I was at the park the other day with my neighbor and her kids. She has a 2 year old and a newborn, both *just* their ages. (Vile betrayer aside: My uterus lept out of my abdomen and made a grab for that newborn. Stop it, bitch; we've talked about this. You had your turn.) Her 2 year old is the poster child for children. He's the kid you dream about having. There seriously isn't a better kid anywhere, and I'm totally comparing him against my own. And, of course, he's two now, so he's suddenly becoming less that desirable company all the time. At least insofar as she tells it. I've never seen anything but halos and rainbows coming out of that boy. Anyway, she was lamenting the passing of "the good kid". She was telling me about his tantrums and his obstinence and how sad she was about it. I, of course, was offering her an assload of advice she hadn't asked for instead of really listening, until she said this:
"I just miss how he was. He was so perfect."
That, I heard. That, I've said a million times myself. THAT I actually knew the response to. Which was this:
"Dude, he is perfect. He's supposed to be doing this. He's perfectly two, you know? He HAS to do this."
And I firmly believe that. I don't pretend to actually know anything about child-development, but what I've observed over the past decade plus is that kids have to test their relationships with us at pretty precise phases of their lives. Two is the first one. Three comes next, and it's just like two but with painfully great vocabulary. Then there's the school-aged pull-away, and that one's gentler. They need to do this to gain a sense of who they are and how they're going to relate to the world around them. They have to separate from us slowly, in phases, and it's got to be hard and confusing at every phase. OF COURSE they make us suffer.
We take it for granted that they'll walk at this age and talk at this age and cut teeth at this age and potty train at this age. We stalk those statistics. We compare them with other kids. We talk to the doctor about them. We totally ignore the fact that the attitude is part of that package, and I think it's a pretty damn important part. It's not what they're doing, it's who they're becoming.
Granted, my kid isn't quite 11 yet, which may seem young to be hitting this next phase, but the sad truth is that he's right on target. Like it or not, this puberty thing starts a hell of a lot earlier than it did for us. (You'll thank me later aside: Bookmark that link. You're going to need it someday. It's the best resource I've ever found for kids on puberty.) He may not have the armpit hair just yet for his troubles, but good lord you should smell him. He's been slouching towards puberty for several years now. OF COURSE he's lying to me.
He's trying to find his own footing in the world right now. He doesn't tell me how his day was anymore, he doesn't ask for my help with his homework anymore, I have to force a 5 second cuddle out of him at night, and he's got a PhD in eyerolling. I am no longer cool. AT ALL. I am no longer funny or pretty or smart. I am his mawwwwwm. I am something he doesn't really want a whole lot to do with anymore. Sure, he still seeks me out in the crowd at his basketball games, but god help me if I wave to him. Sure, he still wants me to help out in his classroom, but only while he's at gym class. He wants to know I'm around, he just doesn't actually want to see me. And I have no doubt that he wasn't *this* much glad I'd busted him, for two reasons. One: He had proof that I was looking. Which means I care. No matter how annoying that is for him, just like at his games. Two: I got the message loud and clear that he's interested in moving on to the next level, the one where he can take over some of the choices I'm still holding on to for him, and he didn't have to talk to me about it.
Does it make any sense at all? Hell no. Does any adolescent child make any sense at all? Hell no. When I was barking right down his throat, I asked him, "Do you think your father and I were your age so very long ago that we can't remember doing this same sort of thing?" And then I realized that no, we weren't his age so very long ago that we can't remember doing this stuff. I totally remember doing this stuff, the little lies, the small deceptions. It was important to me, to my self esteem, to my image of myself to be able to pull off the small victories. I needed to carve my own path, you know, and so does he.
So maybe it's time to loosen the leash a notch or two. Maybe he's ready for the next step, whether or not I am. I wasn't ready for him to walk, either, but he sure had to do that. All I've hoped for with these kids is that they'll grow up to be humble, to be kind, to be sensible and to be their own men. I don't want them to be "my sons" forever, I want them to go into the world and do something, be something, of their own making. I want to be the foundation of their lives, not the walls. And that's beginning, my role is starting to shift. Just so long as he knows that I know, and that I'm watching however silently, I think we'll get through this phase just fine, as well. That, and a parental controls blocker set to DefCon 5.
Because really? I see porn on my laptop once, and someone goes to military school.
*You gals don't mind that I'm replying to you comments with another post do you? I sure hope not.