When your teenager turns into a stranger

Life with a teenager is hard. One moment they are the familiar sweet kid you’ve known all their life. The next — rude, moody and brooding. Someone send help because this mama is all twisted up inside.

I guess it just hasn’t really hit me until my third son seemingly turned into a different person overnight. For the most part, my 15 and 16 year-old are the same, albeit taller and more hairy. But Solomon, my 13 year-old, must have got the teenager memo. Dear Lord baby Jesus help me. 

One minute he was staying up late painting with me, cooking omelets for the family and cuddling with us on the sofa. Then…he wasn’t. Instead, he was rolling his eyes. Ignoring his chores. Headphones strapped to his ears all day so he could never hear us. Wearing the same stinky Nirvana tee for days. Not caring about school, his homework, his siblings. Taking off on his skateboard, like he couldn’t stand being around his family another minute.

He almost had me in tears one day. Not almost — I cried. Real hot, fat tears that I hid behind my glasses.

We were in the car, running a few errands. He was sitting in the front seat, taking control of the radio. His eyes were all squinty, which is how they get when he is annoyed with me. Us. Everyone. No one. Who knows.

I noticed he had some paint on his jeans, so I reached over to scrape it off with my fingernail. He blocked my hand from his leg and he said, “Don’t touch me.”

I was taken aback. His voice was so cold. He didn’t even sound like my own child. The same child that was born at home one muggy evening in September.  The same baby who would kick his chubby little legs in excitement whenever he saw me walk into the room. The same boy who loved to build things and play in the dirt. The same boy with the big smile and the dimple on his left cheek.

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Sol is the middle child, the fourth of my husband’s seven children. Our artist. My old soul.

When those words tumbled out of his mouth, I jerked my hand back like a jilted lover. I felt embarrassed, as if I had no more claim on my boy then the stranger down the street. It hurt but I sucked it up and stayed quiet for the rest of the car ride.

I wish I had some sort of anecdote to wrap up this story nicely. Like he realized the error of his ways and apologized. Then we embraced in a heap of tears.

I love you, mom.
I love you, too, son.

He didn’t. Not this time.

There have been several other, equally heart-wrenching situations that have left me feeling like a stranger in a strange land. I guess I just never saw it coming. I’ve heard of teenagers behaving this way but I never thought it was going to happen to me (the attachment parenting mom)Like I said, I didn’t have this experience with my other sons.

Most days, Solomon is like Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. To be honest, my heart can’t take it.

It’s okay, honey. He’ll be fine. Just give him some room, my husband assures me. But it’s hard to believe him. When Solomon jumps on his skateboard and takes off down the street for “some room”, I watch for him at my window longingly and wonder where I’ve failed him. I just love the kid so much — this stage of motherhood can go kick rocks.

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Then, just as quickly as Sol turns cold, he warms up again. He cuddles with me when I’m down for my afternoon nap. Sometimes he comes in my office with a bowl of watermelon and extends it as a peace offering. He wakes me up on Sunday morning so we won’t be late for church. He wraps his arms around me and says, mommy gimme a kiss! as I try to squirm away.

Then he smiles at me and I see the dimple on his left cheek, and he’s still my love, my baby, my little boy, my son, my young man, my child.


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When your teenager turns into a stranger

Inspiration: Frida Kahlo

When your teenager turns into a stranger

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There are 24 comments

  1. Vanessa, De Su Mama

    My beautiful, beautiful friend… while this post was awesome, I don’t like that your heart hurts. The other part of me (the social worker part) just wants to say to be on “damage control alert” right now. Kids (especially adolescent boys) can change “overnight” but sometimes its more than that and they’re not able to or know how to voice their emotions. You’re an amazing mama and likely already know that, just thought I’d throw that out there. Your kids are gorgeous, and this beautiful son of yours will one day look back and thank you. xoxo, Ness

    1. Denise Cortes

      He’s the one who has pushed all the boundaries so far so my husband and I are on red alert. But it sucks. I just want my baby boy back. Enjoy your little ones, mama–time flies!

  2. Baby Making Mama

    OMG Thanks for making me cry! No, really, I am crying. I can see myself being here in 10ish years and I DON’T WANT TO. Gosh why do teens have to suck? Your family is so beautiful, thank you for sharing this part of your life with us. Let us know when you find the secret to translating teens 😉

  3. Lorraine C. Ladish

    Oh, my, I can only imagine. My girl is 13 now … she has not done any of that but if she did, I think I would die. And from what you wrote, it could happen. Ay. Hugs and lots of hugs to you, girl. You deserve them all.

  4. Mel

    Crying as I’m reading this, I am going through this right now with my 13 yr old son and it just hurts so bad! I’ve just grounded him for a week over more disrespectful behaviour and he told me he hates me. Am feeling all the feels now and I just want to run far away. Thanks for sharing though, it gives me some comfort to know I’m not alone x

    1. Denise Cortes

      It really hurts to the core, especially when all you’ve ever done is love them. It gets better, thankfully. Hang in there, mama!

    2. Tracie

      I very much relate to you as I get told I ruin every holiday and birthday… You start to believe it after you’re told that and it hurts. I try to remember that this is hopefully a normal phase but I pray he never has the things said to him that he has said to me. I hope things are better for you now, I can’t wait until the day they are for me. Very stressful dealing with in our 14-year-old and another child with special needs, I feel I wqnt to run as far away as possible.

  5. Travie

    I know this is an older post but I just had to comment as I’m going through this right now. I found such comfort in your words and that there will be light at the end of the tunnel and hope for a peaceful future. I’ve been told I ruin each holiday now because I make him do homework and we always end up in an argument. This time it just happened to be Sunday, Mother’s Day our anniversary and his belated birthday party with family. So of course all three holidays were ruined. Through tears I read a bunch of articles last night on how this is normal I pray it passes soon. Thank you, I know I’m not alone even though at times it feels I am

    1. Denise Cortes

      I’m with you. I hope it passes soon. I’m still going through it, and it’s been two years. My kids bring me to my knees! Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Andria Haubruge

    Thanks for being real. It’s refreshing, and helps me understand my gorgeous, talented, crazy athletic, smart, all over the place emotionally, and unpredictable tween. Keep on!

  7. Christine

    Wow, you really just made me cry! I could not have said this any better, I feel the exact same way. I am 2 years shy of being 30 and I feel like that is too young to be going through this. My son is only 11 and already going through this. I am in search of help on how to help him as well as help myself get through this stage in both of our lives. You express yourselves really well and you have made me feel that I am not alone. Thank you!

  8. Marina

    I am now in this awful “black sail” boat, where it seems only doom and gloom can erupt – what to do..Oh I hit the rooftop.
    I am a single mom (divorced) luckilly the boys father lives in the next road, and grandparents live just across the road ahead of our house, so they are “surrounded by love” Due to not wanting to go to jail for murder, I could not stop the blatant disrespect and attitude, from my eldest son, so I told him, he needs to spend some time by his dad..called up his dad and we schemed together..perhaps a male influence is what his looking for, for the following 3 weeks, he was home weekends, but his attitude had not changed..his schoolwork was beginning to suffer, and his out of the world level of laziness was astonishing. Not to mention the lies about studying. His father is currently having handfuls of hard work, checking his homework, making sure he gives the correct dates for tests, projects etc and helping him with them, putting together his study schedule and giving him spot tests before his test is due (babying him in other words – my version)..While I am busy with a Tween, who is relieved for the loss of suspense & tension in the house and all too happy for the extra attention. He has also started to slowly feel the peer pressure, but still “talks about whats going on in his tween world” What I learnt from my boys, which other parents (of kids in the same class don’t know) is astounding..DSTV (Cable TV) Plays a big role, as they all want to be the hip and happening star, and we all know they get famous by keeping their pants at their heels (sleeping around) and use of profane language and drugs among other things..so the teens want to copy ..and they do..and the sex/masturbation sometimes happens secretly at school amoungst peers – almost as a joke. Like it was a secretive quest which no Parent / adult must ever know about..like a whole new secret life which only the peers know of. Horrified to hear and even more shocked that its been happening since before they got to those grades..What you allow your kids to watch really makes them long for that life..especially if you don’t educate them into understanding its not the right way. It is astounding that other parents admit to just allowing their teens to watch whatever they please without considering what damage it could do to their sense of value and self esteem. Alot of marketing, millions of Rands/Dollars are used to make them stars and to give the impression that these singers / actors and alike are the cream of the crop and the be all and end all. Making your kids to understand that in 5 years those same guys will be on the streets in jail or worse and the marketing extravaganza portrays that their is no consequence for wrong action..Be careful what your kids watch as its with your permission hence also seen as further education from the parent.

    1. Denise Cortes

      Thank you for pouring your heart out, Marina. I know how hard it is, even though our journeys are slightly different. Hoping you make it to the other side, when everyone says their kids go back to normal. I’m waiting for that day, too! xo

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