“Check it out dad, my first zit!” my son said with a little too much excitement.
I stopped shaving, looked at him next to me and burst out laughing. I replied: “Don’t worry, there will be a few more where that one came from and you are probably going to be less excited about them.”
We all remember those dreadful days of puberty when you would wake up with a pimple the size of Mount Rushmore, red and swollen. A lobster stuck to your face, flapping it’s tail violently for every kid in school to see. I am convinced some of those pimples made their own noises and had a personality. All because of hormones.
When my son was exclaiming his gratification at another sign of growing up, a profound sadness gripped my heart, as I watched him trying to get a better view of the little red dot under his lip. He turned thirteen this month. It is now official, we have a teenager in the house. It was really scary, the morning of his “turn.”
The wife and I clung to one another, protecting our innocent daughter, waiting wide-eyed for our son to exit his bedroom as some kind of zombie-teen-freak. Did he change into the feared creature of moms nightmares? The monster hiding in the closets of dads? Will he remain the same and will we survive the onslaught of THE TEENAGER? (evil laugh insert here)
It was fine. He is still the slightly-too-small-for-his size, boy who loves playstation and sleeps in front of the tv. The same one who gets way to excited about sport and who thinks his dad’s superhero collection is pretty cool. The same one who gives his mom a hug and asks his dad to tuck him in and say a goodnight prayer.
But it is only the beginning. I am wondering if parenting teens are really so bad? Do children really change that dramatically? Then I hear the echoes from the bleachers filled with a hundred parents screaming, YES IT IS and YES THEY DO! And remember reading a poster once: Teenagers are the explanation why some animals, like lions, eat their young.
Please don’t blame me for being a little wee nervous. (No I don’t mean a messed my pants)
I have mentioned it before, somewhere, that every stage of child development brings with it something good, something bad, but always a challenge. It forces us to adapt as parents, to interact in different ways, to discipline in different ways, even changing the ways we express our love. (My son refuse to hug his mom at school, whilst my daughter still think I can catch her jumping from a higher platform. My wife takes what she can get at home and I have constant back pain)
My son has entered this new world of adolescence, this unexplored terrain, the proverbial enchanted forest, to exit on the other side as a man. I am very anxious in missing out on anything, therefore I decided: Instead of waiting for the new creature to exit on the other side, I will go with him, to observe the transformation and marvel in the experience.
I know there will be times when you would want me to walk behind you, so no one else can see me. I know there will be times when you would want me to scout ahead, to give advise. I will cherish the times when we will walk side by side, chatting and laughing. But the reason I go is for the most important times. Those times when someone needs to carry you. The moments when the heartache comes crushing down, when disappointment leaves you paralysed. Those moments where you might feel that you cannot continue, where life has no meaning. I will be there. I will encourage you, comfort you and give you every bit of support you need. Me got ya back.
We will make a fire when the night turns dark and cold. We will explore together, fighting of the creatures that threaten us, maybe teach you a trick or two, but in all this making sure you are ready. Ready to yield your own sword with confidence, and conquer the demons and claim the victories of life.
And then I will cry and leave the forest and wait. Because that is what parents do.
My hiking boots are strapped. The flint, blanket and non-perishable items packed, the cane and sword lying against the front door and my map in my pocket. I am ready my son. It is time to go. Let’s go and do this together. You, me, mom and sis. Let’s go and grow up.