pre-teen: a boy in blurry focus

It happened like someone had flipped on a switch.

At one point there was a boy who wanted to tell me everything and who thought that facebook was stupid and his parents were pretty cool.

And then, this summer, Liam became a pre-teen. He’s always been precocious (he was even born ahead of schedule), so I guess it’s no surprise that now, at the age of twelve-and-a-half, he’s verging on sixteen.

I thought, a long time ago, when I watched other moms shop for darling little frocks and furbelows for their girl-babies while I pawed through yet another stack of navy-blue trousers for my boy-babes, that at least when the teen and pre-teen years hit, I’d be safe: boys, I thought, don’t really “go through” adolescence. They just get older. Sure, there might be skin problems, perhaps the occasional illegal substance, but all that moodiness and navel-gazing and emoting?  Not in this boy-dominated household.

Yeah, I thought. Those mothers of daughters are gonna suffer, while I, with my boringly dressed boys, will sail through their teen-age years.

Yeah. You’re going to be wanting to use the word hubris here.

Upstairs in his room (door firmly closed) is a boy whose headphones sometime in late June became surgically attached to his ears, whose favorite phrase is “you don’t understand” (with a close second being “fine in a tone that implies anything but), and whose emotions veer from joy to rage with all the precision of a drunk driver trying to navigate the Pacific Coast Highway.

It’s exhausting.

Somehow he’s perfected the lip curl, the eye roll, the tiny puff of exasperated breath that I thought were the exclusive purview of adolescent girls; suddenly he tells me nothing, facebook is totes cool and we, his parents, are stupid.

God knows after what I put my mother through in my teen-age years, I probably deserve some lip-curling and eye-rolling. Karma, as they say, is a bitch. I’m still apologizing to my mom for my behavior, although now we’re both so old that neither of us really remember what the hell I did.

Well, okay. Some of the things we remember. But that’s a post for another time.

Dear reader, I understand that Liam wants to feel independent; I know he’s trying on some new attitudes to see how they fit, just like he’s trying to find jeans that aren’t too baggy on his skinny hips. I know he doesn’t need a friend but a parent, and I’m pretty much comfortable with being the mom who says “no.” I’ve done my reading, I’m paying attention (yes, I troll his  facebook page for inappropriate content and never in my life have I been so bored on facebook because good lord, twelve-year olds are dull).

But lately I feel like I did when he was a baby, when there I was, confronted with this utterly alien being who had needs and wants and what the hell did I know about babies, anyway, other than that I had a devout wish to not fuck up.

I’ve still got that same wish–please don’t let me fuck up this parenting thing–but all the rules and rhythms I’ve learned over the last twelve years don’t seem quite to apply any more.  The baby not only has needs, the baby has opinions and isn’t afraid to express them. (Is it just me, or did kids used to have fewer opinions? Or maybe it’s just that their opinions mattered less.)

Husband does a little eye-rolling of his own these days, when I get going about Liam’s behavior and truth be told, Liam is mostly just wicked irritating; it’s not like he’s sporting gangsta life tatts or pilfering from the liquor cabinet. He is, after all, only twelve and still more interested in League of Legends, Arsenal, and…well, facebook, than he is in anything else. He still sits on my lap; he sometimes even gives me unsolicited hugs.

If I’m honest with myself, I suspect that much of my annoyance comes not from anger but from a kind of sadness, almost an anticipation of loss. When I’m gritting my teeth and saying “Take.Off.Your.Headphones.Now.” what I’m really saying is “don’t grow up too fast, don’t leave us behind so soon.” I think we are saying good-bye to your childhood, my sweet Liam, and it sort of breaks my heart.


IMG_0422yes, I know the picture is out of focus. it’s a you know, metaphor


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6 Responses to pre-teen: a boy in blurry focus

  1. Rupert Neil Bumfrey (@rupertbu) September 26, 2013 at 12:39 am #

    Well, that certainly caused me to swallow.

    Do all parents go through similar feelings, I hope they do, as you do care.

    Please do continue to care and look in the mirror, Liam will be all the better for your introspection.
    Rupert Neil Bumfrey (@rupertbu) recently posted..Preparing for the Next Great Ukrainian Economic Crisis: Lessons Learned from 2008 – Opinion – News – Ukraine Business OnlineMy Profile

    • Deborah Quinn September 28, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

      I think all parents go through a version of these feelings, with greater or lesser degrees of yelling and door slamming, in between heartstring tugging. It’s a wild ride. I’m exhausted and he’s only kid #1.

  2. Arnebya October 2, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    I grit my teeth with you, lamenting the continued age progression of each of mine, especially the soon-to-be 13-year-old. I have just over a month to prepare for that. Liam and Chobe are at an age I remember yet feel totally unacquainted with. I want to be the hip mom, the one she talks to, the one she confides in. I can take also being the mom who understands (and says OK) to leave me alone, I have nothing to say, school was FINE, everything’s FINE, please stop talking to me and for the love of all that is good with syrup, do not speak to me in public.

    Please don’t let me fuck this up.

    • Deborah Quinn October 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

      Ah, thank you for that comment. I feel so utterly blindsided by this new person emerging in front of me and I toggle (daily) between wanting to hug my no-longer-baby and wanting to shake him and say CUT THE CRAP. Whew. By the time he’s eighteen I’m going to be exhausted.

  3. Michelle Longo October 6, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    Yet again, I read about your boys knowing this is my future. My almost 7 year old is already with the eye rolling and the mom-you-are-so-stupid signs but he really is still a baby so I can handle it. But, 12? Goodness. I don’t think 5 years is enough time to learn to handle 12.
    Michelle Longo recently posted..Wellness Wednesday Week 8My Profile

    • Deborah Quinn October 7, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      Yeah. Twelve is feeling like a lot, I have to say. I hate reading parenting books because mostly they just make me feel like a (bigger) failure, but I have to say, I am starting to feel in need of SOME kind of advice. “Choose your battles” is really … well, it’s just that there are so many battles to choose from! It’s like going shoe shopping but instead of shoes, it’s things-that-piss-me-off! Oh what fun.

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