Calm Before the Storm

For almost two years bent spoon has been on a sort of hiatus. Even with moving from Northern California to the great state of Minnesota – something that I was convinced would create much more consternation among the boys than it did – there has not been much to talk about. Bent spoon first started by talking about the anxiety a move can cause. It examined the unexpected reactions of one boy who we thought would transition well, and the other who we thought would not, and how none of those expectations came to pass. Actually how the boys adjusted was exactly opposite of what we had expected.

Given that a move has already been examined here, I did not plan on documenting the last move unless something unexpected occurred, and as the move unfolded I could not have hoped for a better transition. The only person who had a difficult time was me.

The boys adjusted to their new schools well. Our youngest has found a new soccer team and is even closer with the teammates on this new team than he had been with his old soccer team. Our oldest moved from the pool to the lacrosse field, and is thriving in middle school. He’s doing well academically, impatient with having to learn things in which he has no interest, experiencing a growing interest in girls, and thinking that some day he will be able to play professional lacrosse. The town and the school has an air of Mayberry circa 1958 – for the good and the bad of that – but seeing we have a 13 year-old in the house, I’ve been thankful that we’re living in a modern-day Mayberry.

As the anniversary of our first year in this midwestern town passed, I felt a little guilty that I have had nothing to really write about in terms of bent spoon. I created a little drama in one post – being somewhat dismayed by how some parents behave on the sidelines of their children’s sporting activities – but really have had little else to talk about.

Little did I know, however, the last 18 months have been the calm before the storm, the breadbasket of raising young boys: one who went from being 8 to 10, and one who went from being 11 to 13. And therein lies the leading edge of the storm. Thirteen. True teenage years. Ugh.

We’re lucky. We’re not dealing with serious lying and deceit – at least not as of yet – and we’re not dealing with drugs, sexual promiscuity, or bad grades – for as much as we can tell – but we can easily see the specter of these issues peeking around every bend in the road.

During the summer, as our oldest was near his thirteenth birthday, we could see it: growing impatience with us, and pushing boundaries. I knew this was coming. I’ve done my reading on a child’s social and emotional development, and knew that 13 was that time for boys when they go from being sweet little people who really want to please the adult figures in their lives, to soon-to-be young adults who are starting to taste autonomy, want more, but deep down inside crave the boundaries of a parent, which, of course, they will never admit to.

So little transgression after little transgression occurred. A missed phone call to check in here, a failed communication there. And no sooner had he crossed the actual threshold of being 13 did the transgressions increase in frequency, and the boundary pushing increase.

To put it in perspective, we really have little to complain about. The boundaries he’s pushing are small in comparison to what I’ve seen some parents have to contend with. How late he’s staying up when having friends sleep over, when he (and his friends) are expressly told what time lights out should be, is the most obvious, and easy to illustrate example. I know. Small potatoes, right?

What’s been killing me, however, has been the attitude. The huffs and chuffs in response to everything from getting homework done to letting him know I am not his personal limousine service, ready to drive him wherever and whenever the whim strikes.

Of course I wonder in passing, “Was I this insufferable when I was his age?” I have to imagine that I was.

And of course my wife and I are constantly second guessing ourselves with dealing we’re dealing with this. Are we being firm enough? Are we being too firm? Are we setting strong enough boundaries? Are the boundaries too restrictive? Because of course our son is constantly judging our structures against what he perceives his friends have to endure. I emphasize that it is his perception, because we know the other parents, and know what the are dealing with and how they are handling things with their children behind their closed doors.

I don’t want to look at the next couple of years as something we’re simply going to have to endure with much patience and strong parenting, but the more I speak with other parents who are going through the same journey – some of whom already have a couple of children in college – the more I fear that is how the next couple of years will unfold.

Just in time for our youngest to turn 13.

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