Friday, February 08, 2008

Storm Ahead...

I was talking to a friend last night that said she had started a new job 9 days ago and immediately her two young kids got sick and she’s been home with them.

Ah, I remember the days.

My kids don’t get sick very often anymore.

They were so sweet when they were little with a fever. You just wanted to hold them the whole time. You feel so bad for them, their listlessness.

Then they get older.

Case in point, last night.

You see, I know my friend with the two sick little ones who can only promise her new employer really, really, she’s a good worker and will do the great job she was hired to do, that someday, it’ll all be different.

It will be different, Susan. How? Well…

Jeanine and I went out last night. Had some lovely oysters down at B&G’s, the single best place in Boston to have a few shucked for you. We met up with Walter and another friend, ordered plates and plates of oysters from Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Washington State. We topped it off with crab beignets with a light mustard sauce, slice of orange, fennel and olive. Add a couple glasses of a great Gruner Veltliner- crisp, bright, a hint of citrus to match the oyster’s perfectly- and we were in heaven.

Walking back to the car, hand in hand, feeling the love, things were looking good.

Guess who is up at 11PM when we walk in the door.


Now, I know I’ve been picking on Ben lately. I love my son. I do. He is a good kid, with a big heart and can be the kindest soul at times.

And then there was last night.

Who hasn't finished his homework?


His half hour on the computer had finished (then it locks him out) because he used it to listen to iTunes, and then when he needed to type his paper, no luck. The baby sitter suggests he writes it up by hand, so he can type it in the morning- oh no. That won't do.

Zachary- ever the middle child- offers his time (they all get 1/2 hour). Ben said, NOOOOOOOOOO.

11PM, there he sits, on his bed, screaming at Jeanine that it is HER fault because SHE locks the computer...

I honestly think I am going to need a Valium drip to get through the teen years. What the hell am I going to do when Zachary starts acting this way?

Another friend said to me today, You know, we’re all working on time management skills. He’s only 12. Take it easy. Work with him and remember some of this is his way of getting attention from you. It’s that push pull of adolescence.

When I calm, like after running three miles or swimming a mile, I get it. I do. I know he’s trying to figure out how to be popular, how to keep acne away and how to do his homework.

Homework is definitely last on the list.

I was 12 once.

I’m trying to find ways to help him negotiate his new, unfolding world of responsibility and to let him have enough freedom to make his own mistakes. I can’t save him from teen angst nor do I particularly want to. I think it’s healthy to struggle. I think we learn frustration tolerance through not having everything go smoothly.

He’s 12. I can’t keep holding his hand. It scares me when parents don’t let kids fail or try to mend every hurt feeling. Sometimes, things suck. They hurt.

And, eventually, it gets better.

I know he’s trying to figure it all out. So am I. I have never had a 12-year-old child before. I certainly don’t know how to do the math they do now. I’m not always the best at time management either.

But when it’s 11PM at night and I’m full of romantic notions of getting to spend some time with my wife, it’s really hard to be calm, even and know the right thing to say.

Jeanine told him to go to bed; we were not having one more moment of discussion. She told him she would set her alarm for 5:30AM- and did- so he could finish in the morning.

Tears streaming down his face, she shut the door. He loudly proclaimed, from behind the door, how much he hated the two of us.

I miss the times when their struggle was simple. They had a fever, or a cold, and snuggled up next to you on the couch, just wanting to be held.

I could make the world better with some Advil, a blanket, and the comforting sound of my heart beating, their head resting on my chest.

I’m clueless as to what I can do to help my son grow into a healthy young man. I’m navigating my own stormy waters of unknown, just as he is. When do I let go? When do I hold tight?

And when do I need to realize it is completely out of my hands…

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Anonymous Laura said... will ALWAYS want to hold on to them, always want to make things better, always want to cave in just because its easier... matter how old they get.

Oh, and just remember this also...It will ALWAYS be YOUR fault!

9:31 PM  
Blogger Ulla said...

Great post! I have a similarly raging 12 year old daughter.
My ten cents of advice: let Jeanine handle this as much as possible.
What Ben don't need is a parent whose feelings are in just as big a turmoil as his when his are in turmoil.
In this household I'm the one with the (slightly) cooler head. And I can see how it doesn't help at all when my husband gets on the carousel with my daughter. Someone has to stand next to it and calmly signal: the world is NOT spinning, you only think so. Jeanine can do that, I think, from what I've heard about her.
I agree completely about not sweeping every stone from their path. They have to learn to deal with them in the supportive environment of home.

3:53 AM  
Blogger Sue J said...

It sounds to me like you're doing a great job, following your instincts. When you look at back at adolescence, it's really amazing that we all turn out to be the moderately well-adjusted adults that we are. But somehow we do. And with parents who are a whole lot more clueless than you might feel right now.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous donald said...

the other evening i spent some time with some straight friends, and while there, their 16yo daughter had an unbelievable meltdown. you may still have several more years of this kind of behavior. good luck!!

8:19 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

yes, ulla, jeanine is way calmer but often lets all the boys rage at her in a way that is so disrespectful it's hard to see.

then I step in and say DON'T TALK TO YOUR MOTHER THAT WAY.

no no no, donald, please don't tell me that. because by then? Zachary will be in the throws. and you know Jake can't stand to be left out...

8:32 AM  
Blogger Ulla said...

I've heard from at mother with a daughter in my daughters class AND with two older daughters, that right now is the worst time. When they turn 14 they generally get a lot more sensible.
Of course that probably requires that we deal with them in a positive way now, or it might go on.
Doesn't Jeanine feel that you undercut her authority when you step in like that? None of my business, I know...

10:20 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

I don't think so but I'll ask. to me, I'm trying to be supportive of her. sometimes all calm is not necessarily good.

they all tend to have far more backtalk to her than they ever consider giving me.

I just have to do the look.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Ulla said...

Oh, yeah, the LOOK. I do that, too, and it works :-)

The point is that Jeanine should be the one to decide where the lines are drawn in regard to her.

Or the two of you could decide on a universal speech code together, make the kids aware of it and enforce it equally, no matter if the kids abuse a mother or a brother.
I agree with you that they shouldn't abuse anyone verbally. It will do them no good in school or in their own future homes.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Marie said...

I completely get this too, also having a 12 year old son - possibly less in the thick of things than yours, I think, but not by much!

I just wanted to let you know that you're not the only one that finds it hard to be calm, even if you know that of course that's the best way to handle it. We're only human, right?

If I blow my stack when I'm frustrated by his behaviour though, I always try to go back later when we're both calm and talk about it. That way he understands what I really think, I get where he's coming from, and he does seem to try to do better (although he doesn't always succeed).

Plus, since I model poor behaviour when I get feisty, I like to even it out by modelling good behaviour later. Talking sensibly does that, I think. Of course, I've only got one and you have three...

Don't sweat it! I'm sure you're doing a good job. :)

8:32 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

marie, I must say, that is one thing I do, and do often.

say I was wrong.

I can't always say the right thing- often I don't. but I do apologize for losing it.

and ulla? jeanine said sometimes it feels supportive and sometimes it doesn't.


8:39 PM  
Blogger Ulla said...

I'll try to explain how I see it - obviously I don't know how Jeanine feels: it sends a signal along the lines of "your doing it wrong, I'll take over", or "you're clearly out of your depth here, I'll deal with it".
I bet it feels supportive when you step in and support whatever she is saying and doing and help to enforce it.
But sometimes she is probably trying to zig, and you step in and zag, confusing everybody and - worst of all - signal to the kids that she is not the one who lays down the law.

3:34 AM  
Blogger Suzy said...

It is tough very tough. The dumb ass stuff my two older teens just pulled half wanting to get them out of it so they wouldn't suffer the other letting them feel the pain of their actions. It is just as hard on you as them i think.

I love you and you are doing an excellent job as a mom both of you are. You have great kids that are very lucky to have such involved moms who let them be who they are.

Hey it could be worse you could be me lol.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Ms. Moon said...

When my kids were teenagers I had a very unbreakable rule in place- they could THINK whatever they wanted to about me but they couldn't say certain things. For instance- "I hate you." I told them quite sincerely that I deserved their respect whether or not they felt like I did. I remembered all those nights of holding them when they were sick. And being there for them every time they needed me. As I'm sure you do.
And you know what? We all say things that we regret and wish we could take back. So if there's a rule in place that they just cannot say certain things, they don't have to go through that regret.
Works for everyone.
And you and your wife deserve to be treated with respect.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Ulla said...

Hear, hear, Ms. Moon.
We have exactly the same rule: your thoughts and feelings are quite legitimate, whatever they are, but no name calling, no swear words and no derogatory remarks like "you're stupid!" to ANYONE - friends, siblings or parents.
Actually, it applies to our marriage, too. We have very, very rarely said things we needed to apologize for to each other, for that very reason. It so works. Politeness is severely underrated I think. It's as if people think - we're family, so we don't need any manners.
Of course, when the kids are small, and their vocabulary limited, they have to have a bit of leeway. Then you are just lucky if they don't bite you.

2:07 AM  

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