With apologies to Warren Zevon…
I wish I could say it came by surprise, but the past few months have been a precursor to the inevitable: My second child is now a teenager. Because of the large age gap between my two kids, I have had a teen-free home for a couple of years now. It was blissful. While it lasted.
I had honestly forgotten just how horrible adolescence is. I mean, my own was bad enough, but my son’s, well… let’s just say he’s putting a lot of effort into his angst. We’ve had discipline problems at school, issues on the homefront, belligerent outbursts and a general unwillingness to follow the rules. He’s not a horrible child, but he has become unmanageable in a lot of ways. And unlike my teeny tiny daughter, he’s bigger than me! At 13!
So, here are a half-dozen things on my mind as I wander into this thing called having a teen (part deux):
- It doesn’t really matter what you get them or what you do for their 13th birthday, because they’re bound to be disappointed. Unless it’s an impossible-to-find-gaming-system that you went to six different stores to find. My son didn’t ask for anything for his birthday, and he’s been chomping at the bit to open his presents since he got up. His sister sleeps in and when she finally woke up, he opened his presents to extreme disappointment (he got books and clothing). He snarled and went back to his room to sulk. On her 13th birthday, my daughter got a Wii, which was impossible to find (I was calling around to various stores and asking what time their trucks delivered). After driving all over town (back when we lived in Pittsburgh), I managed to get one. It was a great birthday… for my daughter.
- My son now can join social media groups with impunity. This terrifies me. Thus far he has taken little interest in the world of Facebook, Instagram and other lesser-known websites that teens flock to. Maybe this is one advantage to having a boy, because he really doesn’t enjoy communicating in any medium.
- Less terrifying is the fact that 13 has always been my cut-off age for making personal choices about grooming (excepting being clean, of course, which isn’t optional). That means now he can grow out his hair and never wear pants again. My son’s latest “fashion” is basketball shorts, which I require him to wear long underwear beneath on those random days when it’s actually cold. He also tends to paint half his nails. I think he does this to bug me: I don’t care if my son wears nail polish, but I can’t stand that he only does one hand!
- Teenage boys are beasts: They’re loud. Even when they’re being quiet. Their footfalls are those of Sasquatch. The voices that come out of their mouths undulate between nails-on-a-chalkboard squeaky and kettledrum basso profundo. They take up more space than they physically occupy. I’m not sure which laws of physics they are breaking, but—trust me—laws are breaking. Along with several personal belongings.
- My son makes me cry at least once per week. From telling me I’m the worst mom ever to insisting he only has fun when he’s at a friend’s, I feel like I’m the meanest mom on the planet. And I’m tired. All the time to my bones tired. I didn’t sign up to be a Blue Meanie. I just want my son to be a good person when he grows up. And to respect me and other adults in the process. I have no idea how I’ll get through the next few years without one of us having an utter breakdown. Is it too late to ship him off to military school?
- This too shall pass. I know my daughter wasn’t an angel in adolescence. I know this, because she reminds me. Truth is, I don’t really remember the bad times with my daughter. This is in large part owing to the fact that she’s turned out to be an amazing young woman (she just finished college and she’s well on the way to an established career). I think that we, as parents, suppress the awful memories of our children’s adolescence. I mean, who wants to remember how horrible our kid is. Not that I don’t have daily reminders of it right now. But I will blink and he will be all grown up.
And one day not too far away, I will be “empty nested.” My kids will be gone and I will be alone and I will certainly miss them. Or not. Because I am looking forward to the day when my petulant son is someone I want to join for a pint at the pub.
In the meantime, he can just mope about thinking I’m the last person he wants to hang out with. Or let go shopping for him.