Is It Just Me – Eye to Eye

Stone ThumbnailCharlie and I saw eye to eye for exactly six days this past September.

But, instead of the seventh day being a day of rest the way it is in Genesis, for my thirteen year-old son it was a day of growth the way it is in real life. Suddenly, Charlie and I stood eyebrow to eye. The scary inevitability that my eldest son would grow taller than me became real in one night. How would I manage him now? Moreover, how would I manage myself?

He was just born, for Pete’s sake. A blink ago, Charlie was a twenty inch bundle with candlestick fingers and an insatiable appetite. The appetite remains the same, but everything else has morphed and sometimes I feel as if he’s the Peter Boyle to my Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein”, only instead of “Putting on the Ritz” he eats the whole box of them – and then some.

A couple of weeks ago, Charlie and I had an altercation. We often have them – sometimes about small, inconsequential-to-everyone-but-me issues such as why he crams his ski-jacket into a shelf in the closet instead of using a hanger (too much time involved, I’m told) and sometimes about larger concerns like whether or not we should allow him to attend a party at an acquaintance’s house when he’s not sure if the boy’s parents will be home or even on the same continent. As with many of our arguments, this latter one occurred “hypothetically”, right after I asked my son to hang up his jacket in our entrance-way closet.“Mom, this kid at school may be having a party next weekend and he’s inviting the whole grade. I’ll probably want to go.”

“How many kids and who will be overseeing this party?” I inquired, my trouble detector pricked and ready.

Charlie rolled his eyes counter-clockwise. “Maybe fifty or sixty kids and I guess his parents will be around or maybe his older sister. What difference does it make?”

His nonchalance bugged me big-time and I decided to give my son a good, long answer, one he could chew on for a while. I told him that peer-group pressure was tougher when experienced first-hand and that while I trust him to behave appropriately, I couldn’t trust the 49 or 59 other kids who I didn’t know. I finished my one-minute lecture by stating that unless I received firsthand assurance of parental supervision, there was no possible chance that my husband and I would allow Charlie to attend this soiree.

Well.

His chest puffed out. His baby cheeks turned red. I put my hands on my hips and climbed the first step to our second floor, realizing after I’d done this that I’d unconsciously compensated for the fact that Charlie was now taller than me. We stood, silently regarding each other eye to eye but in no way seeing the situation from the same perspective. Soon, his barrage began, peppered with the usual platitudes such as, “it’s my life”; “no one controls where my body goes but me”; and my absolute favourite, “Mom, weren’t you ever a teenager?”

Why, no, I skipped that decade because I was extra good.

I asked aloud how we were going to make it through the next seven years without giving each other heart attacks or at the very least, continual indigestion. When Charlie announced that he would go to the party if he wanted to and that his dad and I couldn’t stop him, I wondered how other mothers control their kids. Do they carry taser guns in their oversized handbags? Do they stir horse tranquilizers into steaming bowls of mac and cheese?

I told Charlie we’d table the discussion until it became a reality and turned to climb the stairs up to my bedroom, not because I had business there but because it seemed prudent to stay tall while running away.

Rummaging in my closet, I looked up at the boxes of photographs that Charlie had stacked high for me the week before, his height and young back giving him an advantage. It was kind of neat having a kid who could help me out when his dad wasn’t home, I noted. Then, I thought about how I feel when we walk down the street together, me and this handsome, tall drink of water who is still goofy and protective and filled with a curiosity that renders our conversations often exhausting but never mundane. I realized that I feel proud and safe.

When the party debate resumed two hours later because my son is relentless when pursuing parental capitulation, I decided to tell him how I felt about his new height and proximity to adulthood. I confessed that I feel I can now count on him for more support and that no matter his age he can always count on reciprocity from his dad and me. I told him that as he makes me feel safe, so must I do the same for him because that’s what family does for each other even though sometimes the methods cause disagreements and disappointment.

Charlie looked down on me just a little bit with his head cocked to one side.

“Mom, I don’t really even know this kid with the party anyway. Can I just invite a couple of friends over next weekend to watch a rental and order pizza?”

“As long as the parents are going to be around”, I smiled.

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