MY ELDEST SON LUKE is a fantastic young man: kind-mannered, well-spoken and hard-working. But since he turned 13, he’s also become more argumentative, moody and distant.
He still needs my help with his math homework, but now he doesn’t want it. He’ll also meltdown at the slightest provocation, and any word I utter in response— whether to empathize with him or offer him some perspective—lands with a thud. His preferred tactic is to mumble as he stomps out of the room.
In other words, he became a teenager. There is nothing unusual about any of this behaviour, yet as a parent I was unprepared. The teenage years are parenthood’s real test: a blast furnace of emotion, instability, questioning and self-doubt, of endless trial and error and frustration as you seek to establish your identity. This is me I’m talking about now, not Luke.
I thought I’d already laid an unshakable foundation that would allow Luke and I to coast through to his adulthood. These days I laugh at myself for ever thinking that I could skip the hard part of parenthood. But I’m here at the hard part now, and with adolescence bearing down fast on his 12-year-old twin brothers, I’m here to stay.
Luke turned 15 this year, and so, a couple of years into this adventure, I’ve figured out a few things to help keep us connected—things that, as it turns out, make a lot of sense to the experts, and that apply as much to teenage girls as to boys.
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