The precipice of teenage angst

I thought I had more time.

Everyone tells you that it’s coming. The teenage years, the rolled eyes, the silent stares. They warn you, they even seem to delight in ruining your parenting high when you exclaim things like, “my son is such a good kid, he loves to snuggle.”

But I thought I had more time.

Since the word teenager literally means “a person aged 13 to 19 years,” I was unpleasantly surprised with what seemingly woke to greet me at 10.8 years old. In the blink of an eye, we have little in common, he rarely talks unless I berate him with questions, most days we only see him at dinner (because…forced), and it seems that the days spent giggling with my partner in crime are quite over.

To be fair, he’s still a good kid. And he still likes to snuggle on his terms (jury is out if that is guilt-ridden or postponing bedtime). He still lets me post some pictures of him on social media even if he won’t let me script him on my Instastories. And I know he loves me. But I wasn’t ready. OK, fine, would I ever have been ready?

Doubtful. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this over the last few months. Going through all the stages of grief (ha ha) and being pulled in every direction over every decision or thought related to how to proceed.

Some sample internal dialogue:

“I should force him to hang out with us. No, that would be bad, he would resent us and we’re fairly boring anyway. What would we even do? But we’re his parents! He should want to be with us, right?! No, it’s OK! Leave him alone, he needs his space to grow.”

“Why am I only getting one word answers? It’s so quiet in this car. I can’t stop talking. Why am I still talking? He’s going to think I am nuts. Remember how much you hate it when people fill silence! Don’t be that person. He’ll talk when he wants to. He knows you are here. God, Meg, SHUT UP already!”

In between my own discussion, I have time to think about what kind of parent I want to be to a teenager (quickly pointing out here that he’s not even a teenager yet, geez), and that this is normal. And I say that part on repeat. Normal, normal, normal. And dare I say it, good?

Good for him to want to be independent. It’s one of the qualities that I love about myself. Good for him for being brave enough to discover his likes, dislikes, and how to be his own person. Good for him for trying new things, and for enjoying topics that I don’t, and finding people who do, to talk to.

So who do I want to be for him? I think that will be a fluid process, one that’s ever changing as he changes. And I’ll make mistakes, you can bet on that. More than anything else, I want him to know deep down that I love him, and I’ll always be here for the little chats and the big talks. That life is hard and messy, and sometimes it’s OK to need your Mom. That I always encourage his exploration, and will cheer him on in this journey (being quiet at the right times, and louder at the other times).

In this changing moment, though, it’s easy to feel alone. To feel like I’ve done something wrong, that it’s my fault that my child has changed, that the sweet spot is nearing its end. It’s almost habitual to fall back into self-doubt and even hate-speak myself. I’m making a commitment to me not to do that, and if I find myself in that space (because I will), to breathe through it and give myself love.

This is just a new part of life, and I’m going to take the opportunity to grow and change right alongside him. So enter the next chapter for this mom and her (pre) teenage son. I’m hesitantly excited for the bumpy ride.