*This article is a 3 minute read
I've been feeling nostalgic the last couple of months. My son just turned thirteen and every milestone birthday has that effect on me. I often long for his early days of dinosaurs, and trains when I was a rock star in his world. Instead, I was feeling the subtle tremors of a rebellious teen quake!
Why wasn't he listening to me?
He's not doing what I want him to do.
Why isn't he a self-starter?
Was I raising a monster?
Could I be doing a better job?
When you raise your child to be an independent thinker don't be surprised if they have an opinion!
We had a pretty busy summer- camps, family vacation etc., but this week we tried a new sports camp, and it was a disaster.
About thirty minutes after dropping off my son he sent me a text.
"How much did you pay for this camp?"
"Oh boy this couldn't be good," I thought.
"Everyone is younger than me and they're playing preschool games. Call the director," he texted me in full Karen mode.
I told him to play along and that eventually the camp would focus on sports. An hour later more of his text messages blew up my phone. "Mom it's daycare, did you call the director? You should get a refund! The coach is just sitting on the sidelines, and letting kids run around the park. I'm not learning anything."
I called the director who confirmed "Yes, it's mostly free play with an hour of sports." In his opinion, "Children shouldn't play team sports all day." I beg to differ, but I realized my son was advocating for himself and for me. He knew better and he didn't want me to get ripped off. We had signed up for two weeks at this camp. I got a refund, but then was left with the daunting prospect of two weeks without childcare before school started, a frightening prospect.
He ended up going to the office with his dad. He killed the first two days binge watching South Park. "Mom I'd rather be in school, work sucks!" He said in utter disgust over the phone. I sarcastically offered to put him back in the sports camp he rejected.
"Maybe you can make better use of your time by reading, drawing, or creating a cartoon with your animator app I suggested.
Day three proved to be better, and he found the gumption to create a cartoon online. He was in his zone, busy, happy and most of all not texting me with the voracity of a troll on Twitter, or X!
Years ago, my child's preschool teacher advised parents to "Embrace every age and stage!" She gave the example of taking your child to the Zoo. At first, they're in the carriage taking it all in because everything is new. Then they're holding your hand and they can say the animals' names. Then it's what do the animals eat? Where do they live? Then they're running laps around the zoo barely paying attention to the animals. Next they're interested in endangered animals and animal conservation. What she described at the time I was experiencing. My son then four would run laps around the zoo and it drove me nuts. I was exhausted and contemplated giving up my membership. He didn't seem to care about the animals anymore. He needed a treadmill, but her words that day resonated with me, and they still ring true today. "Embrace every age and stage," but what does that mean?" These are phases, they pass, kids test their limits of expansion, and retract to conform to acceptable widths.
Parenthood is so fleeting, I thought some of these stages would last forever. I thought my son would be a baby forever because prior to his birth time stood still, now it's warp speed. He's in his last year of Middle School, in a few years he'll want the keys to the car, what's next a destination wedding? So yes, I tell myself to enjoy the sarcastic remarks, the loud rap music, and critiques of my attempts at baking lattice pies. They're actually funny and make for amusing blog posts.
Someday We'll Laugh About This!
Occasionally I climb a mountain with my son, and it goes something like this- He's excited to climb a new mountain and pack our knapsacks with snacks for the much-anticipated picnic. We start climbing and about a quarter of the way up the mountain he cries that he's tired and he just wants to be home in bed with a bowl of ice cream watching Disney Plus. "Mom I hate you you're the worst mom ever!" He would scream with his last breath. I would yell at him to keep going, not to give up all while feeling the burn, and doubting my own stamina and overall physical health. Along our route he would moan and ask if we arrived at the top. "Does this look like a peak keep moving!" I would yell in a military colonel tone. At the top of the mountain he would smile with accomplishment taking in the beauty of the view, experiencing the moment. We were on the same page in that instant connecting as souls. The walk down is always quiet. No more moaning, no more "Mom you're horrible for making me do this." It's quiet enough to hear the dry leaves crunch under our shoes. We would occasionally see a lone coyote in the distance reminding us that it's time to pick up our pace. The day would end with us reflecting on our time in nature. The world was left behind, and so were our differences.