Making the move into a self-driven social life turns a child into a teen-to-be.
It’s not as though teenagers don’t come with warnings. Just after they’re born and years before puberty is even on the horizon, people feel the need to start warning you about how horrible your life will be when your children collide with their hormones.
And yet, here, on a mild Saturday evening when the domestic world is ticking along in a perfectly sensible way, I suddenly find myself nose-to-nose with the texture and sounds of the next few years of my life as my 10-year old son flexes his individuality muscles.
It began thus. ‘I want to go out with some of the guys,’ he announces.
‘Okay, do you want me to take you to a movie or something?’
‘Yes. But you can’t be there. And you can’t buy a ticket and hide somewhere else in the cinema. I want to do it alone.’
I am quiet about this. Let’s see what happens.
What happens is a monumental logistics operation that takes about 3 school days and does not involve any parental faffing. By Thursday he has announced the plans: the movie, the mall, the time, the company
. I am required to deliver and fetch, and provide the bucks. I suspect this is a role I need to become used to.
I swallow deeply. I discuss it with his father. A flurry of phone calls ensues between the parents and we decide between us that okay, since they’ve done all of this on their own, let’s let them do their thing and stand back and watch.
We arrange drop-offs, co-ordinate no less than 18 telephone numbers (6 boys, 2 parents each). We have the necessary safety chats (again, only this time they have an edge of urgency in case they have to be practically implemented, rather than just thought about in a theoretical sort of way). Even the school counsellor knows about the event, because they told her. This is not just Saturday night at the movies. This is a rite of passage
. This is An Event.
We leave our children together at the movies where they buy their own tickets, watch the movie they have democratically decided on, and from where they then proceed to the food hall for ‘dinner’. At the assigned time I fetch them. They are waiting dutifully, but they are transformed into The Group...it’s all bubbling testosterone and bolshiness.
A few metres away some slightly older girls are looking at them, playing the pre-teen mating game, laughing uproariously... the boys are transfixed and intimidated, huddled together and giggling up their own little storm.
The car feels too small. They are speaking so loudly my ears ring. ‘Ring’ becomes the theme of the night. They each have their cellphones
with different rings tones and sms notifications. They are playing music, sending music, singing loudly – each to his own preferred song.
At home they begin prank calling their friends. I hover around within earshot, feeling very tiny. They are as big as me or bigger, but it’s something else that makes me feel small. The sheer thumping presence of them; the potential for chaos; the blossoming of a several well-intentioned parents’ hopes and dreams for their sons whirling around and mixing with these boys’ growing independence; and the sum of all these boys have seen, done, read and learnt so far in their short lives.
I have had a glimpse into parenting teenagers. It feels exciting. It feels scary.
And it is very, very noisy.
When did you child start to seem like a teen-to-be?
Read more by Karin Schimke
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