So it finally happened. We now have a teenager in the house and it happened right in the midst of Covid-19.
In the chaos of life during a pandemic, it caught me totally off guard, despite my awareness of what could happen.
“Why is he so moody?”
“Why is he crying?”
“What’s the matter with him?”
Bombarded by questions from the family because my boy is behaving out of character. Trying to explain that this is a normal part of his development and to be expected. There are a lot of hormonal changes taking place during this period and it is unrealistic to think he will not be affected by them.
I get moody when it’s my time of the month. Now that I’m perimenopausal, I’ve noticed that the emotional rollercoaster is getting worse. Sometimes I cry for no reason I can think of except that tears may be a form of release. You know like when they say, “You’ll feel better after a good cry.” Funnily enough, it’s true. If I can excuse myself for feeling out of sorts for no apparent reason, surely I can cut my boy some slack for going through puberty.
The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back
One evening, the boy flipped out because he had to do the dishes. It wasn’t that he’s never had to do the dishes. It’s a regular chore that both boys are expected to do when they’re at home. But this particular evening, he balked in the most unexpected way.
I confess that I initially responded poorly. I had translated it to mean that he expected to never ever have to do the dishes again. Naturally, as a parent, I couldn’t accept that. Everyone has responsibilities and this was one of his. Would I be raising a spoiled kid if I allowed him to get away with this?
Then he told me he felt stressed out with Covid-19 and school and the amount of cleaning he had to do because he was worried about everything getting “contaminated”. I had to reel myself back. I didn’t trust myself to respond, so I didn’t. I remembered what a friend had said: “You’re not expected to have an answer for everything.”
All I did was ask him to write about what he was feeling and sent him to bed after because it was bedtime. I read what he wrote and suddenly, I was a teenager again, feeling misunderstood by the adults who couldn’t take the time to understand me. What he wanted was a reprieve from his chores for that evening because he felt overwhelmed.
Hadn’t I felt the same thing many times when I was overwhelmed with things to do? I have also broken down over small things that were just the trigger that tipped me over the edge after enduring too much for too long.
One time, when I was working out, I burst into tears. I was sobbing so hard, that a friend asked me, “What’s wrong?” Except I didn’t know why I was crying. I just couldn’t stop. If I had to answer her, what would I have said? “The workout was too hard”? Except that wasn’t exactly true. It was a class I did every week, but on that particular day, I was tired, my period was coming and I felt run down.
I also remember a time when I was still a student in Highschool. I was walking home and it rained. I remember being upset about something else, but the rain just made me feel worse. When I came home, I was crying and my mother asked me what was wrong. Too embarrassed to tell her the real reason, I said that I was upset because it rained and I was drenched.
Now when I think back to the evening when my boy protested about washing the dishes, I realise that it really wasn’t about the dishes at all.
Walk a Mile in My Shoes
The toughest part of being a parent is remembering the problems of childhood from a child’s perspective. We can look at it now with all our worldly experiences and think, “That was nothing. Why did I think it was so hard? Why did I get so worked up about it?”
A child’s problems may seem small to us, but to a child, it’s huge. As a younger sibling, younger cousin, I’ve grown up to older kids always telling me how easy it is for me. Since they will have passed every milestone before I get there, they will always look back and tell me it was nothing. They did this even though they cried how hard it was when they were going through it. It made me feel like I had to endure without complaint. I retreated into a shell instead of asking for help when I needed it. For a long time, I was too proud to ask for help.
When I became a parent, I was determined that my children must never feel like this. I wanted them to come to me when they need help. But they will never ask me for help if I’ve forgotten what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes.