By: Sheila Gaudet
Whoever came up with that term to describe the emotional ups and downs of adolescence must have been thinking about the parents rather than the kids. Seriously, this spring has been interesting as I’ve watched my son prepare for the transition to high school next fall. We discussed the choices in high schools (as he threw out certain brochures before they crossed my path), selected courses and electives, and went to orientation meetings. He’s heard talks from high school coaches and players and the importance of things like grades and activities in high school as it relates to “THE FUTURE” has been heavily stressed.
In addition to all this serious talk, we have hit puberty with full force. Sitting back and watching your son learn to negotiate the world of girls and keep your mouth shut and let him learn his own lessons is a challenge. Just like when they were little and learning to walk and we have to hold ourselves back and let them take those tumbles, now I have to bite my tongue and let him learn from his mistakes.
I am fortunate that my son has many gifts. He is bright with a wicked sense of humor. He loves all sports and excels at them overall while also showing interest in art, especially drawing. He’s cute and compassionate. He is not perfect. He doesn’t do his homework consistently, does not always tell the truth about the homework he has, and talks back too much. That independent streak I encouraged in elementary school? There are days I wish he was a little less sure of himself and that he felt a little less need to articulate his argument. He usually has a point, but needs skills in deciding when to make it that only come from experience.
The hurts now are bigger and Mommy’s kisses and a Sponge Bob bandages don’t do the job anymore. Vicious rumors, a conflict with a teacher, the shunning from peers that can come in middle school are things that you cannot protect your child from. The risks from the mistakes that are an inevitable part of growing up are bigger now. Technology has been both a wonderful tool and a curse. The same things that keep him connected the early childhood friends we left in Mississippi, as well as far-flung extended family, also have exposed him to things that my friends and I had to work a lot harder to get access to as teenagers. It is a whole other medium to expose the stupid things that we all do while finding ourselves and telling him that images are permanent only goes so far. Parenting in the technological divide never ends, it’s like standing on quicksand. With our younger son, parental controls on the computer prevent access to most “bad” things. With a teenager, the parental controls can make it impossible to do a research paper, and some things can be gotten around thru the use of cell phones (and even when we block the access on his, he can reach things through his friends). I’m lucky that he’s made friends whose parents are involved and they are all kept busy with activities. He’s had some great teachers and coaches and other adults who care about him.
But in the end, many of the choices will be his to make. Some decisions will be the wrong ones. I know, because I made some bad ones myself. This past week, we found ourselves dealing with a big bad decision. It has turned out all right. It was a huge learning experience for him about possible consequences to your actions. I was angry at his poor choice, angrier still because he had initially lied to me about it. In the end though, he made a good choice and came to me, scared and shaking, to tell me the situation he was in. In that moment, he was still the little boy who was the Red Power Ranger for four Halloweens in a row, who writes me poems for Mother’s Day, and who loves it when I make him spaghetti and meatballs and still looks for me to be standing on the sidelines when he plays. So I took a deep breath, let him tell me what happened, and against all my mommy urges, did not fix it. I did allow him to talk through his options, gave some advice, and crossed my fingers. He did the right thing and I am proud of him for that. I cried myself to sleep that night, thinking of all the other things he’ll face in the future that I can’t help him with. The next morning though made me realize that while my kisses can’t fix things anymore, I’m still good for something. My little-big boy gave me a big hug and a kiss, unasked, before he left. And said “Thank you for ….” . I’m not even sure what the last word was, it was mumbled in only the way that adolescent boys can mumble. But my heart knew what he meant. And I knew that all those boo-boos kissed had paved the way for this new relationship between us.