And in 6 more days, he will be a teenager.
My youngest child.
In a little less than a week, I will again have 2 teenagers in my house. Not that it’ll be all that different, simply because of a birthday, because I’ve been seeing the “teen attitude” blossoming in my son for months now.
And in a way, it makes me proud of him.
OnlySon has always been a little hesitant, a little shy. With family and close friends, he’s funny, quirky, sarcastic and talkative. But with outsiders, he’s very tentative. This is partly just who he is, who he’s always been. But it is also partly because of the way he was raised.
You see, my ex, OnlySon’s father, has always been extremely protective and sheltering when it comes to our son. If our child could have been wrapped in bubble wrap to prevent anything “bad” from happening, he would have done it. And the lectures that my ex used to give him about “stranger danger” were long and windy and full of horror stories about kids being kidnapped or harmed.
I would try to temper these stories, by saying how seldom they actually happened, and that kids need to be shown how to be independent, or they never learn how to be adults.
And there are times when I feel that I should’ve put my foot down harder, forced the issue. But you can’t change someone’s mind when they know they’re right. No matter what you say, it’s never going to switch their thinking.
But, it’s quickly becoming a moot point, as OnlySon has begun to stretch his wings out, and take those first fledgling steps toward becoming less dependent on others to watch out for him all the time.
Every time I hear my son say “I can do it myself” – I grin.
When I see him readily doing the things I ask of him, even if it means going all the way across the store, out of my sight, I am reassured.
The first time I told him he could go to the toy area in a store without me, he looked at me with a gleam in his eyes, and a smile on his face, as he asked “Really? You’ll let me go by myself?” I told him yes, as long as he stayed in that area, I would be there in a minute, and he could pick out a small thing (a reward for a job well-done on another day) on his own. The utter joy on his face was beautiful as he took off towards the toys, and he was exactly where I told him to be, when I got there 5 minutes after he left.
And, even when OnlySon rebels, I am still – in a way – comforted. Because rebellion in teenagers is their way of asserting their own opinions, their own ideas, and their own choices, into their lives. They are learning that they can make choices of their own for their lives. And that, to me, is a sure sign that he’s growing up.
So, when he argues with me, even if I’m irritated, I stop, and explain why I want him to do something. Not just because I want him to do it, or just because “I’m the grown-up and I say so”. Because those arguments are weak. They’re about power, not about teaching your kids why they should do what you ask of them.
And I want my son to grow up, knowing that he can think for himself. That he can make his own choices, influence outcomes, and change his world.
OnlySon’s a brilliant, funny, compassionate child. And I know that he’ll be a brilliant, funny, compassionate, independent man, someday.
And in 6 more days, he’ll be another step closer to that goal.
Go, OnlySon! And yes, you still have to do what I say.