By Kristin van Ogtrop
Updated January 22, 2015

Next week, Eldest turns 15. I have decided after much thought that 15 is the year when a child becomes A Genuine Teenager. Thirteen is teenagerhood on training wheels and 14 is a weird sort-of-a-teen-but-not situation. But no matter how you look at it, 15 is undeniably a teenage age.

That said, I still don’t quite understand what people mean when they say, “Oh, teenagers!” and then stare at me meaningfully, waiting for me to jump on board the exasperation train. Although he is nearly A Genuine Teenager, Eldest remains kind and reasonable and even-tempered, qualities I have admired in him since he was a toddler. From what I hear from other parents, there is a monster—a horrible, hormonal, eye-rolling, door-slamming monster—lurking around the next corner. I have steeled myself for his arrival, but it seems he has been detained.

We have hit one official teenage milestone, however: the moment when your child only wants gifts that cost $500 or more. When I asked Eldest what he wanted for his birthday, for example, he said, “A MacBook Pro.” Now how funny is that? It just rolled off his tongue. (And reminded me of the time not long ago when Middle said, “Mom, we really need a new car.” Ok, sweetheart, I’ll pick one up on the way home from work tomorrow.) It’s not that Eldest doesn’t realize that a MacBook Pro costs $1,200, or that he actually expects to get one. It’s just the only thing he wants. What happened to the days of Lego Bionicle and Wallace & Gromit DVDs and Battleship? Gone forever, at least for this kid.

Perhaps this is a sign that my children have too many of their needs (and wants!) met. Perhaps this means that I should make him pay for his own clothes, for instance, so a pair of shorts from Old Navy becomes that much more desirable. But that is not how we do things around here, as they say. And so: For all those clever parents out there who have good ideas for inexpensive 15-year-old-boy gifts—I could really use your help.