A stranger rode his bike into my driveway the other day, opened my door and walked into my house. He took off his clothes and dropped it into the laundry basket, before opening my fridge door and helping himself to a snack. I was taken aback when he actually closed back the door. He walked over to the TV room, snack in hand, turned on the PS4 and casually started playing a game. All the while I was sitting there wondering who he was. He looked very familiar, but because I was not used to his actions I couldn't really tell if he was my son. There was no me having to tell him, “Go move the bike from the road,” or “Pick up those dirty clothes off the floor.” And certainly no him yelling, “Mom! Mom! Can you get me a snack please? I’m playing a game!”
In the space of two a month I have seen drastic changes in my ten-year-old, some good, others not so much. I have read about the tween years, which is supposed to be the age when most children tend to develop their true sense of self. When they explore new interests and passions, and are greatly influenced by friends. When they change their styles in clothes and there is a shift in their taste in music. “They may go through many phases before they get to be the person they will be as an adult and it all begins as a tween,” one article on parenting had said. And now, it is all rapidly unravelling before my eyes.
Anyone who knows my son knows he is a ‘mommy’s boy’, like velcro, so to see him acting all independent of me is deeper than the mystery of godliness. He spends most of his time holed up in a corner listening to music or playing on the computer or play station. We hardly co-sleep anymore and we have bitter arguments regarding his choice of clothes and the way he wears his hair. Meanwhile, the advice of girlfriend 'A' from school on which pair of socks he should wear on Down syndrome awareness day a few weeks ago was very well heeded, as if she buys, washes and folds socks for him. But the experts say it is important for parents to allow their tweens a sense of freedom during these phases. “They are discovering their individual personality and exploring all of their options. As long as they are not harming themselves or others or behaving badly, this time and experience is important in their development and will influence who they become. It's likely to change tomorrow or next year and the teen years are filled with change, so get used to it!” So I’ll give Miss A a free pass, this time.
And his spirit of independence is not limited to home. When we take public transportation he wants to sit in a seat sans me. “I want people to think I’m travelling by myself,” he’d explain, but it’s funny how the independence would abruptly end when it came time to pay the driver. There was a time not too long ago when, if we were walking through Port of Spain he would hold on tightly to my hand and plead with me not to let go. "What if someone quickly grabs me and runs off with me? Do you want to lose your only child?" But I always reassure him that if someone ever takes they him will promptly return him with the opposite of a ransom. Now, he always walks a step or two ahead and I dare not hold his hand, “So that people would think I’m in the city by myself,” the explanation continued.
This new-found independence has also brought with it a certain level of maturity on the one hand, and withdrawal on the other. Our nightly routine of me reading to him is sometimes reversed when he senses that I’m extremely tired. “Mom just relax tonight, I will read to you because I know you’ve been reading all day and your eyes are tired.” But then there are times when it seems all concern flies out the window, especially when he is playing with his friends. "Mom, can you leave me alone please? I don't feel like talking right now," I frequently get these days. Sometimes I comply, other times I don't just for the fun of it.
But what I find most interesting about this particular stage is that it is so paradoxical from a parental perspective. For while I’m extremely grateful to be getting some much-needed time to myself after over a decade, I resent that I'm not as relevant as I used to be. The smell of bacon or pancakes wafting through the house at any time of the day makes me happy and sad at the same time, for it's an indication that he is coming into his own and mom is slowly being phased out to pasture. My spleen and ribs appreciate the kick-free nights and the rest of my body is super glad for a full night’s sleep, but my heart still yearns for the warm feeling of a little body draped over me or trying to squeeze its way under me. My most valuable parenting lesson learnt during the last eight weeks or so is to appreciate the now, because before I know it he will be starting an adult life in which I may not play an active role. I can't believe how fast my newborn baby boy has morphed into a confusing tween. Truly, time waits on no parent.