Talking with tweens is just another job moms carryout in our career. Nanny, maid, personal chef, short order cook, educator, project manager, team leader, manager, chauffeur, accountant, and double agent also come to mind on the short list of multifaceted careers as a parent. Double agent only came to mind as I crept into my six year old son’s room, like a thief in the night. Ever so carefully to not eek out a sound, plastering myself against the flat surface of a wall as not to be seen; which is ridiculous anyway when you have boobs and bright blond hair. All in the name of swapping a snarly tooth for various coins in an effort to challenge his knowledge and counting abilities. Alas I am the Tooth Fairy. I digress on the double agent job, if only it were sexier with firearms and thigh high stockings. Yet this is one of the the many careers we hold as parents.
Anyway, this rewarding career I currently hold as mom. I never really wanted to become a parent; mostly because I was a spiteful child to my mother’s threats of “just wait until you have your own kids,” I thought depriving my mother of the joy of becoming a grandmother was the way to go. I’m glad I was a bonehead and figured that dumb-ass move in my twenties was not a wise choice. Now that I am a parent, I really could not imagine life without my kids. My eldest just crossed into the tween years this year as he turned 11. Being at home again, I am really learning more and more about my kids and the people they are, who they are becoming. I am in full amazement and awe as these small individuals evolve, learning so much about life from them; learning a bit about myself on our journey as well. G as a now 11 year young man is like taming a giant, or a rhino,Â sometimes both depending on the day.
The boy is massive in every respect. He is a lean, muscular kid, who lacks solid coordination but makes up for it with the heart of a hero. Like I said, MASSIVE, even his heart. G has always been a sensitive boy; my family has no shortage of emotions, we wear them like badges of honor to a four star general, exposed on our sleeves, loud and proud. The Chad, while he will deny such accusations, is also a sensitive man; though the harsh reality of society and family of origin issues we all succumb to suppressing such humane gifts.
So last night when I cornered the boy to have him finally sit down and write out his thank you notes to friends and family for his birthday gifts, I saw the twinge of tween. The boy got a little snappy at me, call it attitude. I don’t do attitude. But I’m a parent, this is not about being right and this is not about me. Strapping on my sweet mommy voice that would charm any viper, but with the stern assertiveness of a Clydesdale I fired back. “Dude, why am I getting attitude, what’s wrong? Do you have something bothering you?”
In that simple question a world of opportunity opened for any adult to see what they were like at 11, remembering fifth or sixth grade, saving a giant of emotions. We huddled around the kitchen island as I pressed harder, like any good investigator (check, add that to the resume) and created a safe bubble for my son to share what he was experiencing. Free of expectation, I let my gentle giant unleash a barrage of daggers;
“I don’t feel accepted. I don’t want to be at school. I don’t want to be at home. My friends are good, my family is good. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Sweet Jesus. How DOES one explain this. So I went backwards, we initiated the discussion with the topic of his friends. No bullying, nothing alarming that would require an educator intervention, no name calling. Got it. Friends equal solid. Now onto the family unit. The Chad is good, twins…well they are who they are, and that’s all good, he is good with me. Solid. Home? Home is good, he wants to be here but something is nagging at him. Listening to his voice I fought back a rage of tears. When your kid is hurting you hurt. I don’t give a damn who you are; a pain sets off in you that causes your jaw to clench, your eyes burn with tears that you wish your inner super hero could dry away, and the muscles of your bottom lip curl and flex to maintain the stoic power of parent.Â Cue super hero music,I always think of the margarine commercial, Parkay. Now that we have excavated into the bowels of emotion, I clawed at my own scars when we addressed acceptance.
By this time my inner 11 year old girl was a blubbering mess. Recalling the pain of that age. The emotional turmoil. I watched the giant fall before me into tears as he rebuked his intelligence, his self-worth and his overall being based on grades he had received in his class. I felt my soul fall to her knees. Tears pour down my face now, but that moment they only welled in their ducts and I exercised parental stoicism to continue to listen to my boy, this young man, struggle with new emotions. New feelings. The new person he was evolving into, I couldn’t do anything to make this rite-of-passage into mid-adolescents any easier for him.
Coaxing my giant out from behind the island I hugged him with all I had. Pushing my love from my soul as it radiated into his arms and back, encapsulated him like a bubble, and smothered him until his tears had faded away. Sharing with him my timely story about failure, I related to him how I purposely failed pre-algebra. My parents were officially divorced, I now had a one year old half brother and newborn half sister to contend with, puberty that was very unkind to me with acne and school acquaintances that took great pleasure to lambast me at any opportunity. I reassured him that his “A minus” that he was so distraught over was a soaring accomplishment, his “D” that he received was not his lack of ability but his lack of interest to put forth solid effort and he failed to follow directions his instructor set out in the assignment. By no means do grades define who you are as a person.Â Constructive feedback is done lovingly, knowing his teacher, she knew he could rope the moon, she was giving him the lasso to do so. Reassuring G that he is intelligent, smart, talented, loving, able-bodied, and I could not be more proud of him.
My giant began to wield his rhinoceros style strength again as the tears melted into his cheeks and his sweet dimples appeared again. We both exposed our vulnerability, more so mine as a parent, relating to his struggles. Struggles I still encounter to this day as a grown woman. Part of me today ponders of the outcome had we not had this discussion after school, had I not taken the opportunity to talk to my tween. Had I been busy making a life for myself, engrossed in the delusional and empty corporate career path, I might have missed a career making opportunity of a lifetime talking with my son. Pondering other kids, who maybe lacked the emotional support of a parental unit/figure in their lives, to just ask, “how are you?” We forget how powerful our words impact lives, children and adults. How profound a simple, loving, truly genuine question like “how are you” can unlock a garden a vulnerability in anyone. How are you today?