Marie Roker-Jones’s son’s teen years have been confusing and a bit lonely for her, so she reached out to him to try and understand what he’s going through.
Moms of boys under the age of 10 are cute. The way they go on and on about their little guy is so touching, you almost don’t want to burst their bubble. Almost. Parents of teen boys know better. They know that it transforms that sweet little boy into a different species. Puberty is a dad’s cue to start having talks with his son about his physical changes and sex. For a mom, her son’s puberty is a reminder that this is the end of her son’s innocence. You might even find her in a corner, rocking herself while asking: “What happened to my little boy?”
It will hit her like sucker punch. Not the kind of sucker punch you get from a toddler while trying to take the remote control from him. Puberty will hit her like a Mike Tyson sucker punch; the kind that knocks you out for days. She may have noticed the signs such as his increasing appetite, voice and other physical changes. She just didn’t anticipate the emotional transformation. It’s like overnight, her son goes from hugging her goodnight to being repulsed by her touch.
Puberty is similar to Gregor Samsa’s transformation in Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. That sweet little boy who hung onto your leg and said he would marry you when he gets older transforms into another being. This new being is taller, stronger and has more testosterone. At first, it’s startlingly and a little disturbing. He loses the little boy scent. You lean in to give him a kiss and wonder if he just jogged for miles. He will be unpredictable, he will test limits, he will utter few words, and he will spend many hours in his room.The more you try to reach out to him, the more he rejects you. When you think you’ve made a breakthrough, the being emerges and knocks you down like the meme in Wii Boxing.
When my oldest son went through puberty, I was unprepared for the changes. My husband, however, was excited about this development. He was ready to embark on a new relationship with my son. One in which they shared jokes that I didn’t get. A relationship that gave him more of an opportunity to impart his wisdom and regale my son in stories from his youth. I became the odd person out. The message was loud and clear: I could not relate and was not invited to their boys’ club.
Just as a mom resigns to the fact that her little boy is gone, the unexpected happens. One day, he comes home from school, hugs her from behind and tells her about his day. As he makes his way to his room, she’ll sigh in relief that all is well again. She’ll even cook his favorite dinner. Hopefully, she doesn’t get too too comfortable, because there will be a couple more years of this new adventure.
Keep in mind that puberty is as confusing for your son as it is for you. He can’t necessarily explain his physical or psychological changes. He is having a difficult time figuring out who he is and what is going on with his body and mind.
Because I wanted to understand my son further, I went to him for advice on how I could better help him through this. Below is a letter from him, to all parents of teenage boys.
Understanding puberty from your son’s eyes can be difficult, but bear with me here. Puberty can be a strange and awkward process, and the emotional aspect of it can be hard to cope with, especially because we, as boys, can find it hard to express ourselves, given that there is a certain “image” of masculinity that most of us try to live up to.
Yes, we can be difficult, evasive and aloof, but with these tips I am about to give you, I hope you will have a clearer understanding of how to get through this time without treating us like we’re aliens. One of the biggest problems is that you try to be mind readers or teen whisperers and you get it all wrong.
Give us space: Yes, sometimes parents can be hard to stand, as you can say the same with us. If it seems like we’re not in the mood, please respect that and leave us alone. No offense but we don’t need you checking in on us because you feel like being friendly.
Don’t make assumptions: We know you worry about us, but you sometimes take things too far. Please stop being dramatic because of all the stories you hear about teen boys. Just because our door is closed, doesn’t mean we are doing anything bad. Yes, we screw up and make mistakes but most of the time we just want to get away from everything and be alone to have time to think and reflect on whatever is on our mind.
Do your best to understand: Yes, understanding us can be challenging mainly because we are probably getting on your nerves. Our minds function differently during this stage, and our thinking can be considered, “impaired”. We start seeing the world in a different way, and either want to rebel against or be part of it. Whatever the conflict is, please, do your best to understand and hear us out. We want to be understood and loved.
Boys have feelings too: We usually have brief “mood swings”. We cry (in private), we feel irritated, we get mad, and we want to be left alone. There are times our feelings are overwhelming and we don’t know what to do or how to act. If we need time, as stated above, give us some time alone to ourselves. We will be ready to speak with you once we feel that we can.
Communication is key: Sometimes, we won’t feel like talking. Please understand that this is completely fine. One minute, we won’t feel like talking, the next, we’re your best friend. Get used to it. Confronting us to talk is risky, and could cause more aggravation. It is just better to wait until we are ready to be civil.
Listen: We want to be heard, not just seen. Plus we’re only half listening to what you say. Keep it brief and give us time to speak. It would also help if you did not interrupt us when we’re talking.
Be there for us: No matter if we pull the, “You suck!” on you guys, we still love you. You are the ones that care for us. So, whenever we are ready to talk, just be there for us and do your best to understand from our viewpoint, instead of just your way of thinking.
Whew! I hope you guys now have a bit more of a sense as to how to deal with us as we go through this stage. Yes, its long, dramatic, and tiresome, but in the end, it can be rewarding if you’re patient and love us despite our unpredictable behavior.
by Nygel Jones