Each time I have the opportunity for any serious self-reflection, I am struck by the amount of change that has happened within me over each successive decade. I am not quite old yet, but at 36 years I can say that I am a very different creature than I was at 16. Thank God. Not that I've "arrived" at any place near perfection in any area, but that I have grown up in enough significant ways to cause some grateful reflection.
This is good news for my motherhood. I have a 15-year old and sometimes I think he has lost his marbles. He, on the other hand, is convinced that he's got his head on pretty straight. In general, I would tend to agree. But he's still got a healthy dose of teenage nutcase going on. In those trying moments, I can reflect on the fact that he will be 36 some day... and it is highly probable that he will be a better version of what he once thought was pretty darn good.
That same boy recently remarked that I seem to mention him with greater frequency on this blog than I do his siblings. That is true. I do indeed. I assured him it wasn't that I like him or dislike him to any greater degree than the others, but that he occupies my mind a great deal on a practical level. It is related to the startling fact that teenagers, while giving the initial appearance of great independence, are often times more time-consuming than toddlers. He is growing up quickly; and urgent, fired-up, smartypants young people demand your energy in a significant way. It's remarkable.
People sometimes ask me how I "do it" with all these kids. Oh, I reply, it's easier in some ways now because the older ones help take care of the littles, blah, blah, blah. What I don't often say to people is that I have never lost so much sleep over a 2-year old as I have over the teenagers. That keeping up after the physical needs of a little person is actually easier than trying to make sure that big brother learns how to keep after his schedule, brain, and deviant socks. And that a big kid can inflict mental torture upon a parent that a screaming toddler can't even hold a candle to. It's hard to explain to someone until they are there. I never would have believed it myself.
My husband helps me out a lot. The best advice he gives is when I start to get dragged into a ridiculous debate with a confident young mind. Disengage, he says... You are not a teenager. Don't act like one. Got it. Good advice. Still... it's like navigating a minefield and getting my mind blown up with some frequency.
As I sit here typing, I am well aware that my oldest boy might read this blog post and I'm okay with that. It is good for him to know my mind and I surely shouldn't write anything here about my kids that I wouldn't say to them personally. I am not revealing anything terrible... just some general thoughts on what happens to us all over time if all goes well. He will someday still be the same good person with excellent dreams and personal qualities... just a bit more refined.
The kid knows I love him to pieces. He also knows that I think he's completely nuts sometimes. Who are you and what have you done with my child? It's me, Mom! No... my boy has common sense and you... well you are very confusing.
I was a teenager once. I remember how it felt. I remember thinking everyone else was crazy and confused and getting irritated easily for stupid reasons. Twenty years later I am still highly flawed but my freak out moments are fewer. I used to believe that my own teens would be very different from other people's and in some ways they are. In many respects, however, they are going through the same stretching and growing transformation that we all go through. It's beautiful and ugly at the same time.
One moment I stand marveling at this stunningly mature and intelligent young person before me and the next....
If you roll your eyes at me one more time I'm going to write a blog post about you.
But I didn't roll my eyes at you.
Yes, you did.
No, I did not... I ought to know what I did and didn't do.
I saw you do it, Son.
Then you would know that I did not do it. Isn't it possible that you are wrong?
No. It is not.
*the boy laughs*
Are you laughing at me?
No, I'm laughing because this is ridiculous. What are we even talking about?
Oh yeah, the thing I didn't do.
*steam starts to trickle out of my ears*
Suddenly, the clouds part and a light shines down and illuminates my mind. A voice (sounding remarkably like my husband's) reminds me: DISENGAGE. You are not a teenager. Stop acting like one.
If you read this, please know that I find you to be utterly wonderful and trying at the same time. In short, you are a perfectly normal human being. Having said that, I look forward to the day when you are 36 years old and discover that years well spent will transform your mind and heart. Then you will finally see the wisdom in getting your socks into the laundry basket at least 48 hours before they are needed. I trust that you will also recognize the grave error of using your Jedi mind tricks on your mom. It's not really fair. Especially when I've just made you a delicious dinner and am mentally weakened by the effort.
For the record, I'm really proud of the person you are. I am sorry for all the times that my faults are a stumbling block for you and I thank God that, in spite of the rough moments, the good ones seem to dominate. I pray that we will be able to continue to love each other well and forgive easily.
*Image at top: Spring Tonic by Norman Rockwell