Parenting teenaged boys is very like parenting toddlers. Or being trapped in a hall of mirrors. Neither adult, nor child, but both at once, they leap between fiery extremes, singeing me and leaving them confused.
Mornings are crammed with distractions and moving at glacial pace, while evenings are a tussle into bed, bathing-optional, clothes, the fallen soldiers strewn on the battleground of their bedroom floor, and emotions flung hither and thither on a hormonal bungee chord. Blue-blinking screens now replace the minutiae obsession of their toddlerhood. The tiny plastic accoutrement of Action Man, the pebble found, the filthy feather clutched possessively in chubby fingers, have given way to the phone or the game controller clenched in a vice-grip.
Tempers fray with head-spinning speed, and a simple excursion to buy school stationery becomes a pantomime of if—you—hit—me—one—more—time—I’ll-punch—you—so—hard—stop—crowding—me—I’m—not—crowding—you—I’m—just—trying—to—walk—here—no—you’re—not—you’re—deliberately—getting—in—my—way. We regularly perform for audiences in a variety of venues. Should you be passing a local supermarket or office supply store, do drop in for the matinee. You’ll know us by the sniggering audience, the stage projection of teenage voices, and the background track of hissed threats from me. There are seconds, moments, breaths as my heart shudders at the vitriol spat from between lips stretched in escalating rage, that I appreciate those animals that abandon their young to their own devices shortly after birth.
The same incensed outrage that consumed them as toddlers, at the injustice of their favourite toy being snatched from their loving grasp, revisits now over whose turn it is on the PlayStation™, or more pathetically, who started watching the flavour of the minute YouTube gamer first. The CEO and I have taken up eye rolling as a full time pursuit. We’re pretty sure we’ll win Olympic gold if there’s ever an event.
As quickly as those tempers burst hotly into flame, searing all who dare to intervene, they are extinguished again, leaving me dizzy and bewildered. The same children that barely tolerated each other’s existence just a few short minutes ago, will curl together on the couch, hunch over the warm glow of a single phone, share one set of headphones, and chuckle over videos by their favourite vloggers. Or they’ll google truly awful pickup lines and read them aloud until we’re all in fits of laughter. Or they’ll divulge some deep-held intensely private thought or feeling, allowing me a brief glimpse into their internal worlds. Or they’ll make my heart glow by continuing to sweetly acquiesce to the bedtime ritual we’ve had since they were born, that they’ve participated in since they could talk. Whether in muttered bursts when they’re staying at a friend’s place, or with gusto when at home, they continue the ritual with me.
In the deepest recesses of my imaginings, I wonder if this is what it feels like to have bipolar disorder, this wrenching from hand-wringing worry to stomach-aching laughter. Do I wish for a more tempered existence? No. This is the testing ground for my boys to figure out who they will be, what kind of temperaments they will have as men. Without those nerve-wracking, will-they-come-to-blows arguments, the moments of heart-wobbling, tear-inducing closeness would be less precious. Those glimmers of unguarded affection are what make life with teenaged boys so very sweet.
Awww, so sweet. And yes, exasperating!
So so so exasperating!
Ha, “abandon their young.” What a gorgeously accurate portrait of parenting this is, Asha. It is instantly recognizable to any mother who moderates the battlefield. Wonderfully done!
Oh Jenny! Thank you. You’re always so generous.
I exist in the throes of toddlerhood, both dreading and anticipating the landscape ahead. Thank you for this touching and entertaining glimpse into my future. 🙂
Also, the fights over Playstation reminded me of a moment from my childhood. My sister once hit the reset button during my brother’s turn playing Nintendo. He believed it was purposeful & she insisted it was an accident. He pounced on her with such force that he broke her collarbone. They are now in their thirties and the best of friends.
So what you’re telling me is that I should expect more broken bones, but shouldn’t lose hope for my children? I can live with that 😀
Don’t kiss those toddler years goodbye too soon. Teens are very like toddlers, but more arms, legs and hairy bits everywhere.
Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your fabulous recollection! I hope to see that incorporated in a future blog post.
This is such a great post.
I swear I thought I was a pretty awesome teenaged daughter. Maybe I should ask my mom for her side of the story. It’s been a decade yet every moment is still crystal clear. A wonderful narration Asha!
Hahaha! Yes, Prajakta, just check with your Mum on her perspective of what you were like as a teenager. There certainly appears to be a gap between my tecollections of the angelic ideal I was, and my Mum’s recollections of my teen years!