Who Took My 7-Year-Old and Replaced Him With a Teenager?!

The shoes at the side door (and the kid in them) just get bigger

The shoes at the side door (and the kid in them) just get bigger

Over at Mommasaid.net, my friend and colleague Jen Singer lists some of the reasons parenting teens is harder now than it used to be (exhibit A: sexting. Shudder).

Jen actually has a newly-minted, real-life teenage son. I do not, yet (though I do sometimes stare at the welter of kid-size sneakers, boots, and soccer cleats near the door and imagine them three times the size, and my heart aches for a mudroom and a shoeless infant in equal measure).

So no, I have no actual teens yet — but geez, oh, man is my older boy acting like one lately! Recent utterances:

I want my privacy!

Why can’t I have a lock on my door?!

When do I get to make the rules around here?

and our current favorite:

When I have kids, they’ll be able to [eat two desserts if they want; stay up all night if they want; have as much computer time as they want]!

He gets himself quite heated up, in a scarily teen-like manner, over things like having to go upstairs now to brush teeth and get dressed, and not five minutes from now, because five minutes from now is when the bus comes (and no, we can’t go to school late; Mama does not want to break her perfect record of never having had to drive him to school in almost three years. I take my moments of pride where I can get them, lately).

I get why my Daniel is erupting in anger at some inopportune moments; he’s jonesing for more independence. I’d love to give him more, but not necessarily the kind he wants. And that’s the dance I’m trying to learn the steps of right now.

  • Not going to happen: He gets to decide what time bedtime is. Uh, uh. Though seriously, and don’t tell him this, I probably could let him “stay up” in his bed as long as he likes; because he’s always been the best sleeper in the house, hands down, he’d probably keel over not to far from the Mom-sanctioned bedtime anyway.
  • Will happen: He’s going to start making his own lunch, at least on weekends when I’m not so pressed for time, and pretty soon on school mornings, too (he’s already responsible for packing up his backpack, though that takes two or six reminders).
  • Not going to happen: Having two desserts. His sweet tooth is way too sharp and shiny (just like his mother’s!) to allow that. I have already made the decision, and communicated as such to my kids, that for now, I know more about what’s good for them to eat than they so, and I’m in control of the shopping list and the pantry doors.
  • Will absolutely happen: He’ll be heading home from the bus stop on his own starting in third grade, when he and his brother will be in different schools, with an hour lag between their comings and goings. No way am I making four trips a day up the block, and it’ll make him feel good to be the guy marching down the hill on his own, as it should (I’d do it this year, but school rules say that kindergarteners have to be met at the bus stop by parent, guardian, or sanctioned-by-written-note substitute guardian, and the little guy is in K. Sigh.)

The good (for now) news about Daniel is that his naturally, deeply sensitive nature usually causes him to turn around and throw himself on me in abject despair once he realizes he’s turned the whole house upside down for the want of 5 more minutes to watch SpongeBob before school, and apologizes in a patently un-teen-like manner. “I still need you Mommy! I do!”

I figure I have a few more years of that. Right? Right?