Recently, I sent a pithy comment to my Facebook friends asking for the manual for raising a fourteen-year-old boy. Cliche’ I know but the feelings of frustration, angst, the highs and lows akin to being addicted to crack are not. I am struggling; I feel as though I’ve entered adolescence with my son–no one cares! No one listens! I want it my way! Those are my words thrumming through my head to the beat of a punk-rock anthem. And yes, the F-note seems to be flying from lips at an alarming rate.
And I’m trained for godssakes!
I am a middle-school teacher and of fourteen-year-olds in particular–this should be a cake-walk, right? Wrong. Raising a child and teaching 30 plus students are completely different endeavors; teaching a class of 30 is far easier.
My students are essentially guests afterall–I note their attendance, deliver instruction (i.e. tell them what to do), warn those who don’t comply and send them from the room if they are disruptive, disrespectful, yadda, yadda–essentially, they become someone else’s problem.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
Unfortunately, Adolescent-man does not intimidate. In fact, when he was three, a ten-year-old approached the same train-car at a school festival as AM, whereupon he said, “mine”, and the older child backed away.
Fast forward eleven years, add 2 inches on me in height, and an articulation of language I carefully groomed by reading to AM each night for more than a decade. A dash of an excellent English class where students are taught the finer craft of persuasion and encouraged to practice their skills through debate and mock trial(AM actually takes notes while I’m speaking so he can refute each of my points in turn) and…”It’s alive, it’s alive!” Dr. Frankenstein.
I know, I know, I know that with hormones, and the plasticity of the brain during adolescence AM is essentially a very tall toddler with occaisonal break-outs. I can, with cool detachment, understand this about my class of 30 but this is my kid and as his mom I’m working through a heart that leaps and burns and randomly thuds with anxiety. How can this kid possibly grow into a well-mannered, “productive” citizen?
I have to explain to AM every other week what “tone” means–try that , imitate their tone, I guarantee s/he will say, “I didn’t say it that way,” because in their mind, they’re the reasonable ones.
Better yet, place yourself, your spouse, dog and your AM in a car to go camping, and “bond” and listen to him rail about not having enough “freedom” which is his Constitutional right, and why do we force him to spend time with us because, no offense but you’re boring, and why can’t I have a brother or sister and the kids I invited along probably could’ve come if you guys gave me notice(a week was not enough?)…”
Essentially, as AM’s parents we are stupid, hopelessly restrictive autocrats placed on God’s green earth to obstruct fun and the glorious notion of “freedom”.
“We give you money,” I say. “We try to walk the middle way with you; neither too restrictive nor too loose.”
“That’s another thing. Why can’t I get a job at Jimmy & Joe’s or something? I could earn my own money, move out sooner, and get more freedom.”
Friends, Romans, family members, I know I’m working against the tide; AM is in a hurry to grow up and I’m locking him in the car and whisking him to camp-outs. My mind wanders back–laughing at the Phoenix Zoo one day when it seemed every tot was casting off the chains of baby-hood including bottles, pacifers, tiny hats, diapers–and how we dubbed it “Baby Revolution”. Or the relaxed look in AM’s eyes when he drank from his sippy-cup as a toddler, while his mind is pushing him forward, preparing him for a not-too-distant launch.
And so, I continue the journey, taking yoga classes each week, learning to breathe through the process, coming out of child”s pose after respite, stretching my legs and gliding into Warrior 1 pose as gracefully as possible. In this metaphorical pose I prepare for challenge, I face whatever storms or sunny moments that come my way. Always, always with the heart shining forward rather than the head leading the way.
Trying to keep the pieces together.