This summer our two oldest daughters are away at sleepover camp. For the first few days, I loved walking by their rooms and seeing perfectly made beds and vacuumed carpets with no piles of clothes on them. I didn't miss the noise and the mess of the midnight snacks that they usually had while they chatted on the phone with their friends.

I appreciated no one complaining "I have nothing to wear" or insisting that "everyone else is allowed to have this, do that, go there." There was no one asking to use my car for driving lessons; no one asking for an endless supply of cash and trips to the pizza shop.

I looked forward to enjoying the summer with my younger kids because as the saying goes, "Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems."

But after a week, even though I didn't want to admit it, I began to really miss my teenagers. I missed their messy rooms and late night giggling. I missed shmoozing with them at the end of the day. I missed their constant text messages and their boisterous groups of friends melting cheese onto tortilla chips in the middle of the night.

Most of all, I just missed their constant presence in my life and the invaluable lessons they teach me. Here are five amazing lessons I’ve learned from them.

  1. Sometimes eat dessert first. Routines and healthy habits are crucial for our daily lives, but every now and then we should have ice cream before dinner. Eat the chocolate cake before the salad. Melt a lot of cheese onto our chips and stay up too late. Every now and then breaking from our routines will bring unexpected sweetness and new perspectives into our lives.

  2. Don’t take your freedom for granted. As adults, most of us are usually so caught up in our responsibilities and obligations that we forget how precious our freedom is. From my teenagers' perspectives having my own car and knowing how to drive is basically "having it all." Throw in my own credit card and the choice to use it however I want to, and essentially, I have won the lottery. There is a reason most teenagers do not have these privileges until they are adults themselves, but every day, they teach me not to take my routine "freedoms" for granted.

  3. Good friends are the secret to happiness. I don't know anyone who appreciates their friends as much as my teenagers do. They speak to them all day (and sometimes all night). They share secrets and clothes and their philosophies about life. They shop together and go to camp together and commiserate together. Their fierce loyalty and love for their friends teaches me the irreplaceable value of listening and giving and sharing our lives with others.

  4. Appreciate the uniqueness of every individual. Teenagers do not like conformity, and they will naturally push back against the status quo. Some of this tendency is just part of their developmental stage, but part of it also stems from an authentic sense of appreciating every person's unique personality and perspective. We don't have to understand or agree with every choice or idea, but teenagers remind us that we should respect each other's ideas and unique views of the world. We may all be looking at the exact same thing, but each of us sees it with our own eyes, a lens unlike anyone else's.

  5. Treasure the moment. When our newborns aren't sleeping through the night, when our toddlers are taking everything out of the kitchen cabinets, when our teenagers are late for curfew, we sometimes make the mistake of wishing the time away. We can't wait until they grow up, until we can sleep again through the night, until no one is complaining or making a mess, but one day we will miss this. The same way we miss our babies' dimpled smiles and our toddlers' chubby hands reaching out for ours, we will one day miss the late night snacks and carefree laughter of our teenagers. Hold onto the moment. It always passes too soon.