I am the official owner of a 15 year-old now.
My eldest turned 15 last week.
It’s not too bad. I was dreading the teen years because I enjoyed my young ones so much, and I do reflect on those days almost every day.
However, this boy has restored my faith and hope in young people and I have come to the realisation that we can thrive in the teen years. And it’s not because this kid is ‘easy’.
This kid has always pushed my boundaries and limits. As the first, I guess that’s his job.
This kid has made monumental mistakes. Sometimes he has had to make the same mistakes many times over just to make sure. He has a highly reactive teen brain and a low tolerance for frustration, and he can be very impulsive.
But all throughout, he has felt that he could come and talk to me, and we work out some solutions, and I wait for the next thing.
He is a handsome lad with an athletic physique. This has earned him extra attention from girls, and he hasn’t always made good decisions. He has had his heart broken this year, and it has helped him to decide his priorities at this age and stage of his development – family, friends, school, and sport.
He has given us a few heart attacks. Like coming home at 7:30pm instead of 5:30pm. He lost track of time playing soccer with a friend. My husband wanted to ground him for a month, but I worked out a plan with him that if he could show me that he could come home at 4:30pm for a week, the time would go back to 5:30pm. He doesn’t have a mobile phone, because he has had 2 – one went through the washing machine, and one was lost. So, we did some problem solving and came up with some solutions for him to keep track of time. You just have to lend them your brain at times and teach them skills to hopefully make better choices in the future.
He has found his physical self a challenge at times. Although he loves being fit and strong, he has complained at times about being so tall. One day he said “I’m so tall, I have trouble seeing what I’m stepping on”. He can be a bit clumsy at times too. He’s slowly making the connections – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially.
A saving grace has been the really strong friendships that he has forged and they have stuck with each other throughout primary school and now in high school. His best friend is a polar opposite to him – quiet, physically small, organised, sensible. They are joined at the hip and seem to balance each other out.
I see glimpses of his younger self in him. He is still great with young children and animals. He is kind and caring. He still has that ‘give it a go’ attitude. He loves hugs and gives big long bear hugs. And he has a winning smile and kind eyes. Recently he helped me to extract some plastic from our old dog’s mouth. The silly old fella ate a plastic spoon and it got wedged between his teeth. My boy was so calm and caring and helped to calm the dog so I could perform the surgery.
One day he asked me for some money to go with his friends to McDonalds after school. I gave him a 20 dollar note and asked him to bring home the change. But there was no change, he had shouted his friends to soft drinks. I remarked “you are generous with my money” and he replied “I would be generous if it was my money”. That’s true.
He is doing OK at school. Maths is his strongest subject, and writing is where he struggles. The teachers say that he can do better. We know that too. Being in the Aboriginal programme at school has been helpful – I can’t teach him men’s business.
He will probably end up going into a job that involves numbers and money. He horrifies me on a regular basis. I thought I was teaching him social justice and how to care for the environment, but he is a raging capitalist. No-one will play Monopoly with him anymore, he has won every game since he was 6 years old.
This past week, I’ve noticed him become more mature. He has been helping around the house a bit more, and talking to his brothers about speaking kindly to each other (and he is trying to role model that). He has also been more organised with school, and is getting the work done on a consistent basis. We are getting there slowly.
We have to keep this one busy and he costs us a fortune in organised sport – soccer, cricket, futsal. He would do more if we could afford the time and energy. He is very agile and is good at parkour.
We have recently bought a farm and we spend weekends there. This boy has embraced it. He loves the freedom and open space. I have always said that this kid needed to live on a farm. It’s a shame we couldn’t do it when he was younger. He enjoys chopping wood for the fire. My husband has taught him about the infrastructure on the farm so he can help me if something goes wrong. We are going to buy a tractor soon, and this kid will love learning how to drive it.
So, it’s all good. It’s been a challenge at times. It is certainly true that parenting gets harder as your children get older. You just hope that they come out the other side with a sense of self and some skills to get along in the world.
Sarah-Jayne Blakemore – The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain – TEDX Talk