I knew this day would come. I did. I just didn’t think it would hurt quite this much.
My son, my beautiful and gorgeous son who for many years has been the guide I strive to be more like has… he’s… well… he’s becom a teenager.
Yeah, yeah, I have two teenagers. But one of them wasn’t a normal teenager. He was calm, cool, collected, very even-keeled. He walks away from conflict, ignores people who attempt to push his buttons (okay – he ignores his brother), he always has something nice to say.
Or rather – he DID.
I’ve seen it coming, but like any good parent who has already lived through the – well – hell that is raising a teenage boy, I ignored it. I pretended it was the stress of his brother’s recent injury that was riding on his fraying edges as it had done mine.
Then… then came that one Saturday morning. It was the day that I learned, I was not some sort of miracle parent who would raise the perfect teenager.
The morning was cold. The house was tense. The dogs were barking – but that was mostly because no one had remembered to feed them yet that morning. Nick had hobbled out of his room on crutches, and it seemed, that was the key to unraveling 13-years of what had previously been… unique.
His brother’s crutches, it seemed, were too loud. They were in his way. They were stinky.
They were the start of a 5’3’’ 13-year-old brother taking on his temporarily one-legged 6’1’’ 18-year old brother – brand new ACL be damned. It was on. Sure, he jumped to try and punch his brother in the face. And okay, maybe it was bad form for Nick to use his crutch to keep Justin just out of reach. In the end, none of it mattered because I can’t afford a 2nd surgery for my oldest son simply because his crutches were too loud.
So, pulling Justin out of the house by his ear (literally – who knew cartoons would teach me about children?), I pushed him into the car and we headed to the grocery store. We didn’t need groceries, and truth be told, I didn’t have money for them either – but I needed to separate the boys – and find out why my normally Buddha-like son had suddenly turned into the seventh Samurai.
We sat in the parking lot in silence for easily fifteen minutes. Trust me, where Justin is concerned, this is a record. Finally, I took a deep breath and asked what I thought was an easy enough question: “What is going on?”
That was when he lost it. Not lost it really, but he did tear up. He did hiccup a time or three. He did dig the palms of his hands into his eyes before admitting, “I’m just out of control. I’m angry. Not at Nick’s crutches, just angry. At everything. All the time. It just happened. Mom, I think my brain is out of control. I think this is how Nick feels. Oh my God! I think I’m turning into Nick! Make it stop!”
Yeah, I’d had a similar conversation with Nick only about five years before. Now, I don’t doubt that his brother’s massive amount of attention these days is eating at him – heck – it’s eating at me. But I’m also certain that no parent’s luck is as good as mine has been. One teenager is officially 18 and ready to start the next chapter of his life. The other teenager… well… he’s about to make me reread this whole teenage attitude chapter all over again.
At least, this time, I have some sort of experience to help back me up. What about you? Was it any easier the second time around? Did your lessons from the first kid help you with the second, or are they completely and totally different?
Wendy Syler Woodward has been a single parent since 2002, with two boys ages 13 and 18. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and has returned to college for her B.A. Follow her on Twitter @WendySyler.
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