And then suddenly, growth and development happen, like a quantum leap in the brain (army hubby and I used to describe it in our kids). Helplessness and curiosity become problem-solving and mission-focus. Conceptual misunderstandings are clarified in sudden sunshiny blasts of comprehension.
And personalities try on different ideas, methods, mannerisms for size.
I thought I was going to be ready for the teenager’s mental/emotional growth spurt. I’ve been waiting for it for at least a year, watching for the signs that he is pulling away from the sweet, affectionate, good-humoured boy and his closeness with me. Watching for moodiness, secrets he’s no longer willing to share because they are no longer for me to know. And it’s hit me this fall, in little bits at first that I somehow ignored or denied but that I can no longer push aside, that the transition is happening. I see him acting the way I did, when I was 13-14-15-16. And I hear my mother and my father in my voice, attempting to reach, teach, and guide, with patience and not a little exasperation or confusion as the child reacts differently than he used to do.
I get it, now. I got it then, too, but it was easier (?) to be sullen or withdraw than accept the love and attention. It felt . . . awkward. Those strange years caught between child and adult, when you want to set your own boundaries but you need the safety net and the rules in which to try different things — I must not lose hold of those. They’re my key to keeping up with him, and in a few short years, Bridget.
The good news is that my boy and I and his dad still have a close bond. The sticky part is that the bond’s parameters are shifting and we are moving into new territory. The stuff I could joke about or inquire after last year is rapidly becoming off-limits. I’m so used to it, being able to laugh with him on certain levels or about different things, having him confide in me, it’s like a change in g-force on an unexpected hill or valley in the highway. Do I need to change how I relate to him, adapt my way of being and my conversation? Of course I do — I’ve done so already, at different stages of this game.
But it’s just like when he was a baby, when I would finally recognize a pattern in his behaviour and be able to interpret his cries, and then whoop — he’d go changing them again.
I told a student today to have patience with her parents, whom she felt were becoming a little too overbearing and annoying. I said, “Parents need raising just as much as teenagers do.” I wasn’t even joking. Like Red Green used to say to his buddies, we’re all in this together.
Parents of teens, who were formerly teenagers themselves — I’m pulling for you.