Weathering teenage moods
He was angry about having to go to the photo shoot that day. Feeling rushed and ambushed by my agenda, which was to have a black and white portrait of him to match the two recently taken of his brothers by my friend Noelle at their elementary school.
It was an early evening, late last May, and he was not quite thirteen and a half. My father used to say I could kill him with my glare at that same age. I would feel terrible when he said it. I didn’t know where the rage came from, only that I hated him in those moments–yes, hated–and the violence of it frightened me. For years, he could shame me with recollections of my teenage moods, as if I had been in control of my emotions at the time. As if I really wanted to hurt him, whom I adored.
Sometimes it was unclear to me which of us was the child. From earliest memory, whatever emotion I expressed, my father had to express more of it. When I cried, he cried. When I was angry, he was angry. Who was in control? I never knew. As a mother, I resolved I would never hold my teenager’s moods against him, never take it personally, any more than I did his colic or tantrums when he was small. It wasn’t always easy in those first months of thirteen. Suddenly the adoring child is pushing away, contemptuous, exasperated, enraged. It feels personal.
Once, I forgot myself, abdicated as the grown up, and said, “You hurt my feelings,” then walked away and sulked. It didn’t feel good. I wasn’t drawing a healthy boundary. It wasn’t the same as saying, “Hey, I love you, but you can’t speak to me that way.” I was punishing. I’ll show you who can be thirteen.
You might as well lock yourself indoors all summer because of storms. Because that’s all they are, these clashes. One front meeting another. His will up against mine. A flash of rage, a slammed door. We glare. I crack a smile. He rolls his eyes, but the corners of his mouth are already lifting. Then, sunshine.
And sometimes rainbows.
I can’t believe thirteen has already turned to fourteen. Thanks to Noelle for these beautiful photos, capturing the early part of this new chapter of parenting. They remind me of the set of black and whites we had made when this same kid was just a few months old. In lots of ways, everything about being a mom feels new again. It’s an amazing time.