family planning isn't always decided in our heads but in our hearts.

Three kids born to the Damien and Renee Tougas family in three and half years. I love telling that story, because yes, I am supermom, or super-something.

Brienne's birthday is today but she seemed to hit the teens early. I felt teenager-hood hovering over our home since last winter. Maybe it's the last child phenomena, playing catch-up with her older siblings. Or maybe it's just Brienne's unique combination of interests and personality. Either way, she's now a card carrying member of the teens.

We will be raising teenagers, in our house we also call them young adults, for eight years. We've been at it for three and we've had an easy go of it so far. But with all kids at official teenaged status we suspect in the next few years the difficulty factor may increase.

You know how it is. All children need patience, attention, discipline, and direction; most children test us with their will, their personality, their drive; some more than others.

I am relieved and excited to be at this point in our parenting journey. I love epic-ness in family life. I am drawn to families that go big or go home. Some families do this by having a ton of kids (before a colicky number two I thought we might go that route). Some families do this by having grand adventures. Some families do this by singing four-part harmony in musical productions.

Having a household of teenagers feels epic to me. For us, it's a milestone in our family story. And here we are.

Brienne is drawn to epic also, in different ways. Large parties, a busy social schedule, a closet full of clothes, more is better, is Brienne's life philosophy.

We like to celebrate crossing the threshold from childhood to teenager status with a significant celebration.

We started the tradition with Celine and continued with Laurent. It wasn't something I planned out in advance. At the time of Celine's 13th birthday we were in the middle of moving (as we were for her 12th and her 16th, yeesh, poor kid). And I wanted to honor her, in a special way that didn't require hosting something at home, everything was in boxes. So we took a little trip, met up with Nana (my mom), and stayed in a bed & breakfast for two nights. It was special and a good fit for Celine.

Laurent's 13th was also a time of family transition, in that hairy-scary countdown to our thru-hike departure. Another trip was a good way to celebrate.

For Brienne we proposed the trip idea. But for the first time ever in our family history, friends feature significantly into Brienne's life. She has a dozen of them. Sweet girls, varying in ages from eleven to fourteen, from all over the city.

In addition, Brienne's idea of fun is to go shopping, to find and plan coordinating outfits. To wear make-up and style her hair. After years in the woods, we live in Montreal; short of New York City (out of the question since I haven't yet renewed my expired passport) why would we leave the fashion capital of Canada to celebrate anywhere else??

We stayed.

First we hosted a special 13th birthday party on the weekend. Friends and fancy foods. Presents and punch. Themed invitations, decor and party favors. Making lip gloss in the kitchen, playing capture the flag in Molson Park.

And today we plan to hit St. Denis, Sainte Catherine, and Value Village. Brienne is a good money manager. Purchases don't have to be new, they just have to the right style.

There's a list, a small clutch of birthday gift cards, and grandparent funds earmarked Converse sneakers. She's the youngest of the three, but it's almost like she's the most teenager of all my kids, fresh out of the gate.

I adore her. (Her siblings know I adore them too. Don't worry.) I admire her spunk and her spirit.

She vexes me also, because other than fashion, make-up, her physical competitiveness, and non-minimalist tendencies aside (ok, so that's a lot), we're peas in a pod. And sometimes all that rubbing against each other makes us agitated little peas. And it is this knowledge that afears me a bit going into this next stage of parenting.

With Brienne's birth I was apprehensive about how I'd parent three with two hands. But I found my groove. I trust/hope parenting three teens will be the same.

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  • Nana

    Nana on Nov. 25, 2015, 10:49 p.m.

    Oh how I love this - and the memories, i.e. your intro photos taken in Brienne's fresh new days when I was staying with you - all the way to the beautiful young lady of today. As each of your children are such wonderful individuals, Brienne is so "Brienne" and we love her to bits. Nana


  • Nana

    Nana on Nov. 25, 2015, 11:17 p.m.

    Well that has definitely switched :) I love having a family photographer - not in-house :( but appreciate your willingness to share your expertise. xo


  • Ruth L

    Ruth L on Nov. 26, 2015, 2:09 a.m.

    That sounds like such a perfect birthday celebration for Brienne - I also love her fashion sense and how she embraces life!   Happy Birthday, Brienne!


  • Kimberly

    Kimberly on Nov. 27, 2015, 1:17 a.m.

    Happy Birthday! Such a lovely post. Each if your posts help me in some way, this one is no different. 

    I could have written that last paragraph about my own daughter. She'll be 13 next week. This will be my first time through the teens. I'm terrified and excited at once :)





  • Lee-Anne

    Lee-Anne on Nov. 27, 2015, 3:04 a.m.

    Happy birthday to Brienne!  Such lovely photos, and such a lovely smile.  (I too am a minimalist with two maximalist daughters!)


  • Francie

    Francie on Nov. 27, 2015, 2:49 p.m.

    I am a firm believer in the practice of writing love letters to one's children, whether publicly or privately. I've fallen into a habit of putting a a quarterly letter on Facebook for my four-year-old and a monthly one for my seventeen-month-old (to make up for the fact that she has WAY fewer scrapbook pages than her big brother). It captures memories, communicates our love and helps our broader community get to know our children more deeply if they want to. This is a really beautiful one.

    Happy birthday, Brienne! 


  • Lori

    Lori on Nov. 29, 2015, 3:48 p.m.

    Happy EPIC birthday Brienne!!! 

    My three girls were also born within 3 1/2 years, too, & the teen years have been my favorites! I was so worried that they'd be as bad as everyone says, but I found that the foundations for good relationships that had been laid when they were small made for a much easier flow when they were teens. 

    I hope you find the same! (I know it can be especially difficult with a child who is so like you, but it can also be especially rewarding & fun!)



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