There are certain known phenomenons in parenting that are unavoidable and practically cliché. You know when you have an infant, you’ll be exhausted from the pure shock of having another helpless being depend on you, combined with intense lack of sleep. You know when they start walking you have to baby-proof the house and prevent them from swallowing dirt.
Everyone knows when you get to the teen years, your child will go through puberty, pull away, and generally think you’re an idiot. It’s a rite of passage.
But knowing it and living it are two different things.
I recently described my 15-year-old to a friend– with haughtiness, humor, and a twinge of guilt– as “unbearable.” It’s somewhat true, but more of a plea for sympathy from a parent who has not yet experienced the unbridled joy that comes with raising a teenager.
Jacob’s always been precocious and mature, but those traits have only intensified, creating a pompous, condescending pubescent who views me as nothing more than a sub par Uber driver, and our home as a bed and breakfast, with very annoying proprietors and guests.
Here’s how I know he’s hit the teen years with full gusto:
— In his mind, every word that exits my mouth is the most annoying thought on the face of the planet. In fact, anything anyone in the family says gnaws at him like an itch on a broken arm under a cast. The other day he complained that Aden’s voice was too high. “How can you stand to listen to him!” he hissed at me in the car. It took all my strength and patience to muster up a courteous tone as I reminded him that his own voice had the same tenor just 4 months ago.
— He’s rarely around. He’s like a big star who makes cameo appearances now and then. Oh look, there he is curling his lip at me as he grabs a banana before he leaves for school. There he is again barreling through the back door, heading straight for his room to do homework with the door closed and expletive-laced music blaring. Was that him I saw running in to change clothes between a sleepover and a football game in the park? Can’t be sure, that guy has grown so tall in the last few months!
— He eats like an NFL linebacker. He takes 2 or 3 helpings of dinner, and snacks constantly. I spend hundreds of dollars at the grocery store each week and in 4 days, the cupboard is bare. I fill up literally every inch of the shopping cart at Trader Joe’s and the clerk often asks me if I’m having a party. (“Nope, just Tuesday!” I say sheepishly)
— All my skin products have been disappearing. He’s always been fixated on his hair but now that puberty has kicked in, he’s focused on zapping pimples as soon as they appear. He’s also brushing his teeth more than ever before. Must be for the ladies, because he’s never shown such an acute interest in personal hygiene.
— He’s sleeping late and occasionally putting himself to bed early. This is one habit I don’t mind. He’s actually more aware of his need for sleep and treasures it.
— He talks only in absolutes. As in: “Everyone has an iPhone and gets to stay out until midnight!” and “No one wears jeans mom!”
— He’s become secretive. He used to tell me friend gossip, girls he liked, and share his favorite music and TV shows, but now he’s a vault. I’m a journalist and naturally curious person… and his mother! It’s killing me.
I know this too shall pass. That’s why every time he does something age-appropriate I try to take a deep breath and smile. It aint easy.
I know someday– sooner than I’d like to admit– he’ll be away at school and I’ll miss being taken for granted. That will truly be unbearable.