Another Teenager in the House by Sharon O’Donnell
Today my ‘baby’ turns 13. For so long, he has played the role of my ‘little boy’, younger brother to Billy and David who are 9 and 6 years older than he is, respectively. As the older ones grew up, started shaving, driving, dating, and going to college — I could always think to myself, “But I’ve still got my little guy at home.” Alas, he is not little any longer. Not in attitude and not in stature. He is almost as tall as I am, and I’m 5 feet 10 inches tall. And that teen mentality of eye rolling and ‘okay Mom’ comments just to appease me have set in to stay for a while. He used to keep his room pretty clean and organized, but lately, his room has become a mess. As an older mom who has been through this twice before quite a few years ago, I sometimes question my stamina to go through it again. It is tiring, emotionally and physically. I hate that he — and I — have to get up at 6:15 to make it to middle school in time. And 7th grade math is indeed quite challenging for a math-deficient mom like myself to try to help with homework. I think this is about the time my middle son got a math tutor. Something to think about to save my sanity.
Even though my youngest, Jason, has taken on characteristics of those mysterious teens, he also still loves to give me hugs and is affectionate. I sometimes even still get a hug in public. Those days of holding his hand as we cross a parking lot are over though, and I remember that point when it occurred with my other sons. For some reason, I miss this simple thing as much as anything else. I think it is the symbolism there, the fact that by this action I’m saying, “I’m here to take care of you, to watch over you.” When we no longer hold hands, it doesn’t mean of course that I’m no longer his protector, but it is another step toward that — a step toward releasing him to the world.
Certainly, I still watch over my older boys, now ages 22 and 19; but, it is in a far different and less obvious, hands-on kind of way than it used to be. Instead, I have to trust them to make the decisions that affect their lives — not just when to cross the street or to look both ways — but about decisions that affect their relationships, their health, their futures. A few years ago, I turned over making his own doctors’ and dentist’s appointments to my oldest. He has been good with the dentist’s appointments, but not so much with making doctor’s appointments when he doesn’t feel well or when he hasn’t had a physical in a some time. Yet, he has to be responsible enough to do that — I can only remind him just so many times before it is interpreted as ‘nagging’ – and I don’t want that. My middle son and I are in this transition right now. He made great strides last year going to his first year of college two hours away, and I’m hoping that continues. I was proud of the way he communicated with his professors and asked questions of them. I’m all for being a staunch advocate for our children, but I know that often times there is a thin line between that and being a so-called helicopter parent (at least in the eyes of society). Knowing when to stand up for them and when to stand back and let them takeover is indeed a lesson every parent must learn.
And so now it begins with another one. Another teenager. And even more testosterone in the house. Here we go. I’m taking a deep breath . . .