Thursday, October 1, 2009

Death by Teenage Boy

Don't you hate it when you're trying to have a nice moment, initiate an interesting conversation, or connect with one of your children, and all you get is a smart-alecky, flippant comment? Like they're throwing up some wall in your face with a huge yellow sign on it that reads, "Go ahead and get to me. I DARE YOU."

And the child is not trying to be mean or rude (though sometimes he is), he's just trying to get the laughs, and protect his vulnerable heart. I realize this, because shamefully, I was much the same way as a youth. Right at the climax of the moment, I'd bust it all up with some sarcastic or witty comment. I'm so regretful of that. And my punishment? Raise a child who does the same thing!

I get to feeling sometimes like nothing I say matters. He's not listening, or if he is, it's only to challenge me. Nothing I do has an impact. He's not the trusting I'll-take-your-word-for-it type, he's the I'll-see-for-myself type. And frankly, that scares me. Then we end up in a silent (and sometimes not-so-silent) battle of wills.

I get my way, but I never win.

It was so much easier when all I had to do was make sure he was bathed, and dressed, and fed. I mean, he's always been stubborn and strong-willed, but this testosterone stuff really complicates my life. He is pulling away, and yet he's challenging me to keep him close, to accept him. More experienced mothers of older boys tell me it's all natural, it's all normal, it's all fine.

I'm praying, "Please Lord, help me get this boy on a mission." I'd be lying if I claimed I don't fantasize about the letter home that says something like,

Dear Mom,
You were right, and I am so sorry.
Thank you so much.
I love you.

More experienced mothers tell me he's a good boy. He gets straight A's, he's 13 and almost an Eagle Scout. He's respectful to women, and capable. He's picked good friends and is responsible. He opens every door for me, and carries in the bags.

So what is my problem?

I guess it's facing the fact that he is pulling away, becoming a man. Facing the fact that I am not the main influence in his life anymore, and that this is the time when I have to trust that the foundation laid has been sufficient.

I think I have trust issues.

I just want all the best for him. I've been the stars in his eyes, and now it's some girl named AshleyMadisonEmilyNicoleSarah. Some girl who writes 'Sexy' on his arm in ballpoint pen, and I have to be the mean mom marching him to the sink with orders to wash it off, that we don't draw on our skin, and that 8th graders are not 'sexy', for heaven's sake, and you'd better be careful, young man.

And there I go again. I got my way. Total lost battle, though. Darn it. I think we both keep feeling like we just mess up all the time.

How come most of the questions he asks me necessitate "no" answers? ("Can I read Stephen King?" No. "Can I watch 'Braveheart'?" No. "Can I talk to girls on the phone?" No.)

How come he likes to challenge every single thing I say? No, seriously, every single thing.

How come he bugs every person in this house just to be a pain?

Can you tell? I'm not very good at this.

(Terri Holladay, if you're reading this, I really need an in-depth private email with wisdom about raising teenage boys!)


Andrea said...

I was feeling the same way today about my 3 year old girl.
I am reading a book called 10 days to a less defiant child. I'm learning some good things, but so far it's not less. Here's to hoping.
Sounds like you have a good, normal teenage boy.

Laura Kidd said...

I just happened on your blog and what you described is my son who is 14 1/2. I would like the answers also, so I will keep checking your comments to see if a wise mom out there can help us. I don't think either of our sons are defiant, they are just figuring out how to be men, but still need and want their moms, but just can't let you know that without looking like a baby. Thank you for so craftily worded exactly how I was feeling. A Mom in AZ

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog and the title got my attention...I think all of us moms of boys or girls wish for that letter to hear we are right and our children are sorry and that they love us! I have an adult son and have been on my knees since he was an infant asking for Gods wisdom and guidance, asking him to always watch over my son and guide him. Listen to what they have to say and don't always have an answer for them, is what I have learned to do with my son, wait for them to ask for your advice don't just give it to them. It is the hardest thing to do and thank God for sisters to listen to us when we need to vent what our kids had to tell us!! They will come around with a strong foundation no matter what rocks their world they always come back..just be patient.

Chris said...

Jenna...Don't give up. You may one day get that letter you want. I remember when Phil was a teenager we had an argument and he said some terrible things. I hesitated, not sure whether to respond to what he said or let it go and deal with the original issue. I let it go. Years later, we were reminiscing and I recalled that time. He was shocked. He did not remember having said what he did, and then came the sweetest words I'd heard in a long time, "I'm so sorry Mom." Tears. Only this time, they were tears of gratitude and his were not of anger but of appreciation. Hang in there...your guy sounds like he's doing just fine.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I keep thinking similar things about my 15 year old son. Then I remind myself that my brothers were pretty awful at that age and they turned out oaky. I just take it one day at a time and pray for guidance and strength. Good luck. Wish I had some earth shattering advice for you. :)

Anonymous said...

Pray with him. When you want to choke him (but don't) Get on your knees and hold his hand and THANK your Heavenly Father for the amazing blessing that he is. The Holy Ghost will bear witness to him that you love him with all your heart. This witness is stronger than any words you have to say. I have two teenage boys, 18 and 16. I know about death by teenagers. But this really works. Good Luck.

Turleygirl said...

Ya think you could forward that private in-depth email from Terri to me. Raising teenage boys is certainly a challenge.

Anonymous said...

I always thought one of the major reasons children have parents is to use them as the vehicle to grow up and go live on their own. Parents responsibility....proper guidance with as little force as possible and not demanding perfection. A great book is "How Good Do We Have To Be?" by the Jewish Rabbi Harold Kushner.

Luisa Perkins said...

Welcome to my world. Oh, yes, I've prayed that prayer. Even though my boys are good, good boys.

Rachel Sue said...

Good luck! And when you get it all figured out, let me know, will you? I'll be there in about 10 years and I'm going to need all the help I can get!

Alejandra said...

I have no advice, with a 5 & 6 year old boys you are making me nervous!!
I have to say he is such a helpful, respectful, nice, kind, hard working, smart, good looking young man. You have done a wonderful job at raising him.

Saint Holiday said...

He will make some wrong choices, but because of the spiritual education he has received from his loving mother, he will be able to feel shame, and he will repent. He will recognize the darkness that comes as the Spirit withdraws, when he chooses to do something unworthy, and he will not want to endure that unpleasant sense of being for long. You have enlivened his conscience, and I do not think you can do much more for a soul with free will or that Heavenly Father expects anything more from a mother. I admire you, and I love you more than you can imagine.


Anonymous said...

Your dad's words are exactly what I would of said to you!
I love ya,

Anonymous said...

If parents cannot handle their children's mistakes, if they have trouble loving their children despite their imperfections, it may be because they need their children to be perfect to reflect credit on themselves.