This Is 15: A Bittersweet Milestone Age (And It’s Also Smelly)


A milestone, they say.

In fact, companies give employees gold watches after 15 years of service.

Even the word “fifteen” sounds official.

And yet, fifteen is still young.

Fifteen is “Hey, Mah, can you take me to the store, I need a poster board for school?” because you can’t drive yet.

Fifteen is dipping your toes into the waters of teen social media and dating drama.

Fifteen is eye rolling and the certainty that your mother is, quite possibly, the most uninformed woman on the planet.

Fifteen is naive.

Christine Burke's son blowing gum bubble at 15

Fifteen is big ideas, huge dreams and a world of potential.

Fifteen is braces and acne and limbs that seem to be uncontrollable.

Fifteen is clumsy.

Fifteen is inside jokes with buddies and goofy antics that drive your parents crazy.

Fifteen is also stories from other high schools that have brought the reality of our cruel world to our feet.

Fifteen is being in on the joke and cracking one liners that make your parents thank the Lord that you’ve developed such a keen sense of humor.

Fifteen is still wanting to dress up for Halloween and being secretly bummed when your friends declare costumes babyish.

Fifteen is dreaming of cars and freedom while your parents fret over the other drivers on the road.

Fifteen is your heart breaking in two when a romance ends after two months of text dating.

Fifteen is teaching your mother how to “floss” and rolling your eyes at her inability to master the latest dance craze.

Fifteen is getting your first job and earning money that allows you to have a social life. And realizing how much movies actually cost.

Fifteen is perpetually losing your belongings, often at the most inopportune times. Fifteen is scattered and not at all interested in cleaning the tornado disaster in your bedroom.

Fifteen is the halfway point to adulthood, the middle child of the teenage years, if you will.

Fifteen is smelly.

Fifteen is finally giving in to your mother’s insistence that you learn life skills like scrambling eggs, folding laundry and memorizing your social security number. And rolling your eyes when she tells you that you have to add fabric softener to every load.

Fifteen is learning hard lessons about social injustice, inequality and class distinctions and struggling with your place in the world.

Fifteen is growing out of clothing almost daily and nicking your face as you clumsily learn how to shave your now visible facial hair.

Fifteen is the beginning of the college search, the age when words like “college tours” and “SATs” enter your family’s vocabulary. And fifteen is the realization that your time at home is slowly ebbing away.

Fifteen is grunts and shoulder shrugs.

Fifteen is conversations that are reduced to emojis, GIFs and acronyms that your mother can’t understand from your texts.

Fifteen is having the time to memorize every word to “Hamilton” and binge watching a Netflix series in a weekend.

Fifteen is letting your personality unfold, spreading your wings and taking those first steps towards flying on your own.

Fifteen is also secretly wanting to push off those first steps of adulthood for a few more months. Maybe years. Because fifteen means you still like hanging out with your parents.

Fifteen is our first born, today.

He’s 15.

And it does feel like a milestone.

We didn’t get him a gold watch, though.

Because he’s only 15.


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About Christine Burke

Christine Burke is the owner of the popular parenting blog, Keeper of The Fruit Loops. Her work has been featured on the Today Show, The Girlfriend, Scary Mommy, and other parenting websites. She writes about the realities of soon sending her not-so-little -anymore kids off to college and prays she doesn’t use too many comma splices in the process.

Read more posts by Christine

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