The Keep Out sign is on the door. Although metaphorically, it might as well be posted for all to see: a reminder of unchartered territory full of landmines, a tinderbox ready to ignite. The dance between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde seemed to happen overnight. One moment our twelve-year-old was masquerading as a good student, sport-loving, respectful boy the next minute a freaky adolescent with a chip on his shoulder, spouting hurtful phrases.
I knew this stage would arrive but I also naively believed that my child would be different, that our relationship was stronger and that we would navigate through these waters in a boat that wouldn’t tip. Unfortunately, in these turbulent waters, we all get a little wet.
I was a miserable pre-teen and a worse teenager. I’m fortunate I still have the same parents I started with. We are all lucky to have survived those years and have the battle wounds to show for it. But although our boat took on lots of water, it never capsized. That’s the role of the parent. Don’t let the boat capsize.
This particular trough we’re in started with an argument about data for his phone. He wants it, we’re not offering it. He was giving my husband’s iPhone 6 for Christmas with the understanding that this was to be used as a device not a phone. He was over-the-moon and he understood the terms then but that was eons ago. We are holding our ground so he is deploying all the typical teenager techniques with a “that will show them” flare: the silent treatment, the slamming of doors and stomping of feet, and the threats of non-participation in things that he loves.
It could be funny if it weren’t so emotionally charged and full of anger. It’s so different from the temper tantrums of a toddler where you can stay detached. In these battles everyone becomes unglued.
For the umpteenth time, I restated my position on the data plan and he responded predictably. I’ve been preserving my sanity by “keeping out” of his space heeding the imaginary sign. Last night he shed Dr. Jekyll and joined us for the end of a movie as gentle Mr. Hyde. “Mom, do you think I could use your hotspot sometimes?” he asked. “Yes, I think we can do that,” I responded.
That night he slept with is door open.