Your teenager hasn’t been abducted by aliens

My darling daughter turned 13 in March. Like magic, the frequency and amplitude of her mood swings — and she has always been a bit moody — accelerated like a NASCAR champion on a quintuple frappuccino.

Veteran parents warned me. Repeatedly. “At 13 your kid disappears, but don’t worry: she’ll come back when she’s 19.” (Six years of this? Gee. Thanks.)

But the warning I received most was, “Aliens abduct your daughter and replace her with a pod person, a really mean pod person.”

That’s not my experience at all.

If my kid were totally different, then I’d resent it, but at least I’d learn to grapple with the new moody meanie who had burrowed under my daughter’s skin.

But she’s not totally different. Sometimes, the funny, smiling girl I knew is right there in front of me. Sometimes she even sticks around for a while, although then the moody meanie pops up again just when I’ve started to relax. I find myself imagining a game of WHACK A TEEN…

So the Whitley Strieber metaphor doesn’t work for me. I kept thinking. Looking for a more accurate substitute, and then I found one.

Lycanthropy.

For those of you who aren’t huge geeks, horror movie fans, recovering D&D players or the like, lycanthropy is the disease that afflicts werewolves and other sometimes-human, sometimes-beast creatures. If you get bitten by an angry Welsh Corgi from the wrong side of the tracks, watch out because you might find yourself turning into a short-legged, no-tailed and exuberant beastie once a month when there’s a full moon.

That’s what teenagers are like. One minute, they’re fully human, rational, even occasionally nice. Then, moonrise: the posture changes, the fangs come out and a snarling rabid beast emerges to terrorize the living room. After a while — usually after the paternal pitchfork and torch have come out — the sun rises, the fur drops away and the fangs retract back into the gums.

If only my teen’s changes were as regular as the lunar cycle.

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