It’s official. My 13-year-old is an inch taller than me. It’s not like he’s a giant (I’m petite), but it’s still a shibboleth of young adulthood for him. As is the darkening fuzz on his upper lip.
Unlike all of his other developmental milestones, this one leaves me feeling cheerless. It seems to call attention to the other ways in which he’s outgrown me. He’s physically stronger. . .he can outrun, outbike, and outclimb me. He knows more. . .they really do teach kids a lot of stuff in middle school, stuff I once mastered but can no longer revive. He has his own passions—music, mapping, and math—about which I know little. He is more likely to be embarrassed by my presence than to take comfort in my company. . .not so with his dad.
This in addition to the isolation I’m already feeling in the face of the inevitable teen angst. For the first time in his life, I’m deeply missing the unbridled joy that used to greet me on my return home from even a brief trip to the corner store. Or the unconscious giggles that I could inspire so readily. Now I’m lucky if I get a nod of recognition and a reluctant “ha ha.”
So this growth spurt is getting me down, taunting me with its symbolic meaning that my son is leaving me behind. Which, of course, he is. He’s supposed to. It’s why we worked hard to raise an autonomous child. But I guess I wasn’t prepared to be treated as if I’m superfluous. . .even if I’m not. I clearly need to tweak my expectations and parenting style to accommodate his struggle and the adolescent posturing that comes along with it.
I have to set up some new rules of engagement.
- Seize opportunity by embracing spontaneity. No more need for teaching patience. When he calls “Hey, mom, come here!” I really should drop what I’m doing and go there.
- Make use of the Google to compensate for how little I know about things he cares about and share amazement at how much he himself knows. (Flirting doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve observed enough mindless ego-stroking in my life to give it a go.)
- Don’t give up! Continue to invite his participation in cooking and errands and other mom activities he used to enjoy. There may come a day when he’s bored enough to say “yes”. Woo-hoo!
- Remind him I’m on his side, especially when he doesn’t believe it.
- Hug him often, even if he persists in pulling his shirt over his head to avoid mom kisses.
- Stop mourning the early perks of parenting. It’s too much like teen angst. It’s unattractive and unproductive. Get over it.
My parenting has mostly flowed naturally and easily. . .until now. Now I have to act in ways that are neither natural nor easy. My personal preference is to simply avoid unpleasant and dour people, but that won’t work when the person in question is my son. I have to resuscitate all those “dealing with difficult people” techniques in my skill bank and practice them on a daily basis. I have to be more intentional, more strategic.
I suppose the inexpertness and loneliness I’m experiencing is typical for a mother of an adolescent boy, but that offers me little solace. I’m used to being at the top of my parenting game. Inadequacy is not an option. Maybe I’ll adopt that as my mantra. . .inadequacy is not an option. . .inadequacy is not an option. . .inadequacy is not an option. If all else fails, at least it’ll give me something to do.