My son is officially a hormonal tweenager. He is a year away from having the official -teen at the end of his age, but he's definitely there, and I know it because of last week.
On Saturday at bedtime when I told him it was time to put on his head gear, he hated me. I could see it in his eyes. He gave me that look. When I ignored it, and kept insisting on the head gear, he cried.
On Sunday when his dad was cleaning up he found old pizza crusts under the love seat. He informed our son that he could no longer eat in our downstairs family room (aka "the man cave.") In that moment, he hated his dad. We could see it in his eyes. And he cried so hard that he threw up.
On Monday after school, he happily played basketball with his friends, mocked his little sisters and had a great day...until I asked him to stop mocking his little sisters. Then he hated me. I could see it in his eyes. But he didn't stop the teasing, so I had to pull the "wait 'til your dad gets home" card. When his dad got home, then he hated him, too. Of course, he cried (and lost his video-gaming privileges for the next day.)
On Tuesday, he came home from school and laid on the couch because he wasn't allowed to play any games. He sulked. Thinking he was sick, I asked him if he was okay. "No," was all he said. After some prodding, he finally let loose one detail, "Papi looks at me like he hates me." (Hard not to smile at the irony here... really...)
I comforted and consoled him, but also explained that when I ask him to stop making fun of his sisters I expect him to stop. When he doesn't clean up after himself, he will lose some privileges. I also explained that neither of us hate him; we're just trying to get him ready to be a responsible adult. He's probably going to alternate between hating me and hating his dad for the next 5 years or so; but that's just part of being a teenager. He looked at me and said, "I don't hate you. I just hate wearing head gear. I love you."
Awww....that melted my heart. (But not enough to give him back his gaming privileges.)
Kids, especially tweens and teens, make some really poor decisions. Their brains aren't fully developed, they make impulsive choices, and have that extra added element of peer pressure working against them. My son is just embarking on this journey of hard choices and harder consequences known as the teenage years. I hope we all make it through okay...but I worry. I've seen my students make a lot of bad choices. Some choices are much worse than others and can lead to life or death situations. Others aren't so serious. I told my son, "All kids make stupid decisions at some point; I just hope the ones you make don't hurt you or anyone else too badly. Try to stop and think before you do anything. Think about the possible consequences."
Here's a laundry list of common poor choices made by teens: stealing booze from a parent's liquor cabinet, driving without a license, driving while drunk, sneaking out at night for a date with a boy/girl, cheating on a test, procrastinating a homework assignment, shoplifting, drawing/writing on a wall, calling a parent a name, staying out past curfew, saying you'll be with one friend when you're really with another, smoking cigarettes, taking money from mom/dad's wallet without permission, paying for one movie at the theater but watching three, illegally downloading music/movies from the 'net, talking back to a parent/teacher, making fun of a peer/bullying just to look cool in front of "friends", speeding or driving erratically...
That list could go on and on and on...there is really no limit to the number of bad choices teens can make. Is there any adult who didn't make at least one of those bad choices when they were a teen? Really?
I've been sickened to read stories about people trying to prove Trayvon Martin was a thug by hacking into his email account and looking at his school records; they are looking for evidence that he "deserved it." Here's the deal: just like I told my son--EVERYONE makes bad decisions as a teenager. I did. I'm betting you did. I know my kids will. It's a fact of life. Imagine if your bad teen decision came back to haunt you as a reason you deserved to die.
Perhaps you lied to your parents once about your whereabouts in high school--that makes you a thug who had it coming. Or you caved in to peer pressure and hid someone else's evidence because they were worried about getting caught. Now you're a no-goodnik who deserved to be shot.
I admit it; I can't let the Trayvon Martin story go. It rained a couple of times this week and I watched my son go out the door in a hoodie. It just came to me again...a boy who is not much older than him is now dead. Trayvon may have made some bad choices in his teen years. We all do. But that night in Sanford, FL he didn't deserve to die.
I am still worried about my son. He is going to, like every teen, make some bad choices. I have no trouble at all making him face the consequences of those choices. But he didn't choose to be born with brown skin. He shouldn't have to face consequences for that.