I am not sure I am well equipped to handle the emotional ups and downs associated with being a mother to a pre-teen/teenager. I am moody and dramatic enough by myself, I doubt adding someone else’s pubescent mood swings into the fold is going to equal smooth sailing around here. Yet, even though I knew having sweet babies would equal prickly teenagers it never fully hit me until yesterday.
I drive my kids places all the time. We basically live in our car. Well, I do anyway. Yesterday I took my son to get a sports physical. He sits in the middle row. He stares at his phone. He doesn’t really talk to me. I ask questions, I comment on things I see, and I even go to the extreme of turning the music up loud at stop lights and dancing and singing to thoroughly embarrass him. He rarely responds unless a head shake or eye roll counts. After the physical I stopped for food and decided we could take the time to eat it inside and not in our home away from home – the car. Small talk was had, a couple smiles were shared, and when we got back to the car he sat in the front seat. He never sits in the front seat. I saw him make the decision, I could see it on his face, and even though I wouldn’t dare disturb this tender moment with actual outward emotion, I smiled on the inside. He still had his phone, but this time he read out loud the Reddit thread he was reading. He let down his guard and let me enter his world. Listening to him comment on what he was reading allowed me to learn his feelings on many things and laughing together over other people’s stupidity is always just good fun.
This was, of course, short lived. We arrived home to find his brothers had done something to make him angry. While, I was trying to solve this problem he took the time to yell and scream and insult his brothers. Trying to diffuse the tension in the house I told him to take the time to throw the ball to his dog. A strong willed and defiant NO left his lips. He stood there staring at me. In this moment I see him and know he is trying to become his own person, his own man, and is testing the waters. I again tell him that he needs to throw the dog the ball. Again he stares at me and says NO. At this point it has changed, for me at least, into disrespect. I am the mother. I told him to do something, nothing that would hurt him or others, and he is digging his heels in. I tell him no phone or electronics for a week. Finally, he cedes the point and goes.
He comes back in calmer and asks if he can now do his electronics. I remind him they were taken away. Oh, this elicits all types of anger. I am unfair, I have favorite children, I do not love him, too bad he isn’t good at things like other siblings, any negative trait he has he inherited from me apparently, and on and on. I could yell. I normally do. Yet, instead I let him rant. I ignore it. I continue to make dinner. He keeps edging closer to me trying to get me to engage. He pushes me by saying just because he does or says something I don’t like doesn’t mean it is disrespect and he can’t wait to be a parent so he can do it the right way.
In this moment life has come full circle because I respond by telling him that when he is a parent he can do it however he chooses, but right now I am the parent and he is the child and he has to do what I say and follow my rules. I have become my parents. I used to think that I would do it right. I would fix all the problems with parenting that I saw in my parents by doing it the right way. I yelled at them just like this. Life sucked and was unfair. They just didn’t get it. They just didn’t know how it felt not to be loved. I had these same thoughts. It feels like it was just yesterday in some ways. Now here is my son throwing those same words at me.
Later that evening we are watching a movie. We reach one point in the movie where I feel the need to comment about what the character wants or needs. When a few minutes later this happens in the movie my sons smiles at me and says, “Daddy, says we are both really good at predicting what will happen in movies.” He laughs and smiles and we chat a bit about our shared ability. When it is time for bed he hugs me and says he loves me.
I am not sure I am prepared for the highs and lows that await me this year and the years ahead. I hope I remember that while I was fairly emotionally exhausted dealing with our personal highs and lows yesterday that for him it is even harder. Growing up is hard work. That doesn’t mean I let him walk all over me, in fact, it means I have to step up my parenting game and stand firm on my rules and decisions. I have to be the constant in the insanity that awaits him. He might not always like it. He may even think I just don’t get it. Maybe sometimes I won’t. Still, at the end of the day he needs to know I am home. He can give me a hug and say I love you no matter what we went through.