Monday, October 4, 2010

Battening Down the Hatches

There's a storm brewing over here, and we've had a few squalls lately. I'm bracing myself for worse to come.

I'm talking about the fact that I have a teenager on my hands. And I'm here to tell you that teenage girls don't have a monopoly on PMS. Holy shit.

Okay, I don't want to overstate things and make Kevin out to be a problem kid. He's not. He's actually a really great kid in all the ways that count: he's loving and protective of his siblings, he's pretty responsible and is learning a good work ethic, he's a good student, and his values seem to be in place. But his moods? Oh. My. God.

You'd never know it today, because today he's just as pleasant and sociable as can be. But yesterday was awful. I was fighting the urge to throttle him for most of the day. All day he was mopey and sulky and snotty and just looking for an opportunity to have a problem with every little thing. Just walking around with a big stinkin' attitude, making everyone miserable. And it all finally came to a head last night around dinner time and he and I ended up in a screaming match that called up memories of screaming matches I had with my own mother as a teenager. I was never going to be that kind of parent, but there I was, screaming at him to "Get the FUCK in your room!" and him screaming back at me, "I HATE YOU!!"

Ugly. I hate it. Not that he said he hates me - really, I kind of laugh that off. It's textbook, right? He's supposed to say that. And I know he doesn't really hate me - well, maybe in the moment he does, but that's okay. What I hate is that I lost my temper, that he got the best of me, that I exposed my white-trash roots, that I lowered myself to responding in such a completely emotional and non-productive manner. What I hate is the attitude he exhibits more and more lately, and the fact that I have no idea how to deal with it.

My biggest fear is him coming to the conclusion that we're the enemy - Michael and I (he and his dad butt heads plenty, and that opens a whole other can of worms for me). But what do I do? Ignore the bad behavior, and focus on the positive behavior? While I can see that working for younger kids, at almost 14, Kevin seems beyond those kinds of simplistic parenting techniques. Or maybe I'm wrong. Or do I call him out on every wrong move he makes? I know I'm hard on him, I know I expect a lot from him. Am I being unfair in my expectations? Another fear I have is not staying on top of my kids' behavior and losing control of them. Maybe I go overboard?

But what is really unsettling for me is that I just don't know. I don't have the answers. I'm totally winging it here. I went into this whole parenting gig with one main goal: to not be the kind of parent my parents were. Although I am now able to sympathize with a lot of things my mother, in particular, dealt with as a mother, I still see so many wrong turns and bad choices she made that I am determined not to replicate. And yet, to some extent, I'm at a loss as to what to do.

After some cooling-off time last night, I forced myself to go talk calmly with Kevin, because it's important. I told him that I know it's tough being 13, that I remember being 13 and sometimes being in a rotten mood and not even understanding why, and sometimes feeling angry and not even being sure at what or whom. And I apologized for screaming at him, and for what I screamed at him - even though, in all honesty, I didn't feel like apologizing, because he really pissed me off - because I think it's important to model humility. I asked him if he wanted to talk about anything that might be on his mind, and I got a few grunts in response. That's okay. I'm pretty sure he was listening.

Ack. This parenting thing. Not easy.

1 comment:

Joyce said...

i've been a blubbering mess all night for the very same reasons, except i've got a 22 year old in the mix with the almost 14 year old. yesterday they were arguing over t-shirts and sweatpants and i lost it. tonight more of the same. i hate it. yet at the same time it breaks my heart. and then there is sarah crying her eyes out over a married man. oh the joys and perils of motherhood.