Raising A Teenager: When My Son Expresses Himself
I wish someone had warned me that raising a teenager was equivalent to having a tooth pulled without anesthesia. I’m exaggerating of course, but lately everything with the No. 1 Son is…a challenge, to put it mildly.
As a kid, I thought my mother should’ve tried to use her inside voice more and my father could’ve pretended to be remotely interested in understanding the mind of a teenage girl, instead of just repeating the rules.
I was raised during the children should be seen and not heard era, which was completely wack and left me feeling stifled and misunderstood. I didn’t want my kid to feel this way.
So when the No. 1 Son arrived on my own birthday, I knew we were kindred spirits. It was a sign. I was convinced that I’d totally get him, and I was determined to be loving, patient, provide structure, let him speak freely (within reason) and later, do my best to understand the complicated mind of a teenage boy.
Basically, I was prepared to let the No. 1 Son express himself the way Salt ’N Pepa rapped to me so many years ago: “You gotta be you and only you, babe.”
Yeah, this sounds good in theory. Sometimes this approach backfires, like when the No. 1 Son went to see Stomp on Broadway with his science club. He knew his clothes should fit the occasion and this wasn’t his first Broadway experience. Still, he emerged from his room brushing off his basketball shorts and kicks looking like he was about to shoot hoops with LeBron and ‘dem. He proudly sported a bucket hat that he’d attempted to wear during a brutally cold winter day.
I would’ve preferred a crisp button-up shirt and khakis, but he was clean, moisturized and he smelled like Michael Jordan’s Flight cologne, so I reluctantly let his clothing situation rock. Thankfully, he ironed his T-shirt. This was a reminder to check his outfit the night before any event.
I figured that once he saw his friends dressed to impress, that he’d silently get the hint to step up his wardrobe game. Not so much. His dad said only one kid wore a button-up and the chaperones were super, super casual too. Ah, I can’t win them all.
Recently, he announced that he was done with learning how to play the bass guitar, because things “weren’t moving fast enough.” The No.1 Son expected to be jamming like Nile Rodgers or Jimmi Hendrix after just a few lessons. To him, music theory was boring and it didn’t take this long to master a video game.
He did, however, like the bass line to Beyoncé’s “Déjà Vu” and suggested to the music teacher that he learn to play that advanced tune. He wasn’t disrespectful, just matter of fact about it. I scrambled for words, but the teacher stopped me. He was completely unfazed when the No. 1 Son pulled up a clip of Bey’s famous video on his smartphone. The music teacher explained that he wasn’t the first kid to consider skipping the scales in favor of a jam session.
Well, at least he’s normal. He’s still studying the bass and hopeful that he’ll get to rock out like Prince one day.
Those were minor infractions on the road to self-expression, but yesterday when I asked about the permission slip for a specialized high school exam, the No. 1 Son shared that he already took the practice exam so you know, why do it again? My mother happened to be sitting at the table with us and her Grandma Meter rose from zero to 60. I wanted to flip, but I didn’t lose my cool. Calmly, I explained that this was a crucial high school test (which he knew) and that it was F-R-E-E, when it normally cost a grip.
Him: “Don’t I get a say in this?”
Me: “No, you don’t.”
This had gone too far. Now I have to double back to the advisor for a slip and pray that it isn’t too late to get him on the list for the test. While I want him to express himself, as the Head Mama in Charge, it’s my job to express myself too—word to Salt ’N Pepa.
Is letting my kid express himself crazy? How do you handle situations like this?
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