When I first started seeing a glimpse of puberty in my oldest son, it looked like more body hair and smelled like body odor after basketball practice. He was proud he was seeing sprouts spring from under his pits and didn’t mind the smell of rotting onions on his body. It meant he was getting older and bigger which, in his mind, meant many adventures were ahead like driving trucks, drinking soda, and staying up later to watch scary shows.
But then, about a year or so after his body started changing and his voice got deeper, the little boy who used to love to snuggle on the sofa with me became unrecognizable.
His teenage brain caught up with his teenage body and, let’s just say, it did not go well.
One day he came home from school and was so angry, but he didn’t know why. He couldn’t articulate his feelings or what spurred his anger. I asked him to help with dinner and he ran out of the house, slamming the door so hard some of the glass cracked. He was mouthy and rude and only wanted to spend time with his bike, skateboard, or friends.
If I looked at him, I got an eye roll. If I asked a question about his day, he interrupted me with a sarcastic answer. And on it went. This was our new normal and I fought it every step of the way.
I was pissed. I was hurt. And I literally had no idea how to mother this way. I didn’t like the behavior I was seeing, and I was actively trying to deal with it, but my efforts were futile.
His sister followed suit and joined the teenage-moody channel quickly after, then her younger brother was right behind her — goody for me. I couldn’t change the station and believe me, I tried.
Honestly, I think my “young sweet one” has taken notes from his brother and sister because he is blowing his short-tempered, despondent siblings out of the freaking water.
For about 6 months, it smelled like Teen Spirit in my house and it fucking reeked.
But then, something happened just as I was about to pack my bags and let them continue on with their vile and miserable selves without me — my oldest son started to shed the gruff exterior and left his morose expressions in the rear view. FINALLY.
The moods stopped swinging all over the damn place. At first, I figured it was a fluke. Or a good week. Or maybe the new protein bars I bought him had an effect on his brain?
One morning he came downstairs, wrapped his arms around me and hugged me. It lasted maybe two seconds, but I will never forget the feelings of comfort, joy, and happiness wrapped around my body. I wept.
I know I am being dramatic and I don’t care. I cried because I missed his love so much. When you have a child who won’t look at you, talk to you, thinks everything you say is nonsense, and mutters instead of talks for almost three years, you get really freaking excited when you see a glimpse of them returning.
My son was returning. Puberty has a way of making our kids’ ugly show, but it doesn’t last forever. Even though it feels like it. I recognized him again. He acted like he wanted to be part of the family and would answer in full sentences. He no longer retreated to his room and for the most part, he did things when he was asked.
I’m not going to slap syrup all over this story and tell you I was patient with him because I knew he’d come around and — wow! — it was worth the wait because he’s just like he used to be.
That would be the biggest lie I’ve ever told and really, he is still a teenager. He still has his issues to work through. Then again, don’t we all?
I was not patient. I pushed him. I got up in his business on the daily and definitely poked at his moods with my mothering stick — which probably made him want even less to do with me (if that was possible). But I was doing the best I could at the time with the knowledge and tools I had, which was obviously close to nothing. He was my first foray into the parenting teens world, and it was a rough transition.
But it settled after my son went through the bulk of puberty. I could start to see my child again. The one I’d raised to answer questions, look people in the eye, and be aware of, and kind to, others.
My daughter will be 14 very soon and it’s been a hell of a ride. Since she started going through puberty a bit earlier than her brother, I can see a small sliver of light shining at the end of the tunnel and it helps me restrain myself this time around and realize she is going through her thing, and it has nothing to do with me.
The only thing I can do is be a good mother to her and try not to let her pull any shit and realize this isn’t personal.
If you are slogging your way through puberty, wondering what in the world is going on with your child and what you possibly could have done to raise a child who acts in this manner, I’m telling you to hang on.
No, it isn’t easy — I just had a parent tell me their daughter was “hell on wheels,” they wanted to get off this ride, and they weren’t sure they were going to make it.
But I’m telling you, you will make it. It won’t be pretty, there will be a lot of tears, and you will feel like throwing your arms up and letting them act however the hell they want to because you’re so exhausted.
But you won’t and one morning they will seem lighter and less moody and start talking to you again. And you will probably weep just like I did because you will know you have survived the toughest part of parenthood to date.