My husband was driving the car home from the hospital, with me and my sweet newborn riding in the back seat. As uncomfortable as he looked, my brand new baby boy was safely buckled into his carseat, but I still insisted on sitting right next to him.
I kept leaning in close to him, taking big, deep breaths of that sweet new-baby smell. He was sound asleep and all I could do was stare at him, taking in his perfectly round head (taking great pride in the fact that my lady parts could produce such rounded perfection), his tiny little angel lips, his pristine skin.
Oh my, he was perfect.
He squished his face up and made a little squeak, so I put the tiny tip of my pinky finger in his mouth to suck on (of course my hands had been previously boiled and scrubbed with antibacterial everything).
He settled immediately and tears welled up in my eyes as I made a mental note: "Don't ever forget this moment."
That was 16 years ago.
That tiny, beautiful boy is now a teenager. A vile creature, really.
He was such a good, happy baby. He was a funny toddler. The tween years were almost completely uneventful. He was even an easy teenager until very recently.
I'm sure you've heard it before, but it's true: if you blink, you'll miss it. Your cuddle-loving child will be replaced -- almost overnight -- with a dark, moody version of himself.
I don't even know this person who shares our home with us.
Rarely caring, only occasionally happy, almost always sarcastic and grumpy, he skulks around the house (most certainly not putting his clothes in the hamper or dishes in the dishwasher) with his earbuds in his ears. So he doesn't have to deal with us, I'm guessing.
He towers over me by a good eight inches and grunts responses to my questions in his deep man-voice that sounds just like his father's (except in a much flatter, far more negative tone... and using as few syllables as possible).
The silly things I say that used to make him laugh, now get me a deadpan stare or an eye roll. Heaven forbid I speak to him when his friends are around. That earns me a death stare that screams, "Oh my GOD, Mom! Go AWAY!"
I've seen him -- from afar -- interacting with his friends, and it certainly looks like he still has a sense of humor. And the ability to speak to other humans. It appears he saves all his teen angst just for his family.
He's tested us lately and we've had to come down on him pretty hard.
His decision-making is almost certainly based on what he suspects is the exact opposite of what his dad and I would advise. I realize he's at "that age," where kids start figuring out who they are and what they're going to be all about. He can't do that without making his own decisions.
But good grief, my patience.
There's just a teeny, tiny hair of it left. I sometimes think that I might not be cut out to be the mom of a teenager. I'm worried constantly, my stomach is in knots, I'm not sleeping, and my martini consumption has gone up considerably in the last few months.
I think, "You know what? I'm done. Call me when he's 20."
But then: late one night last week, everyone else in the family had gone to bed, except for the two of us. We hung out in the living room and talked for over an hour. It was so special. We talked about all the things going on with his classes, the stuff he's learning, the friends he hangs out with.
We talked about the pressures he's feeling: pressure from his extracurriculars, his course load, and some minor teen drama (thank God I have boys, or this part would be a bigger player, I'm sure).
He also shared that he feels his dad and I have him on tight reigns and that he feels trapped by the pressure of that.
I remember that feeling from when I was 16.
I wasn't mature enough to voice it to my parents in a calm, collected way like my son did, though. Hmmm, so he's got one up on me here....
I made a mental note: "He really is such a great kid. He's got a strong, confident head on his shoulders. He's really making some great points here."
I started thinking how smart my husband and I were to have been firm -- and frankly pretty strict -- recently. "It's really worked," I thought, "And so fast! That's my boy, just one little hiccup and with our loving and wise guidance, we've nudged him right back on track."
I silently gave myself (and my husband, ok sure) a few kudos on our expert parenting, and then mentally tuned back into what my son was saying.
"...and that's why I think that grounding me from everything for a month is a bit... excessive," he said, with his hands mirroring each other, fingertips touching, a la persuasive politician.
And there it is.
An hour. That's how long he crafted this little manipulation disguised as a bonding session.
"You know what?" I say, as I pop up to go make a martini, "I'm done. Call me when you're 20."
Author's note: This article was submitted with my son's permission, and only after making one tiny tweak in wording (in the original, I mentioned that he was rarely funny these days, which is not only untrue, but was highly offensive to my boy, who prides himself -- rightfully so -- on his ability to make others laugh with his wit. It's funny to me that THAT was what he took issue with.)
The purpose of this article is to share with other parents that even the "good kids" clumsily make their way through the teen years. Though I've shared how frustrating this stage can be, I do realize that it could be far worse (my husband and I often say that if our biggest battles are dealing with a smart mouth and some laziness, we're in great shape!).