Enter the Tween-Age Boy Zone if you dare. This is the zone where Flesh-Eating Velociraptors eat curious little monkeys for breakfast. The Jedi Council has taken over the Hundred Acre Wood and usurped power from a band of animals stuffed with fluff. And…Super MOM (who used to rock it when she made play-dough, built tents in the living room, read Magic Tree House books, and ALLOWED someone to stay up a half an hour after bedtime) instead of soaring is fluttering about with a rip in her cape on the outer fringe of the Tween-Age Zone.
This past year I realized parenting a Tween-Ager is very different from the time when my son and I sang Jack Johnson lyrics from the Curious George soundtrack together –I can tell that we are going to be friends…Yes, I can tell that we are going to be friends. Yeah, we struggled with brushing teeth AND bed time AND staying in bed, but we connected.
Early this year if there was any song being sung it was more like:
Mom, I know better than you.
Son, I am 27 years older than you.
After several months of disharmony and suppressing an urge to bring back simpler times by binge watching episodes of Curious George, I recognized that my tactics needed to change. My son was moving into a natural phase of growing up and challenging authority. Our lives had changed a lot in the past few years. We had made a major move from overseas. I went back to work full-time and back to school. My husband completed a Master’s program and started working full-time. The amount of free time we had was drastically reduced. Our relationship had become strictly business.
Have you done your homework? Have you practiced for band? Room…Clean your room! Take the dog out!
No wonder we were butting heads. I had shifted into a perpetual nagging mode. We were no longer communicating. Thinking back to the days of play dough and Curious George, I realized in the midst of all the teaching moments about brushing teeth, flushing the toilet, and changing underwear, we just had fun together.
I know that my son is moving into a phase where his friend’s opinions will become WAY more important than mine. But, if I desire to continue to have a voice in his life, it was the time to enter his world and reconnect. That was the tricky part. My husband had Star Wars and Legos to connect with him.
I hate building LEGOS. It bores me to tears. REALLY it does. So that was out. What could I do? Start small. He and his sister had the day off of school, so we went rock climbing. I got all day passes. After three hours my arms hurt so bad I wasn’t sure I could drive the car home.
My son had a blast. “Thanks Mom!”
We watched Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Jurassic Park III, and Jurassic World over a series of weekends. So much good stuff in those movies to discuss. Ethical lessons on genetic engineering. The dangers of greed in the hands of powerful scientists. How you can predict who’s going to be eaten next in a Hollywood film. We laughed, ate popcorn, and shut our eyes. (At least I did.)
“Let’s do that again.”
I became more intentional about communicating before jumping into the list of Must Dos. I asked open-ended questions to get dialogue going. “What did you have for lunch?” “Who are you sitting next to in class?” “What was something that was good/hard about today?” Sometimes, I got full answers, something I got “nothing.”
A couple of weeks ago, I realized this was working when he started sharing about some issues at school. Ahhh…connection. The message…”We’re here for you and care about your world” is being transmitted and understood.
It appears for my son the Tween-Age Boy zone means Flesh-eating Velociraptors and John Williams have devoured Curious George and Jack Johnson. Entering into this life shows him I care.
Got it. Carnivores + Communication = Connection. This parenting life never ceases to amaze me.