I’m not writing about that black hole kids go into when they become teenagers. The black hole called music and ear buds and video games. That black hole called a closed bedroom door.
My oldest stayed what I called pre-eye roll for a long time, long after many of his friends were openly expressing distain for the adults in their lives and other things teenagers snarl at. So I took it as a good sign and I let myself believe that it wouldn’t happen to us.
And then one night, very shortly before turning 14, we asked him to leave the table over some sort of rudeness. He walked across the living room, stopped in the middle, did that offhand shoulder shrug only teenagers can do, sighed, muttered under his breath, turned around and rolled his eyes.
Oh, shit. We have a teenager.
I’m not writing about how painful it is to have this happen. To have this person who was once a little body I could pick up and hold, who would sit on my hip like a monkey, legs gripping my waist, become distant. Who would climb into my lap for reading or eating. Who would squinch close on the couch while watching TV or any old time.
I’m not writing about how badly I want to knock on his door during the hours he’s home holed up in his room, not to check on what he’s doing but just to re-establish contact; about how my heart feels cleaved in two when he’s dismissive, surly, blaming. How afraid I am, telling myself this is life with teenagers. Or about the vast confusion I feel as to how to approach him, wondering which direction each interaction will turn. Some moments he wants to hug me, tells me he loves me, other moments he snarls and dismisses me with “I need time alone.” No one told me how much the unpredictability of teenage moods would throw me off.
I’m not saying how hard it is to love during these times, how badly I want to lash back out at him, how hard it is not to take it personally, how hard it is to remain rational, how hard it is not to say mean things out of my own anger and sorrow.
I’m not discussing how badly my faith in my parenting has been shaken. How badly I second guess myself in each interaction with him. Did I give in too easily? Should I have compromised on that?
I’m not writing about how often I agree to pick him up from school instead of having him take the bus because it’s time when we get to talk, free of other distractions, free of others. Or how much I love being in the car with him at night on the way home from martial arts when he waxes poetic about how much the practice inspires him. Or talks about songs he loves and what he finds important in them.
I’m not talking about the delicate dance required to step back and let him grow, let him become himself; about the constant internal turnings I go through as I decide which things to take a stand on and which to leave up to him.
I’m not writing about the struggle to see my child for who he is and not who I want him to be. About the challenge of allowing his uniqueness to unfold instead of trying to make him into me, into my husband.
I am not writing about trying to trust his unfolding instead of forcing him into some predetermined vision of him I’ve developed. I am not writing about the vast amount of uncertainty I feel about what’s “right,” about how much control to relinquish.
I am not writing about how pure and sweet the early days of parenting are. And the seeping sadness as it gets tainted by conflict and uncertainty and frustration. About the longing for the purity of those early days before I made mistakes and yelled. Before he said “No!” before I said, “Yes!” Before he said “Yes” and I said “No.”
I am not writing about the time he and my husband had an argument and he stomped out the door at 10 pm. About how he didn’t come back for an hour. How my husband said, “Don’t go after him, that’s what he wants.” And how I said, “I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t look for him and something happens.” How I found him walking down the highway in the pitch black dark. About how terrified I felt.
I am not writing about the vast vulnerability I feel at the knowledge that I must let go of my kids, that I cannot protect them entirely, that I have to let them make mistakes and then help them learn from their choices.
I am not writing about the absolute ache in my heart over how much I love them, how much I want the best for them, and how hard it sometimes seems to do what I think is right. How I can only do the best I can, with what I know at the time. About how there are no guarantees, about how this journey is always unfolding for all of us. About how I have to trust myself and my kids as we walk this path of becoming.