I read an interesting comment on an article today that related the diaper changing years to the drama filled teenage stage. Since my kids run the gambit from 2 to 17, I guess in this manner, my parenting is currently filled with dealing with crap. I’m up to my eyebrows in it.
Something happened last night that really snapped my into attention, that I hope other parents will sit up and take notice too.
A little background, my littlest will be two next week, and we are planning a small family celebration on Saturday. I’ve been wrapped up in my own thoughts this past many months, thinking about the precious baby I’d lost. That’s life, sometimes it can catch us off guard, as it did last night.
So, yesterday, my husband called me, somewhat annoyed. My 13 year old didn’t come home on the school bus like he normally does. I had to call the school, who in turn called the bus company, that got a hold of the late bus driver to see if my son was on the late bus. [The late bus is for kids that stay after school for school related activities.]
It seemed like an awful lot of people to bother, and I’ll admit it’s embarrassing having to tell other adults that you don’t know where your kid is.
As you would do, we sat down with him, and spoke about how we don’t mind if he does things after school, but we must always know where he is. Checking in with us is a responsibility that will not be going away anytime soon.
He stood there with a sullen look on his face, that I instantly recognized. It was my sister’s sour teenage face I remember so well. Whenever we got in trouble, and yes it was usually the both of us together that got into trouble, she had a very unique way of handling my parents. She was sit there, stone faced, while my parents railed against us. Me, I always fought back with silly arguments, “But you never said….”, “But I didn’t do it…”, or “That’s not what I meant…”
Not my sister. She wouldn’t say one word when we were being yelled at. After one particularly grueling session, my sister took it upon herself to impart some wisdom to me. When you speak up while being yelled at, it lasts longer. People that are upset with you don’t want to hear you, they want to be heard. So she stayed quiet, and let them feel heard. Even with her wisdom, I couldn’t bring myself to shut my mouth, then, or even now.
While my husband was speaking I looked at my son’s face. There was no emotion, no outward sign of distress at being in trouble, no apologetic glances acknowledging that he’d made a misstep, nothing. He didn’t even flinch when we took away his electronics, every teenager’s life-force. He truly looked like he didn’t care and nothing scared me more.
Later, with my husband off to work, and dinner cleared from the table, I refused to allow my son to go to his room.
That’s what they like to do, you know. They go to their teen lair and think about how wholly unfair life if, and if only this, that or the other happened, they could be happy, like the people in movies or TV shows.
As I sat on the floor, playing with my 2 year old, I gave one simple command, “Speak.”
He was quiet for a long time, and I explained that it was obvious something was bothering him, and I wanted him to open his mouth and start spilling it, until he got it all out.
He arose and went to his room, and I despaired that I was losing him. But then he came back, and in his hand was a letter. He had written it after we had reprimanded him. In it, he expressed his apologies for showing that he didn’t care, but in a way, he didn’t care. He was dealing with friends turning on him this year in school, kids that had been good friends in the past, were now ostracizing him at lunch and pressuring his remaining friends to abandon him. It consumed his thoughts and now even his girlfriend was becoming distant, and not really talking to him.
I considered this information carefully. I was glad he trusted me with this information and knew that at his age, these were huge problems, overwhelming problems and the type of thing that can consume a child. It couldn’t be easily dismissed.
How can this be related to changing a diaper? I would rather change 20 diapers. This was a load of crap that I couldn’t hardly navigate myself at his age, and I know that at that age you don’t listen to your parents advice anyways. What was I supposed to do.
You do your job as a parent and change that diaper. I picked my son up, and dusted him off. I gave him encouragement that he is a good person, and a loyal friend, and advised him not everyone in the world play by all the rules, in fact, they can be quite cruel. He can’t focus on what other do, he can only control himself. After our talk, he realized he did have some good friends that would stick by him.
It seems only yesterday I was having his 2 year birthday party. I think of his little chubby cheeks and big eyes as he took in his construction truck theme cake. He tore each little piece of wrapping paper off while making explosion sounds with his mouth. How I wish I could make him feel better with one simple action. But he’s not two anymore, he’s 13, and he needs to learn to deal with this stuff. I can’t protect him from his peers.
I remember watching my brother, who was 10 years older than me, interacting in high school, and it made me yearn to grow up and go to high school and do all those teenage things. Only when I got there, I didn’t have as easy a time dealing with the social scene as my charismatic brother.
But here’s the nugget that let me know we would all be okay. I told my son to look at his little brother, and how much he loved and looked up to him. Sometimes having that unconditional love of a toddler can heal you, and as he considered his little brother, I saw that genuine smile return to his face for a moment, and then it turned into a full grown grin, then he was laughing. Things can’t be all that bad with that little face upturned in admiration.
To help my 13 year old out, I let him off diaper duty for the night. he has enough crap to deal with.