I thought that after the toddler stages, parenting would get easier – less “hands-on.” And it did…for awhile. But parenting an adolescent is tough work. Although I don’t have to remind him not to run in a parking lot, I still need to be aware of what’s happening in his world and be there to listen, offer suggestions (not always solutions), and empathize.
This summer we had our share of growing pains. We’re working on drawing that fine line between nagging and reminding. To which I usually receive an exasperated, “I know!!” (Enter logic: If you knew, why didn’t you do it?). We bicker more. He talks back. He has an attitude. It’s not even conscious. It’s almost like there’s an internal energy that’s pushing back – rebelling. I remind him that it’s not acceptable to speak to me disrespectfully. He apologizes.
There are the “what if?” questions. What if I get to middle school and I say or do the wrong thing? What if I don’t make a good first impression? What if my friends do something bad? What if my teachers don’t like me? What if the work is too hard? I know that his world is changing, but I want him to know that whatever transpires I’m here to listen with an open mind and heart and there’s no problem too big for us to solve together.
And then there’s the awareness of the world around him. Which is pretty frightening and pretty remarkable at the same time. He wants to know things like why there are protests in Ferguson, Missouri. What that weird, sweet, smoky smell was while we were walking through a late evening music festival at a nearby park. What kind of diseases you get if you don’t wear a condom. I’ve been really honest, even when it seems awkward for both of us. I am hoping that this sets the tone for candid and open discussions in the future.
He’s been practicing opening his combination lock for his gym locker. I tell him that he’s going to have to provide the school office with his combination – and warn him not go give those secret numbers to anyone else. “Why does the school need the combination?” he asks. “Random checks for drugs, alcohol, and weapons, like knives,” I reply. I can’t even bring myself to say the words, “or guns.” But I know that in the world that we live in, that’s a possibility too. And not just in our city school. This is a fact of life everywhere.
This has been a crazy summer. I’m watching my son grow up right before my very eyes. Like magic, his body is beginning to change and become more muscular, his shoulders broader, his voice more gravelly and slightly deeper. We can almost meet eye-to-eye. He can lift me off the ground.
This growing up stuff isn’t easy for him, or for me. It’s work. But he’s doing his job…and I’m doing mine.