It's official. I am now the proud owner of my very own teenager. Our eldest son turned 13 yesterday, and I'm a patchwork of emotions: I don't know whether to be nostalgic, proud or completely terrified.
The first thing I feel, as always, is WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?
Truly, it doesn't seem that long ago that I was rushed into the operating theatre for an emergency C-section and my world changed forever. I'd never felt such strong emotions as at that moment when my son entered the world and I was through the looking glass to the other side: I was a mother. 24-7, 365-a-year, no days off.
I feel so much tenderness toward this first son of mine - he's entering the world of high school next year, and the need for acceptance and belonging among his peers is at the top of his priority list. Which makes me so very nervous. Especially as we are also the first generation of parents to negotiate our way through a social media minefield, which makes the fun of hormones and peer pressure so much trickier.
I remember reading Celia Lashlie's excellent book, "He'll Be OK" (about sons) and her recommendation to "hook the boundaries up to the National Grid" as they enter the teenage years. In other words, electrify that boundary fence, mama. Consequences and follow-through like never before.
I hesitate to tell the story of what happened on Friday night here, but suffice it to say that there will be no more sleepover birthday parties in this kid's future.
We did all we could to make his birthday party with his friends "cool".
It was a hangout party, with PS3 connected to a big screen projector, awesome games hired and enough controllers for all four lads who were sleeping over. This is what our son wanted - his idea of an awesome birthday.
But unfortunately a couple of the "cool dudes" he invited to sleep over didn't think it was cool enough. They wanted to play on their gadgets all night, downloading who-knows-what. We turned off the Wi-Fi at ten o'clock (so uncool of us) and when they complained they'd be bored, we said, Well, you've loads of options here, and if you don't like it there's always sleeping.
All I can say is luckily I was too suspicious of them to go to sleep myself. I was up watching TV when I heard footsteps rushing down the hallway, the front door opening and closing... in a flash I was off the couch, just in time to see four lads disappearing down the driveway at 1am in the morning. Of course I shouted at them to GET BACK HERE YOU BOYS RIGHT NOW! I knew I'd never catch them if I tried to chase them. Thankfully they came back after I shouted a few more times, (sullenly rather than sheepishly). Then they saw Big Bad Daddy standing in the hallway behind me and they knew they were for it - my shouting had woken him and he was not best pleased.
What were they thinking? That it was an adventure to walk the dark streets in the wee small hours. They didn't think about how they'd get back in, or what would happen if a carload of thugs mugged them for their iPhones, or if the cops spied a bunch of scrawny weenyboppers walking the streets after midnight, and the repercussions that would bring.
Oh I'm so thankful I caught them. But boy oh boy, give me a van-load of hyperactive seven year olds any day!
Help! I have a teenager. A teenager who is so desperate to please the cool kids he wants to be friends with that he will do dumb things. This is scary stuff, people!
You can well imagine that the boys were instantly split up, sent to different couches and mattresses all over the house and the next morning their parents were informed. Ugh. Just such a stink end to what had been (up til then) a pretty nice hang out party.
It's not that these lads are bad lads either. It's that at this tender age they are all invincible, bulletproof. They can't "see round corners" and they can't think ahead. The desire to fit in and be liked is so strong it clouds good judgement in even the best intentioned lads. The next morning they all came and apologised to us, which was something, I guess.
In the heat of the moment, in the desire to show his friends a good time, our eager-to-please son put aside what he knew to be good sense and made a dumb call. Such is the pull of peer pressure.
Such is the reality of boys this age, apparently. Brains switched off, good sense flies out the window. Getting this lad safely from one end of puberty to the other is going to require our full attention.
We have prepared for this stage of life as best we can. We are thankful our son is part of an amazing youth group with amazing youth leaders (who put so much into him and love him to bits and back us up all the way), there are good friends there and great role models.
He is involved in team sport, both for a Club and at his new high school (he has been accepted in MAGS football academy). Our son will have all the benefits of discipline and teamwork and character building that comes through sport. (And he is so very very good at it too.)
We know we can't choose his friends for him - but we can limit the damage a bit by keeping an eye on social media accounts and encouraging time spent with boys who he can relax and be himself with, without feeling the need to do silly things to impress.
And we will keep the lines of communication open, creating as many opportunities to connect with him and keep talking as we can.
All the good things, the support networks and values we have instilled in him will all be tested over the next few years.
We are under no illusions that this is going to be easy.
But as I said to my hubby, as we sat talking over the Friday night debacle, we can't let the dumb stuff take away from the good stuff. We had an amazing celebration for our son's thirteenth the week before, with all the significant people in his life - a coming of age ceremony, if you will. (I'll be writing about that soon, such a great thing to do).
We know it was a special and significant night and this week's debacle doesn't take away from that - it's just "the nature of the beast" (aka adolescence).
Adolescence is a swinging pendulum between childishness and maturity. Sometimes our teenager will surprise us with his awesomeness, and other times we will be wanting to tear our hair out, I'm sure. But we will keep at it, we will hook the boundaries up to the national grid, we will employ every mechanism we can and call on every support network we have to get our son safely through to the other side of teenageness. We KNOW he's going to be an amazing adult. he has so many good qualities in him (and as his little brother said, "a good heart underneath it all").
So wish me luck. Send me wine. I'm now the mother of a teenager and there's no going back. Sniff.