SoCS: Thirteen Years

This post is part of Linda G.Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday meme.

Rules and this week’s prompt.

The idea is simple – post an unedited stream of consciousness piece that ties into the weekly prompt. This week, it’s “Age”.

 

Boy at oneish. He loved vacuums passionately!

Age has been very much on my mind the last few weeks. In early July, my daughter – my youngest child – turned 10, a milestone age. Three weeks after that, I turned 45 – halfway between 40 and 50, halfway to age 90 – it’s both exciting, and a little intimidating. My youth is past, and time seems to be more precious than I once thought it was, and I’m less inclined to want to waste it on things that don’t fulfill me or meet my own purposes in life.

It’s been nearly five weeks since my birthday, and my son’s is fast approaching. It’s a momentous day for him, too – he will be thirteen.

Yes, I’m about to be the mother of an adolescent.

It seems like it was just a blink ago that he was born – a giant baby boy weighing over ten pounds, who could hold up his own head right from the start. But now he’s almost as tall as me, and most likely will be before another birthday passes. He’s thinking about his future; he’s a year from the age where he can get his working papers and, then, a “real job”. He’s been excited about that, and looking forward to it, since he was eleven, and now that it’s so close, he’s getting pretty serious about the idea. He’s three years from being old enough to get his driver’s license, and he routinely asks questions about driving rules and technique, and has expressed an interest in saving for a car of his own.

He’s growing up. Were we Jewish, he’d be celebrating with a bar miztvah, and he would be considered an adult. In many other cultures, and in many times in history, that would be true. It’s our current American society that keeps people of this age firmly in the “child” category. While he’s still a few years from being legally independent (another facet of our society, and not necessarily one I agree with, since many people who are legally conferred adult status do not react and respond in a rational or responsible manner; there is something suspect to me in tying maturity to age, as though they truly are one and the same.)

No, he’s not an adult – not quite yet. But then, neither is he a child who needs me to make the small decisions of his life- or even, in truth, not nearly so many of the larger ones. I, personally, don’t base my children’s freedom to make their own choices upon age or social convention, but rather upon the capacity to make those choices. Larger choices are based upon the foundation of making smaller ones, of succeeding, and failing, too. There are things to be learned from the choices that work, and also from those that don’t turn out the way they hoped.

When he was seven, we began exploring and evolving our family life from one where we were authoritarian parents – honestly, I was more like a tyrant, controlling every possible aspect of my childrens’ lives, and imposing strict and often harsh consequences when they didn’t meet my standards (which were too high for their abilities) – to a partnering relationship, where we help them to have the greatest possible degree of autonomy in their own lives.

So now, as he spends his last few days as a preteen, he has nearly six years of choosing under his belt. He’s chosen what to wear, whether and how to cut his hair, what to read, watch, eat, play, when and where to sleep, whether to accept work, when and how to save or spend his money, and what to do with nearly all of his time. In the last year or two, he’s also had a great deal more freedom in deciding whether he will go with us when we leave the house, or remain behind. He’s twice had the freedom, during a weekend unschooling conference, to sign charges to our hotel room as he wished.

Yes, there are some big choices coming up, for him. Whether I dominate his life, or not, that’s as true for him as it is for anyone approaching adulthood. Parents can try to control their kids, and, when they’re little, it might even work. But he’s not little now, and it would be hard to control someone almost as big as me, who’s physically stronger than I am, and who is only five years from the legal age of independence. Such attempts at control would be illusory, at best, and, at worst, could destroy our relationship – or even his life, if he were driven to extreme measures to resist my efforts to run his life.

Thirteen. It’s a bit surreal, this coming birthday, and what it means, to him and to me. He’s not little; he’s big. He’s not truly dependent; he’s capable in so many ways. He’s becoming an adult, right now, and there’s really no way to put the brakes on that.

I’m a little apprehensive, but a lot more excited. For him, because he’s well on the way to being a man, and he’s going to be a good one – already, he’s kind, generous, sensitive, responsible, thoughtful, and has personal convictions and the courage to follow through on them. He’s a great many other things, too, but there isn’t enough room in this post to go into deep detail…

I’m also excited for me, because this change is also a change for me, and for our family. This getting-older boy, busily becoming a man, means there is an ending coming, for me, and a beginning. He doesn’t need me in the same way, already, and, once he becomes a man, it will be different, still. It’s a time for me to release him to his life, and expand more wholly into my own.

Age is so often just an undercurrent to life – but, right now, right here in my own, it seems like a tidal wave of significance.

Do you enjoy stream-of consciousness writing? Anyone can play, so long as they are willing to follow a few simple rules. See you next week, for another live-streaming look into the lovely chaos in my mind! =)

Join in or read more SoCS posts here!

Last month of being twelve. At “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Skidmore College ,August 1, 2014.

20 comments

  1. You’ve had some big milestones this year. I admire your grace and acceptance in meeting each of them. I wish you and your family all the best in the coming years.

  2. thanks so much for sharing this. My step-son has just become 14 and it is such a change since last year. They suddenly go their own ways so much more and discover their own decisions much more. I like a lot what I see as he is like your son kind, caring, has a lot of humour and is able to decide for himself in a responsible way.
    But it is so strange to see a child change into a man. Very exciting though as well. Am so glad that we met 🙂

    • It is a strange thing, watching the transition from boy to man. Girl to woman I know – I did that. But this is fascinating and new, and makes me understand my husband in a new way!

      May you enjoy the soon to be a man in your life!

    • They’re both pretty good at weighing consequences and thinking their decisions through, and they’re fairly confident in their ability to do so. We help by making sure they have access to the information they need along the way. They often research and read reviews of even their minor purchases. It does seem to be having a beneficial effect in their lives, and it’s often amazing to watch them as they work things through.

  3. Wow, 13 is a big milestone indeed, for both of you…the start of the teen years! Congratulations on all you’ve done for him thus far — I love your description of changing your parenting style to a partnering relationship. That kind of dynamic will set him up for success in so many ways as he continues growing up…kudos to you, and happy early birthday to him (and a belated one for you and your daughter, too)!

    • Changing the dynamic was the hardest – and by far most rewarding – thing I’ve ever done. He’s definitely growing up strong, competent and confident. He’s pretty excited tonight- tomorrow, he has a weight room orientation, and he’ll old enough to go to the pool without direct supervision, so he’s really looking forward to the new horizons opening up for him.

      Annalise and I thank you. Her birthday was wonderful; she and I went shopping, to a movie, and to dinner. I was recovering from a bout of food poisoning, and renewed my license, and was happy to be able to be out of bed. =)

    • I really think it has more to do with approach and expectations. If parents are expecting problems, that’s what they’re likely to find. If they’re excited to be part of the transition from child to adult, they’ll see things differently. That’s what my post today was about…the perception the adults bring to the table.

      He’ll be a teen at 3am Montana time. We’re all pretty excited. =)

  4. Letting go of control can be very difficult, though I think the hardest thing for a parent to do is watch them live with the consequences of their bad decisions. It’s painful – sometimes more for us than it is for them. All part of the process.
    Congratulations on your milestones. 🙂 Thanks for sharing them as part of SoCS. 🙂

    • I think that sometimes, in the process of becoming adults and parents, we can forget that, when we were kids, we didn’t fear mistakes the same way – we expected them (else why would our pencils come with erasers on them?!)

      Kids are resilient. They experiment, they need to expand their horizons to grow, and so failure is part of the equation, and sometimes, more can be learned from that, than from an easy success…

      But that can be so hard to remember, when it’s happening to someone who lived inside me, and who, for the first months of not living inside me, still took all their nourishment from me….

      Because i let go of the concept of control when my kids were 7 and 4, the thought of trying to do it now is scarier to me than trusting that they’ll learn what they need to learn, at least most of the time. And they’ve got two parents who love them and are here to back them up if they need us.

      A little scary, as the years pass and the potential consequences of mistakes come with higher stakes – but, when I’ve heard parents talk about their kids being “out of control” it sounds different and bigger than what I feel. I don’t WANT them under my control – I want them to know I’m here, I’ll help where I can, but that I trust in their capacity to navigate, and their judgment. and, unless it’s crucial that I do, I won’t step in and take over.

      And when I need to, I breathe a lot. As deeply as I can. =)

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