Sunday, June 27, 2010

Looming Puberty

Since the day I brought my first child home from the hospital I have dreaded the idea of parenting teenagers. Some people find this odd, after all I work with teenagers, I know how they work, I can handle them. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. The friends I have who work in the health care field are usually far more careful in the way they live their lives. They know first hand all of the ways in which simple things like driving a car, or jumping on a trampoline can lead to disaster.

That's the way I feel about parenting teenagers. Everyday I am confronted with the numerous ways in which a smart, loving and obedient pre-teen can turn into a surly, rebellious teenager who appears to have lost all common sense. This terrifies me. I have spent many a parent-teacher interview asking the parents of my best students "what did you do? How do I get a teenager like that?" Whatever the secret, I'm afraid my time is running out.

The signs that puberty is already haunting my household are unmistakable. In the fall there was the unmistakable stench of body odor and greasy hair. This was easily taken care of with a stick of deodarant and ensuring that the child in question showered more often. I forgot about it after that. This spring though,
puberty is back with a vengence.

The other day I came downstairs for breakfast. He was sitting at the table eating his cereal and clearly visible, because of his milk mustache, was the peach fuzz beginning to accumulate on his upper lip. That same day, my son, who has always been very eager to please all of the adults in his life, accused me of being a hypocrite. Not in so many words of course, but the message was clear, he is beginning to understand that I am not perfect! He immediately burst into tears after the accusation, whether out of frustration or because he feared I would be hurt I'm not sure. I hugged him, told him it would be okay and sent him on his way.

What is so unsettling about these signs of early puberty is the inconsistency. You never know if the person sitting at the dinner table is 11 wishing to be 8 again, or 11 going on 18. Is he going to sit on the floor and play cars with his younger brothers, or is he going to yell at them and tell them he hates them? In my house these days, you never know.

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