I try to have a can-do attitude.  I’m reasonably intelligent, I know how to read, I’ve got access to the internet, and that means that most of the time, I look at a task ahead of me and I think “Well. How hard can it be?” This usually works. I’ve sewn skirts for American Girl dolls with just a YouTube video and some scraps of fabric, I’ve driven all over the country by myself without a GPS or a cellphone, and I can cook and knit all sorts of things. A lot of the time I feel like I’m in over my head – but it usually works out. The problem is that since I usually feel like I’m over my head, sometimes I don’t recognize it when I actually am. I’ll be moving forward, feeling a familiar sense of panic and hysteria, and then think, well, that’s not too bad – and the next thing I know voila. I’m actually underwater.  Example? Well, let’s start with what’s happening right now.

My son has just turned 12 years old and though he was 11 a mere week or so ago, he’s suddenly a completely different person. It totally seemed like something I could handle at first. I held my husband by the arm and said, “It’s because he’s a pre-teen now. We have to be patient.” I even downloaded an app and signed myself up to do a No-Yell Challenge. I felt a little in over my head, but ready to face the challenge, like always.

In the morning he’s crabby. I can say nothing right. I work around it, though, calmly asking him which breakfast foods he’d like. Reminding him that he starts X-Country today is clearly a mistake, as now he’s slamming around and stomping up the stairs to get whatever it is he needs. He’s rude. He has an answer for everything and it’s spoken in a tone that reminds me (as if I didn’t already know) that I know nothing about being 12 and a boy.

Then, by some miracle he finds the things he needs for school and we head to the bus stop. Where, completely unexpectedly, he leans over and pecks me on the cheek, “have a great day mom, see you at 4.” I touch my hand to my cheek with the same wonder as I had when I was first kissed by a boy at camp. Lucky me.

I am not naive enough to think that angry boy won’t be home at 4, but I also know he might be lovely boy. Developmentally, this is where he’s at. I just feel underwater about how to manage new boundaries about what’s acceptable and what is not and what to do when it reaches the “is not” level.

I’m working on it. Parenting is a work in progress that never stops changing and requiring me to reflect and rebuild my strategy.