Blackness. Silence. Robbie scrunches further under his blankets, shores up the external pillow walls, and slaps his hands over his ears. He feels his stomach coiling in anxiety, sharp pains stretching out from its twisted centre. His ears, hot and sore from their fleshy earmuffs, still ring from the battle. Behind the door, an inferno of alcohol-fuelled rage and discontent contort his parents into vitriol spewing demons that pitch and claw at each other, shrieking their hatred, their unhappiness. Outside the window lies the Great Beyond.
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.
We are Janus. We came into the world together, two faces one mind. I am she, and she is me. Our parents call us Jane and Jen, but they never know who they’re talking to. Jane and Jen born in June. We toy with them. We have played this game for as long as we can remember. We tried it first when we realised that they could not tell which of us was Jane and which Jen. Now, even they call us Janus.
Today, in the aftermath of a violent, unhinged man holding people hostage in the Lindt chocolate cafe in Sydney, killing two, causing physical injuries to more, and unseen psychological damage to so many more, I am heartsore. In the aftermath of a young, unarmed African American man being shot to death, ostensibly for changing lanes illegally while driving, by Houston police, I’m searching for the humanity in human beings. In the aftermath of the Taliban attack today on a school in Pakistan killing 141 people, I am despondent.
When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.
~ Abraham Lincoln
A strange thing happens between mothers and sons in the teen years. The chubby fingers of childhood loose their grip, the adoring eyes fall less often on you, the gifts of rocks and sticks and feathers become fewer. A distance insinuates itself between you.
Last week we went on a road trip to Florida (you can find posts on that here if you’re interested) and it was wonderful. But along the way, we acquired a flat tyre on my car. So yesterday I called the lovely serviceman to come and change my tyre over for the spare (I have an SUV, I’m not jacking that sucker up to change a tyre by myself when I pay insurance premiums, so spare me the “you could have changed your own tyre” speech — I’ve changed plenty in my life), and today I had to go get the original repaired or replaced.
Today I came across this blog. It is both a collection of letters/notes from adult women to their teenage selves (or to teenage women generally), and a place where teens can seek answers to questions (either by asking directly, or by reading the many stories already posted).