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.
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.