I wasn’t one of those parents who had the easiest of babies. I loved Dash with a depth of maternal passion from the moment I took that first pregnancy test – protecting my still flat tummy as I dashed around New York City those first few days of realizing that from two people, you really can create a third. He did not sleep through the night in those first six weeks, as did the babies of some of my friends who would appear bright eyed and bushy tailed – that you just wanted to slap ’em. His toddler years involved whacking as many of his friends he could get to before I would gently say, “Dash, don’t whack, use your words.” He was famous in pre-school for uttering these words “When your friends aggravate you, don’t hit ‘em, use your words.” It all must have worked because his best friends are still from his pre-school days – either that or they’re all masochists. Then Dash just chilled out. He was calm as a ship on a quiet ocean, perhaps there was the occasional ripple but generally since those early toddler days, he has been calm, good-natured and lovely to be around.
I had heard about the teenage years, but I firmly believe that your kid is allowed to go through an aggravating phase once in their childhood. Did you hear that… I firmly believe… and I firmly passed on to Dash that he had been an aggravating toddler and that he had used up his potion of parental provocation in those young years. The teenage years were to be a doddle of joy, happiness and coming of age. Now, I know what I’ve built up to here… And then he….. But no, he’s been great. Dash does well in school, he is generally respectful, helps around the house, wonderful for the most part with his two sisters, has friends that I adore. So what is the problem, I hear you wondering.
Overnight, aged 14, Dash discovered independence. Yes, yes… I know that is healthy and all. I just wasn’t expecting it to come at me so hard and fast. I am aware the teenage years are a push and pull toward adulthood for the child and the parent has to let the bird fly free and all that fabulousness. For me, it happened in a short and sweet three month time period, where I didn’t know what hit me. My little boy, (okay, my particular boy was never little – he is currently 6’3” and growing) who always used to give me a hug and kiss goodnight was now asking me to pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease leave him alone at bedtime. My kid who always let me in on what was going on in his life, now told me that I had 5 questions of the day that I might ask and generally asking him how he was and whether he was hungry, had already used up two of those questions. It’s a little like having that genie give you three wishes and by the time you’ve figured them out, you’ve already wantonly wasted them all. “Would you like me to proof read your essay?” “No!” If I’m lucky, its “No thank you, please close the door.” Believe me I could feel that metaphorical boot in my back. Apparently, I can’t help with anything anymore. I hear your judgement… how lucky you are. Your kid has it together. Stop helicopter parenting your child. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful.
I miss him. I miss him so very very much. It came as a surprise! I don’t want to coddle him, but I want to be able to have a conversation that involves more of him than discussing the latest UN resolution. We discuss the news and philosophy, but we don’t discuss what’s goin’on! So why did no-one ever tell me? Am I to expect the same from my daughters, or are boys and girls different that way? My friends and I talk about it, and many of us are going through the same separation. We’re so proud of our sons navigating their way through life and its also bitter sweet to release them into the world. I know that teenage-hood is the next phase of “Leave me alone. I can do it!” Just no one ever told me whether I could do it!