He throws his head back in annoyance, grumbling, “Mom! You don’t understand the question!” Then he huffs as he drops his head forward, a tidal wave of blonde covers his face. This is his defense.
He has asked for help with a project, but has put it off until it is almost too late to complete. He is not an experienced procrastinator yet – the skill to know exactly how much time you’ll need to complete the project has eluded him. When I offer the requested help, it is not the exact help he wants; I am sure I am stupid by the time we decide to let him work for a while to see what he can do.
His face is still soft, his cheeks haven’t hardened. His hands and feet are as big as mine, but I still have three inches on him. This month, anyway. Who knows about next month?
He wants me to wake him every morning and to tuck him in every night. He hugs me anywhere and anytime he wants, which is still frequently. He wrote poems about me for his poetry unit at school, “What Makes a Great Mom.”
But I cheer too loudly at his soccer games and I talk too loudly in the grocery store and, heaven forbid, people actually hear me speak. I say things like, “Please grab some shredded cheese” and “I think she’s done with class now.” This is horrifying, of course.
Contained in this person, this person who was once the smallest part of me, is everything in the world. I am amazed by him daily. He is charging into adolescence in fits and starts with varying degrees of confidence, over-confidence, and under-confidence. One moment he is twenty, the next he is two; only rarely is he twelve.
Perhaps more now than ever do I feel the weight of parenting him. I think the way he processes the world now will more greatly impact his future. I teach him about honesty, empathy, privilege, respect, consent, and perception. I let him speak his opinions, still with fresh new-car smell. I paper-punch holes in his thought process, which he enjoys because he is hungry for challenge, especially when it is offered in a setting where he is trusted. Veins of interesting, observant, and wry commentary run through his conversations. I appreciate and enjoy our discussions.
And yet, he is compelled to annoy and fluster his sisters, constantly. He loves them fiercely, but cannot seem to stop interrupting their actions, barging into their conversations, talking over them, touching/poking/tickling them. He understands they are people, I think. He worries for them and about them. He wants them to like him, to interact with him in ways differently than they interact with pests.
He’ll push until I lose it, then text me within the hour, “Hi, mommy! I’m sorry. You were right. I love you!” Because of this, I have begun the process of stepping back from his decisions. I give him my thoughts and an explanation, then leave it up to him. There are fewer tantrums this way. And more mistakes. I’m not sure if this is harder on him or me.