Dealing with a Thirteen Year Old {May 1st, 2010}

>> Sunday, May 2

My husband and I went through our kids' terrible two's and terrible three's and every single challenging year after that.
Our knowing friends and relatives often commented to us, wait until they are teens.
They said that your boys will soon be eating like there is no tomorrow but that will be the least of your problems because that will be solvable.
They did not really elaborate on this terrible teens.

Late last year, our older son turned 13. A milestone for us and for him as well.
He is a very intelligent child, smart enough to get A's on his pre-advanced placement classes. His teachers all say so. Yet, he does not have the motivation to achieve this. He had always been a straight A student until middle school.
We know most of the kids he hangs around with. Some of them he had known since pre-school. These kids have been to our home for sleepovers many times. His other friends we know from his soccer team. My husband knows these boys well since he coached their team for many years.

Over the past year, our son's personality and physical appearance had been changing. Yes, he is at the puberty age. His voice is deeper, he needs deodorant, his muscles are getting more developed. His face is no longer roundish, it is longer, more sculpted and more manly. He is even more handsome to me, his mom, than ever before.

However, he is always glum, angry. He seems too cool. He has nothing to say. He thinks his younger brother is a pain. He does not like cuddles. He thinks girls are dumb.

My husband and I can tolerate all of it except for the silence and disrespect. We understand that he is going through many changes and there is such pressure from his peers to be just so. As he was growing up, we were looking forward to helping him through this phase, confident that our open communication and love for him would overcome any peer pressure. We were confident that we had built a home that would be his haven, a place were he can relax his guard.

Not so. Last night, at the dinner table, we had caught him in a lie. The lie was bad enough but worse than that was he would not admit it. Instead of yelling, anger, tears, my husband and I were both calm. We were both fed up, at the end of our ropes.

Then a remarkable thing happened. Our younger son, 10 years old and quite immature for his age, stepped in. He defended his brother, pulled him aside to reason with him. His techniques were rudimentary and unsophisticated. His words were basic, non-descriptive, not eloquent. Yet, his message, the strongest message of all to his brother was: I love you. You are my brother.

It worked. He broke through his brother's strong wall of defense. He made his brother see once again, even briefly, that we are a unit of 4. And that 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 does not equal 4. It equals whatever we can accomplish with synergy.
Our younger son brought in the lowest common denominator, the reason why we are all together. Love. We love each other.

Of course, it is the weekend and tomorrow both my kids will get a strong infusion of peer pressure in school. The commitment to family will waver. The urge to be cool will be strong. But we know that an understanding and a meeting of the minds and hearts was accomplished yesterday. And this is what we can all reference for a better future.


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