It’s the Age

“Mom, stop, please? Just listen…”

Despite his unwillingness to listen, I do. I listen with my ears, my head and heart, with experience that might lend to wisdom he doesn’t want. He doesn’t think I hear, but I hear more than he knows.

I hear his broken heart. I hear his desperate desire to know and be known, to love and be loved. I hear his normally-buried sensitivity on the surface, his confusion. I hear his aspiration to do something, be something, to leave his personal mark on the world, and more to the point, on someone.

He is tired. The holidays have taken their toll on him, as on all of us. He hasn’t slept well, this one with the sensitive sleep barometer, despite his arguments to the contrary (the arguments are a clue, of course). He needs sleep, nutrition, exercise, structure. Of course he wants none of these, rejects all of these.

It’s the age.

A week ago he took his first drivers’ training lesson. The instructor said he did well, more confident than many. I’d heard of this instructor, that he makes mincemeat of those less confident, but that’s not my kid. Alphas recognize their own.

Two days later Teen drove us to his grandparents’ home in southern Oregon, a six-hour drive along unfamiliar, curving mountain roads, through daylight into nighttime and, for a time, heavy fog. His dad sat in the front, exercising extreme patience, admitting only once we’d arrived (and then quietly, adults only) that he’d clutched the arm rests – and clenched his shoulders – for much of the ride.

The driver’s mom sat in the far back of the minivan, trying to distract herself with magazines and, for a time, sleep, only to be shocked out of drowsiness each time we wiggled or hit the reflectors (more than a few times). Unfortunately for all of us I might have shrieked, “Slow down!” Very unfortunately, more than once.

He doesn’t want to slow down. He wants to live in the fast lane, surrounded by friends at awesome parties sipping cool drinks kissing pretty girls. He wants to be out, all the time, doing something, being something.

Mom stresses him out, puts “so much pressure” on him, even when I say nothing. It’s the age.

It’s his age, but what’s mine? It’s been a long time since I was the pretty girl at the party sipping cool drinks and choosing whether to kiss the boy. I’m home, saying “No,” taking the hits, seeing his un-scratch-able itch to get away. Staying up late not to enjoy the night but to keep pace with the kid who ought to be sleeping but feels too worked up to relax, to keep pace but give space. A balancing act.

Still, I’d rather be my age than his. Teen has all my drama, so in my head I hear my mom speaking the words that came from my mouth. I hear my own adolescent angst in his cries.

Clearly I survived. He will, too. And as my mom survived this stage, surely I will too.

Lord, have mercy on us all.

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