I chaperoned my son’s fourth grade field trip last week and brought home a different kid – figuratively of course. That morning I remember a quiet, respectful, rule follower but that evening I had an angry, flip and self-centered boy in my home. The change was so abrupt I blamed it on the weather; it was a hot day after such a cold winter, maybe it affected him.
In retrospect, he’s been pushing at the boundaries between childhood and adolescence all along and he’s been successful. He has a later bedtime, he’s allowed to ride in the front seat and he’s been left home alone for short periods of time. I’ve enjoyed loosening the restrictions for him in these areas. After all, it’s healthy for him to ask for freedoms and it’s wonderful to give them when reasonable. I want a boy who is independent, not Matthew McConaughey from the movie “Failure to Launch”. I want him to fly not fall when pushed from the nest.
What I’m not enjoying is the anger and sass. “Whatever Mom.” (insert eye rolling). Here’s an example of the new environment in our home. My husband and I were heading out last Saturday night. I had ordered pizza and was chatting with he babysitter. Normally the boys would have flocked to the pizza and sat at the counter to eat and listen. This time our oldest took a slice, plopped into the recliner and turned on the TV. “Excuse me, please turn off the TV and come sit at the table when you eat.” “Whatever.” “NOW!” Is this where I start adding the words “young man” after directives? – NOW, young man!
We had a standoff in Target last week too. I had to pick up a few things. He asked to look at the baseball cards near the checkout line. “Mom, can you buy me a pack of baseball cards?” he asked. “No,”I told him. He tried again, “Fine, I’ll buy them and pay you back.” “No, we’re not buying baseball cards. Let’s go.” He held his ground. “Let’s go.” The arms were folded across his chest and he dug in. “I’m leaving.” I turned around and headed out of the store. Don’t look back, don’t look back I coached myself. I hoped he would follow me because I wasn’t prepared to underscore the threat by driving away. Did he know that? He followed me still arguing about the cards.
He stopped just short of “I hate you”. But I can feel it coming. It’s the next card in his deck after he lays down “You’re so mean”.
I know it’s my job to stay grounded and firm. My physician, a mother of four, gave me some advice. “You and your husband are the trampoline. You need to knit together a strong fabric for them to jump on. If it’s firm and healthy they can jump high. If it’s weak and damaged they will fall through and get hurt.” It’s not the weather that has changed him. It’s just his time to jump and it’s my time to be jumped on.