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.


11 thoughts on “Contradiction

  1. I can certainly relate to what you’re going through. Our children grow up way too fast and yet it’s wonderful to watch all of the phases they go through. The hard part is letting the maturity happen in its own time. Only thing I noticed is alluded should be eluded (and yes, I looked it up before commenting because I wasn’t 100% sure of the difference myself)
    Jolan recently posted…Grandma’s StoryMy Profile

  2. It felt wonderful reading about your journey as a mom to a twelve year old. I have a nephew who is 8, who is buddies with me, gives me tips on how I must do certain things as well as respects my inputs or suggestions. I know, that once he hits the dreaded teens, things are going to change. Our equation will change, the way he interacts with me will change, too. I brace myself for this impending change and hope for the best. But, until that change arrives, I want to soak myself in all the adoration and attention he showers on me whenever he is with me!
    Shilpa Gupte recently posted…A food fable from my childhood memories. GuestPost by Shalzmojo.My Profile

  3. Parenting is such a beautiful challenge, and it sounds like you are doing an amazing job at it. I love some of the little details, like his poetry about you (heart melt) and the bit about how you think he knows his sisters are also people – this made me laugh out loud. You’ve painted a nice picture of your son.
    Danielle Dayney recently posted…These MountainsMy Profile

  4. I love the flow of this and images like “this person who was once the smallest part of me, is everything in the world” and how his face hasn’t hardened yet.
    The beginning stages of puberty are the hardest I think, for both kids and their parents. I have half an essay swirling around on a similar topic, but just couldn’t squeeze it in this week.
    Lovely piece!
    Margaret recently posted…Without WordsMy Profile

  5. Courtenay–I wish I could put my finger on it, but there’s something about the way you write that speaks directly to me, like sitting across the table from an old friend. I find myself nodding along and feeling so much less alone as a parent. <3
    lisa recently posted…The Not So Silent NightMy Profile

  6. Certainly harder on you, I think. To him, this is just life. For you, the process is clear as day. You see where he was before and you can make informed guesses about where he will land.

  7. I love the way you structured this piece. No line breaks or stars to signify the change in time, no anchors other than your words. That’s real talent. I’m not a parent. Well, I’m a stepparent, but I never felt like one. But even so, it sounds like you’re doing the right things, even if at times you don’t feel you are. 🙂

  8. “Please grab some shredded cheese” and “I think she’s done with class now.” This is horrifying, of course.

    ^THIS. As the mother of two boys, 21 and almost-14, I can really related (except for the part about having sisters – ain’t none of that here). What Lisa said was spot on. Your writing really draws people into the story.
    Stacie Dalrymple recently posted…Stitch Fix #40 Review: September 2017My Profile

  9. You’ve captured the contradictions of adolescent boys perfectly! I especially love the imagery of, “I let him speak his opinions, still with fresh new-car smell.”

  10. Wow – you fully summed up my life right now, though mine is about 10 days shy of turning 11. That push pull, that “mom is stupid no wait she’s the best!” thing is dizzying. Fully agreeing on the way you have that sitting down with coffee style. I appreciate that dose of “this is what they do” this morning, because it’s already been A Morning, if you know what I mean!
    Michelle Longo recently posted…Light One Candle.My Profile

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