I have a friend with a thirteen year old son who has recently taken to letting her know that, in his opinion, she is an ass. Nice, right? He’s actually used even stronger language than that, and when she tells me about it I cringe, but not for the reasons you might think. No, I have been through the teen years with a son myself, and I cringe because I know this is only the beginning.
This boy, like my own, is a good kid. He really is. Those of you with younger boys are no doubt thinking all of the same things I thought. No son of mine will ever get by with that. I set limits with my kids. I treat them with respect and they will learn to treat me with the same, etc. And to that I give you a big fat, “Yeah right.” I did all of those things. I loved, (and of course still do love) my son to bits. My younger sister, who was a little more lenient, especially before she had a son of her own, used to call us the house of rules. I did everything in my power to be sure my son grew up to be polite and respectful to others, and for the most part he was, to everyone but me.
This friend’s son is one of the politest kids I know. He will hug you and ask how you are without any prompting at all. He will say please and thank you for anything from a glass of juice to a ride home. He has about a million friends and all of those friends like and appreciate his mom. All but him.
As a mom, you tell yourself not to take it personally. After all, boys have hormone surges just like the rest of us. The teen years are a bizarre time for anyone, but I would imagine for boys especially. I mean, come on, one minute you are a little boy and a day later you are speaking in your father’s voice and sprouting facial hair, not to mention obvious other new wonders going on a little further south. Although unacceptable, their behavior is sort of understandable.
The hard part is that it hurts deeply. To this day, my son can cut through me like no one else, and believe me, he has improved greatly. We have been through some very dark times and emerged back into that level of respect that I dreamed of. All of my work has paid off, and I am proud to say that he is a kind and compassionate person.
I have no doubt that my friend’s son will be the same, but I know what a difficult road the next few years will be for them, and for that I cringe. I wish I could give my friend some great advice on how to turn it around, and yet I know I did everything right with my own son and he would confirm that. I know this because I’ve asked him before if there was anything I could have done differently and he’s told me no.
Unfortunately, these are the growing pains that are at times unavoidable, which is not to say every son will grow up to call their parents assholes. Some will get lucky and their boys will be the saint-like sons that you occasionally see in a movie or on TV. If you have a boy of your own, I sincerely hope that you get that easy going one. If you don’t, trust that, more likely than not, you’ll get through this. You’ll wake up one day and realize that you are getting along again and this grown up before you reminds you of that great kid you once had that you enjoyed so much. It’ll be worth the wait.
Bridget Straub is a writer, mom and eternal optimist. She has three children she loves dearly, as well as four novels in need of a publisher and one musical on its way to production. You can follow her at bridgetstraub.com.