3+ME: A teenager and hugs

It’s weird when your stepkid is suddenly a teenager.

It was February vacation, and yep, also my stepson’s birthday.

The kid’s 13 now.

It’s terrifying.

And also honestly really cool to see.

Watching kids grow up is, in the words of Kids These Days, “oddly satisfying.” Especially when you’ve been around to watch it happen up close.

And as they grow, you realize you grew, too.

Here’s one specific way that’s happened, that I’ve noticed lately:


I guess when you’re a parent, personal space is just … not … a Thing, at least as far as your kids are concerned. I mean, they’ve been yours since they were teeny babies. You have to hold them and cuddle them and be close to them.

And that (I think) just becomes part of how you relate to them. Yes, as they get older, you give them more space — but in your mind, they’re still your babies, and you probably don’t have any qualms about giving them hugs. (I know my mom doesn’t, and her baby is 31 haha)

But when you come into the picture as a stepparent, your frame of reference is completely different. (At least it has been for me.)

You might hug the kids, sure — but it’s … kind of … awkward. At least, in your mind.

Even if it has nothing to do with the kids themselves. I know my stepkids have always been accepting and comfortable with hugs (I’m lucky).

And yet still, I’ve always had a barrier in my mind that I just could never hurdle over successfully. I didn’t want to invade their personal bubble. I didn’t want to come across as too pushy. Even if the kids didn’t notice it, I know I felt stiff and awkward anytime hugs happened.

Quick “hello” or “goodbye” hugs? No problem.

But …

  • Snuggles while watching TV?
  • Tackle-hugs at bedtime?
  • Cuddles while reading?
  • Squeeshes just because?


My mind sent out alert signals that said BACK OFF. Which made it petty darn uncomfortable for me.

(I’m assuming regular parents don’t have those kinds of qualms?)

But lately, my stepson isn’t the only one who’s reached a milestone — although his happened more concretely, since he had a legit birthday.

I didn’t have a single date my mindset changed about hugs.

All I know is, it did. Slowly. And over the course of years.

I realized it this weekend, when the kids were getting ready to head back to their mom’s house. I had a quick second with just my stepson while his parents and sister were bringing stuff out to the car. I told him how awesome he is and that I’m proud of him — and then, I squeeshed him.

Which, even as a suddenly-somehow-a-teenager, he’s fine with. (He’s always been a hugger.)

And this time, in a fairly recent twist, I too was fine with it.

It’s cool to watch the kids in your life grow up and turn into bigger versions of the awesome people you already know they are.

It’s also cool to be able to hug them when you tell them just how awesome you think they are.

Thanks for reading! I post a new blog every Monday —  stepmomming ones every other week, and art ones on the weeks between.

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