Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jack turns fourteen on Saturday. He seems to be of the opinion that he's turning twenty-one, but he's been of that opinion for a couple of years now. I'm sure it outrages him that we won't let him drive himself to school.

Having a (nearly) fourteen-year-old child has been interesting. I've had a couple of occasions recently where I've really had to make myself step back, mom-wise. For instance, the day before the eighth grade left for their three-day trip. One of the items on Jack's packing list was a rain jacket. Where was Jack's rain jacket? At school, of course.

The Man left Jack a note that morning that read, "Don't forget your jacket!" When I dropped Jack off at school, I called after him, "Don't forget your jacket!" And yes, I emailed him that afternoon to not forget his jacket.

In spite of this, what were the odds that he'd forget his jacket? Really, really good. So I decided to email his advisor, Mr. S. I began by writing, "Dear Mr. S., I hope I don't seem like one of those helicopter parents to you, but ..." and then I stopped. I deleted the email.

Jack is too old to have his mom email his advisor about a jacket.

The other recent situation: Jack has been having a group of friends over on Sunday afternoons to play Dungeons and Dragons for a couple of hours. Every week the guys all say they'll be there, and sometimes they are, but other times only one or two of them show up, and one week no one showed up. The Mom in me wants to take over, to email the boys' parents on Thursday nights, "Please confirm that your child will be here on Sunday. They claim they're coming, but you may have entirely different plans for them, and it would be good to know."

But I can't. It's not my job to run that part of Jack's life anymore. He can figure out a better way to confirm who's coming on Sundays, or he can live with the suspense. Me, I don't have a pony in the race.

The hardest thing for me right now is backing off on hygiene patrol. Every once in awhile I get pushy about his skin, but even that is starting to feel like trespassing into territory that isn't much of my business anymore. I feel okay about reminding him to shower (and can't wait for the day when he doesn't need reminding) and have no scruples about forcing him to get his hair cut. But he knows when his skin is broken out, and he knows what to do about it. There's something undignified about me standing outside of the bathroom door while he's brushing his teeth and calling, "Don't forget to use your skin stuff!"

I have no doubt that one day soon, maybe this week, maybe next, you'll find me outside the bathroom door calling, "Don't forget your skin stuff!" I haven't quite gotten the knack of being a mother to a fourteen-year-old boy. Confession: I pretty much packed Jack's bag the night before the 8th grade trip. I didn't want him to forget anything, and I didn't want his clothes getting all wrinkled because he'd scrunched them in instead of folding them first.

But even while I was doing it, I knew I should be letting him pack. He was just standing around watching me,  not eager to help, but not entirely comfortable with the fact that I'd more or less taken over his life. Again.

 Well, I'll know better next time. Seem like we're all on a learning curve around here.

P.S. Jack remembered his jacket. My baby's growing up!


Pom Pom said...

Yay for jacket-remembering. I hope the trip was fun.
You are a REALLY good mom, Frances.

debbie bailey said...

You'll get the hang of it. At least you recognize that you need to be letting him do this stuff for himself. I secretly think it's kind of fun to watch them suffer the consequences of forgetting something for a trip. My 14-year-old daughter has gotten really good at packing all by herself and has for a long time. Yes, she forgets things which she then borrows from me or whoever she's with on the trip. It all works out.

Jo said...

It's the dignity issue that you mention that I think is the key with teenagers. I find it hard to step back too, but then, like you, I get this image of myself fussing over a person who is taller than me, and practically an adult. Sometimes stepping back is the best gift..

Susan said...

Happy birthday to Jack! The cutting of the umbilical cord is a years-long process. I've always found it kind-of funny that after delivery, some important doctor hands the dad a huge pair of scissors and say, "Well, are you ready to cut the cord?" I remember my husband smiling at me triumphantly like he'd really just done something important and as if it was that simple.

wayside wanderer said...

You captured the dilemma of every mom, and especially moms of boys, really well. Somehow these are the same people (boys) who have conquered the world for centuries. How can it be? All of my energy right now is going into keeping my mouth shut about his hair. Gasp, ack and ugh.

Heather said...

It is so hard. Sometimes I feel so bossy and controlling, but my kids aren't always responsible in the way that I'd like them to be. I'm stepping back much more often now and letting my kids see what they need to do to manage their own lives. I think I preferred being a mother when they were younger. The 'mothering' rules were much more clear and defined.

Tracy said...

Miss Sunshine turns 17 this coming week. I often catch myself thinking "one day she won't let me say or do this anymore". There are still so many things with which they need direct instruction, other things they need strong input and other things that you have to overlook. My girls make it easy to figure out which is which. Mr Busy....he turns 13 on mother's day and is still very much a little boy in so many ways...except his height.

Miss Sunshine graduates from Secondary school next year and it has become a 'thing' to do a 'schoolies' trip to celebrate. I went to tell her there was no way she would gain our permission to head to the Gold Coast for that. And then I remembered. She'll be 18 and I won't have the legal right to forbid her. That'll be a very strange transition!

Gumbo Lily said...

I'm smiling and remembering those days all too well. Somehow they grow into fine young men and good citizens.

Liz said...

Frances, wow, haven't come to the blog in awhile and yes, you read my mind. Big fights at our house all revolve around me not letting go as much as I should. I try to remind myself that at 12 I was much more independent than I am letting Andy be, but gosh, these boys just seem so helpless at times! Hope you all had a great birthday-

The dB family said...

Happy belated birthday to Jack! Parental learning curves -- they are so hard! My boy just left this morning for a five day trip. I have no idea what he packed. He followed the list though, so I am assuming he remembered everything. He's 16.5, so I can honestly say it WILL get easier.