My oldest boy has always been a sensitive soul. I’d share the stories confirming this, but he’s now 13 and it has all become privileged information. You see, once the switch is flipped you cannot go back. We have entered a whole new world here and I decided to go straight to the source to try to figure out how to navigate these teen waters with my son.
So, folks, I am able to bring you the insider’s guide to the teenage brain. He briefly spilled his guts to me when I asked him how he needed us to parent him during these next five years. Please note I have permission to share these words, and only these words.
Here’s how it began . . .
Me: Boy, what do you need from us as parents? How can we do our job better now that you are older?
Boy: Hmmm . . . good question, Mom. I think the biggest thing is giving me boundaries.
I do a happy dance inside my head because well done me, right? He wants boundaries? Good grief why am I even asking, we’re clearly already nailing it!
Me: Good one! I know it makes kids feel safe to know their limits. So, like, it’s good for you to know the rules and how much you can get away with and all that?
Boy (looking at me like I’m nuts): No Mom. I meant boundaries. Like you don’t come into my room and I need a lock on my door. You guys give me space. BOUNDARIES. Get it?
And . . . that about sums it up doesn’t it? I already want to be done with this.
But I regrouped and took a deep breath. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I am a little taken aback that my sweet boy wants me to stay away. But of course he does. It’s all part of it.
My girls simply got a little surly and started hiding in their rooms. My boy is more sensitive to my feelings and is much more likely to humor me and spend time with me when I ask. But make no mistake about it, his teen needs are the same as theirs, he’s just different about showing it.
So I kept at it, figuring I’ve opened the door and I do really need to know.
Me: OK, what else?
Boy: I think giving me more independence. Letting me go places on my own with friends and trusting that I really will be careful. Like, don’t say “no” just because a really bad thing COULD happen. I want to be able to do a lot of things this summer and have a really good time with my friends and ride my bike all over even if there are busy streets. You need to remember I’m not a little kid anymore.
GULP. He nailed all my fears with this one.
Me: OK, I’ll think about this. You have some good points. Anything else?
Boy: Be normal.
Me: Um . . . I am?
Boy: No, like in public be normal. Don’t talk to everyone and hug me and touch my hair. Just be like a normal human. And when we’re home too. Like when you’re upset just tell me and get it over with. Don’t drag it on and on and make us talk about it for 100 years. Just be normal about it.
Me: (cringing) OK . . . what else?
Boy: Yes, ask before you share sensitive information with people.
Me: OK, like don’t give away your secrets?
Boy: No not just my secrets, like don’t talk about my life with anyone.
Me: Do you mean on social media?
Boy: Yes, on social media. But also with our friends and relatives when you see them. Or people who only kind of know me.
Me: Like don’t tell anyone anything ever about you for any reason? Even if it’s good?
Boy: Exactly. If you want to talk about me ask me first. But I might say yes to the good stuff
AND . . . I’m going to struggle with this one.
Me: Anything else (even though I really want to be done now).
Boy: Nope. That’s it. Are we done now? Can I play Fortnite? My friends are waiting.
Me: No problem.
And there you have it. Don’t go in their rooms. Be normal. Say nothing to anyone. Let them play Fortnite.
And start to let them go and be in the world without being right by their side.
Which may be the hardest thing of all.